[From June Issue 2015]
Inns at hot springs usually offer half board accommodation – i.e. one night’s lodging with breakfast and dinner. Although meals are a part of the pleasure of traveling, they increase the expense. Up until now low-cost lodging that doesn’t include meals has been on offer, but most of these are simple accommodations aimed at people staying long-term at a spa for health reasons. Recently more and more new-style hot spring hotels that offer the advantages of both types of lodging are appearing.
Opened in Kannawa Onsen (Hot Springs), Beppu City, Oita Prefecture in 2012, “Iyashinoyado Iroha,” an inn that offers lodging without meals, is lavishly constructed; all of its guest rooms are cottages set apart from the main building with their own hot springs. It’s well fitted out with amenities, including a free-of-charge drinks dispenser. When a room is occupied by two people, the fee for one person a night on a weekday starts from 8,640 yen, including sales tax. For a hot-spring inn, this price is rather low.
New Gloria Resort, Co., Ltd., which operates Iroha, has 11 hot-spring inns in Beppu Hot Springs and Yufuin Hot Springs – both in Oita Prefecture. Among these, three exclusively provide lodging without meals. “We thought we could not meet the diversifying needs of our guests if we stuck to offering half board only,” explains, HINO Masatake, manager of the inns.
One of the main factors affecting the company’s decision to offer accommodation without meals was the large number of restaurants in the neighborhood. The reasoning being that without a meal service, guests would be free to act as they pleased without being tied to a schedule. After opening, many of the guests have been couples in their 20s and 30s, as well as young married couples with small children. “It seems that most guests prefer to walk around the town rather than to relax in their rooms,” says Hino.
Hot Spring Inn Kinsui in Kinosaki Hot Springs, Hyogo Prefecture opened “Machi no nedoko kinsui” – a refurbished annex dedicated to providing lodging without meals – in July 2014. While Kinsui offers a one night package including two meals for one person for around 18,000 yen, it costs 5,000 yen per night, including tax, to stay at Machi no nedoko.
Although Kinsui already had plans to offer lodging without meals, bearing in mind the facilities and services provided, the charge had to be at least 8,000 or 9,000 yen. Seeing as there were many student couples among the sightseeing guests in Kinosaki, owner TAISHO Shinsuke thought that a bold step was required in order to make accommodation available to these people.
To keep the accommodation charges low, towel rental is available for a fee, and guests themselves have to lay out their own futon. They are charged if they use the indoor bath in the main building. But, this includes a “Yumepa” pass that allows them to use seven other outdoor baths in Kinosaki Hot Springs without charge. “I thought that, by allowing our guests to use baths and restaurants outside our inn, we would give them the opportunity to enjoy the whole town of Kinosaki,” Taisho says. The name “Machi no nedoko” conveys Taisho’s idea that the inn is a place to sleep at after enjoying a walk around town.
Taisho feels that the number of young guests and international guests who want to enjoy the culture of a Japanese- style inn at a low-price without any hassle is increasing. Some sightseeing guests use the low-priced Machi no nedoko as a base to travel from when they take day trips to Kyoto. With the advent of new-style hot spring inns, the ways people use them are expanding, too.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo