Located in the basin of eastern Nagano, you will find the former castle town of Ueda. The town was built around Ueda Castle, which was constructed in the 16th century by Masayuki Sanada, a Japanese Sengoku period lord and daimyo. The town prospered from the silk industry in the 1910s and is renowned for a traditional fabric called Ueda Tsumugi. Visitors to the area get a sense of having traveled several hundred years back in time as the town still retains its historical look with the white walled merchant houses and walls covered with square tiles arranged in a lattice pattern known as “namako.”
Just southeast of the basin is the hot spring resort town of Bessho Onsen. It was discovered over 1,000 years ago and consists of several hot springs, each with its own individual charm. There are several historic cultural monuments in the area also including, the three-tiered pagoda of Zenzan-ji Temple, the Kitamuki-kannon Temple and the Anraku-ji Temple. Because of this collection of cultural assets, the area is called the “Kamakura of Nagano”.
During my recent visit to Japan, I had the pleasure of spending the weekend at one of the popular ryokans in Bessho Onsen known as Nanakusa No Yu. It is a small but elegant ryokan consisting of 16 rooms. The room rates range anywhere from $190 – $440 including tax/ per night. The higher rate applies to peak periods.
Upon arrival, you are greeted by hotel staff who will park your car for you as parking is very limited and carry your luggage up to your room. The staff is very pleasant and well educated in concept of omotenashi, the Japanese spirit of hospitality and service. Once you reach your room, a staff member will familiarize you with your room’s amenities, explain the dinning plan and answer any questions you may have. You will also be served tea and sweets upon your arrival, to help you relax and feel welcomed.
The room I was staying in came with a rotenburo , an outdoor onsen tub constructed of Japanese cypress. Everything I needed was available in my room including yukatas of various sizes to choose from, tabi socks, towels, hair dryer, tooth brushes, shampoo, bath gel ,etc. Anything and everything that a traveler may need was accounted for and provided in abundance.
The room itself was large and well-appointed. Two comfortable beds, a couch and separate seating area, dining table, flat screen TV, lounge chair out on the patio and a large rotenburo surrounded by privacy screens. For those who wish to sleep Japanese style, futons are provided upon request.
The meals are served in your room by a staff member who is both knowledgeable and hospitable. My staff member was prompt when serving my meals based on the times I had agreed upon during my check in orientation. Dinner was served at 6:30 PM and included several courses. Each dish was beautifully arranged and amazingly flavorful and fresh. Breakfast was served the following morning at 7:00 AM and included several dishes consisting of local ingredients. In between, if you wished to order beverages, even alcohol, the staff was quick to accommodate your request.
One advantage to staying in a smaller ryokan as opposed to a large resort type of onsen hotel is that the owner visits each room making the guests feel welcome. Dressed in a traditional kimono, the owner of Nanakusa No Yu onsen spent nearly 20 minutes in my room ensuring that my needs were met, I was comfortable and enjoying my stay.
Upon checkout, the owner was present to send me off as a staff member delivered my car to the front door as another carried my luggage to the car. I was also given several parting gifts as I left this wonderful ryokan.
The room rates may seem a little pricey for some but rest assured that the level of service, relaxation and satisfaction you will gain from staying at Nanakusa No Yu is well worth it.
Address: 1620 Besshoonsen, Ueda 386-1431 , Nagano Prefecture (Bessyo Onsen)