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Ryokan near Tokyo

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where would you suggest for a one night stay at a Ryokan near Tokyo? looking for an Onsen Ryokan with a great kaiseki dinner, an hour or so from Tokyo, preferably a bigger place, with a genuine claim to authencity, but also where some English is spoken. price not a determining factor, happy to pay $300-400 per person per night, but not necessarily looking to spend a fortune just for the sake of having spent a lot on an exotic japanese experience if you know what I mean. Travel time is late February.
Thank you!

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  1. Definitely Gora Kadan in Hakone.

    http://www.gorakadan.com/

    1 Reply
    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

      looks very much on the money. thank you!
      would welcome further suggestions for some comparison

    2. Yeah, I think your best bet is going to Hakone for a on-sen package. It is the closest to Tokyo. Gora Kadan is the most expensive in Hakone, it is more expensive than your budget. Maybe you can consider Senkyoro (仙郷楼), it is also very nice and within your budget (starting from 23000 yen per person and up).

      http://www.senkyoro.co.jp/index.html

      It has beautiful outdoor/open air on-sen, and great kaiseki. See the following link for their seasonal kaiseki, it completely blows Hashimoto of Toronto (as I know you are from Toronto) away.

      http://www.senkyoro.co.jp/cook/cook_k...

      1 Reply
      1. re: skylineR33

        This is great! Thank you. Seems like I might as well have posted on the ON board!!

      2. Here's a good resource for hotels and Onsen in the area:

        http://www.japanican.com/hotels/List....

        Gora Kadan is a little more expensive than what's in your budget but the more people you get to stay with you the cheaper the price per person is. The cheapest rooms are still very nice and about $100 out of your budget but hey, why not spend the extra $100 and have a really great, once in a lifetime experience. By contrast if you have 5 people staying with you their second most expensive room is $450 per person.

        You could also stay near Gora Kadan and just eat at the restaurant (or other Onsen whose restaurants are open to the public)

        23 Replies
        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

          Thank you for the link. do you think the extra charge of Gora Kadan is reflected in the food as well?

          1. re: shekamoo

            The food at Gora Kadan is really great. Certainly far better than your average Onsen Kaiseki dinner. I think their food is as much a part of their allure as their rooms and private onsen.

            Also, just in case it isn't clear, dinner and breakfast are included in your per person rate.

            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

              It is the most expensive and double or triple (or even more) the cost of many ryokans in Hakone. It has great kaiseki, and it better be much better but I found it a bit too expensive with most of the cost goes to accommodation and service. Just for reference, it does not have a particular high rating on it's food on r.tabelog.com.

              1. re: skylineR33

                Agreed, it's expensive depending on what room you get and how many people stay with you etc.

                Tabelog ratings are useful but I find a lot of them to be totally subjective as well. I think a lot of the time, influence other than food goes into how high or low a restaurant ranks.

                1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                  Yes, agreed, it all works the same, the cost is lower if you have more people to share or pick a different room or a different plan ...etc. There are so many options !

              2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                Oh yes I do realize that, which is why I did not bulk at the prices when I checked them online, because all other dinners I am trying to arrange in Tokyo (Ryugin, Aronia, Jiro, Sawada, this will need another post) are very close to the $300 per person range, so dinner+accommodation+breakfast for $500-600 per person(it will be just me and Mrs. Shekamoo) is not hugely off the mark for my budget right now. Having said that, I am leaning a bit towards Senkyoro, because it seems that the price difference between Senkyoro and Gora Kadan maybe more due to other factors than the sheer quality of the Kaiseki dinner. should look more into this before I make my decision though. thank you guys for all the info.

                1. re: shekamoo

                  Jiro cost much less than 30000 yen if you go at lunch or you do not order the most expensive set. Unless you want to go to the original Jiro at Ginza who only serve someone who can speak Japanese or goes with a Japanese.

                  1. re: shekamoo

                    There are tons of great ryokan in Hakone and I'm sure whichever you choose, you won't really go wrong. They all have their individual strengths at that level none that much better than the other I'm sure.

                    I haven't been to Senkyoro but I am sure that the price difference has to do with Gora Kadan being the most famous and reputed Onsen in that area, and not necessarily the best. Even the Japanese community in Toronto knows about Gora Kadan being the most expensive in Hakone.

                    Maybe for another post but why Jiro over Saitou or Mizutani etc? I assume you're going to the original location of Jiro and not his son's?

                    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                      well I am the OP so we could not be accused of hijacking the thread if we change the course of discussion!
                      a longish story about Jiro: I really want to go to a 3 star sushi place while in Tokyo (I know, I know, the French Michelin system doesnt really apply to top sushi places in Japan or maybe to the country's cuisine at all, and choosing just based on stars is kinda pathetic, but what can I say, I really want to eat some 3 star sushi!). Anyhow, my first choice was Saito, until I realized it is directly across from the US embassy and at a highly secured area with people being stopped every few meters, and I cannot help the fact that I belong to one of those ethnicities that gets randomly checked at airports a lot, if you know what I mean, so I thought the experience may be ruined by some unpleasant surprises. I also crossed out Mizutani based on reviews about the ambiance and the attitude of the Itamae, which went beyond temple-like serenity (which I can very much appreciate and expect to find at sawada ) to awkward silence(which ruins the dinner). this leaves Jiro, the Ginza location, and I thought I could just have a Japanese friend of mine make the reservation. but if Skyline is right, then I may just give up on the 3 star deal and go for Kanesaka which supposedly has a friendly itamae, although it seems to be more expensive than the 3 star places!!

                      1. re: shekamoo

                        Haha,

                        For a number of reasons I find the Michelin guide faulty but they have to do with cultural differences and the ideas behind associating a restaurant with a rank. In general however, I think they're a decent reference point for people with no experience in japanese cuisine. You could certainly do worse than the restaurants listed in the little red book.

                        That said, Sushi is an interesting thing and probably where I disagree with Michelin's guide the most. The more I learn about sushi and fish in general the more I think that at the high end of sushi in Japan, it's all about personal preference and the style of the itamae. The Michelin stars applied to Sushi Ya in Japan may do nothing but steer you in the wrong direction in some cases, so my recommendation to you would be to research Jiro and try it based on his style of sushi and what he's done for sushi in Japan. Otherwise, I think you could find places just as good or perhaps even more suited to your liking elsewhere.

                        Regarding Jiro specifically, I have heard just as many horror stories about him as I have of Mizutani if not more, but I've also heard of equally as many great stories and experiences . My advice regarding what you hear about them would be to take it with a grain of salt. They are both however of the temple like variety and are certainly not as laid back as Saitou San (at Saitou) or Kanesaka San/Sanpei San (at Kanesaka).

                        I've never heard of people being hassled near the embassy. I should do some research about that. I certainly understand your feeling regarding that issue as I've definitely been the subject of and witnessed plenty of unnecessary treatment in the past. I am also in agreement that you can pretty much write the rest of the night off after something like that. But I also feel crappy about letting something like that keep me from something potentially great.

                        Double edged sword I guess.

                        1. re: shekamoo

                          So since from when did they start randomly checking people and racially profiling around the U.S. embassy? I've been there a bunch of times the last few years, even going back to a day when protests against Iraq war were held, and it's just a typical checkpoint station to get in and a few traffic guys on corner in front....Also, I had a delightful experience at Mizutani. Was joking around with him. His wife is a sweetheart as well. Some of the other patrons though could use a vitamin B12 shot or a stiff stiff drink to loosen up.

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            I dont know, that is what I read on the internet when I was looking for customer reviews. maybe I should not have brought it up at all on this board because I want to stay focused on the food. at any rate that is the reason I decided against saito.

                            1. re: shekamoo

                              I haven't dined there, but because it is close to the embassy and a foreign business district, if you do not speak Japanese well, I would assume that Saito is a very accomodating place for foreigners to eat high quality sushi... Anyway, it's certainly the most creative excuse I've heard of someone talking themselves out of going to a restaurant in Tokyo.

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                "certainly the most creative excuse I've heard of someone talking themselves out of going to a restaurant in Tokyo".
                                I take that as a compliment, although obviously not intended as such!

                          2. re: shekamoo

                            Hi shekamoo,

                            I can only speak for myself and my guest, but we had a wonderful time at Sushi Mizutani. Mizutani-san was gracious and while quiet, we had some interesting conversations (but then again I speak Japanese). But there was also a couple from Greece that was there that night (and one from Singapore), and both of them spoke to his assistant in English who then translated to Mizutani-san, and we all had a great time. Of course, your mileage may vary.

                            1. re: exilekiss

                              haha Great!! where are all those Mizutani horror-tale-tellers to come to my aid at this time of need?
                              joking aside, thank you for your input. I do realize that unpleasant experiences at Mizutani are by no means universal. I mean how could they be? I just have limited time and money for high end sushi and am trying to decrease the probability of wasting it. one way of doing that is to avoid the more moody type of itamae, to which category Mizutani-san seems to belong.

                              1. re: shekamoo

                                Hi shekamoo:

                                If you are worried about the security check, you can just take a taxi that will drop you right infront of the building that hosted Sushi Saitou., which means you don't have to walk pass the American Embassy. Saitou-san himself speaks English well enough to communicate with foreigners. His tako sashmi is sublime: I will also recommend the dinner omakase rather than the lunch set.
                                Mizutani-san, while stern, is friendly and helpful. I don't think he belongs to the "moody type" category; I have been there twice, that is not the impression I get. But he can't speak English so communication maybe a problem.
                                Sawada is actually my favorite sushiya. You won't regret going there.

                                1. re: FourSeasons

                                  Right, because security in front of the embassy will have no problem with a car slowing down, stopping, and letting people out right under their noses. Anyway, the whole idea of the Japanese security detail in front of the embassy ruining someone's meal at Saitou is pretty far out. If one person here is concerned, so be it. The recommendation (EDIT) for the restaurant (/)should stand for the majority of Tokyo visitors.

                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                    I have no doubt that the recommendation must stand, I did not suggest that my concerns were typical. As for my concerns being 'far out', well, I guess you have not had the privilege first hand to experience the sort of thing that is the cause of my concern. lucky you. but at any rate I do not want to make much of it, I am just being fussy about creating a perfect sushi experience for me and the missus

                                    1. re: shekamoo

                                      I have lived and traveled overseas most of my adult life and have had many such "privileges". But anyway, simply because English speaking sushi chefs are very rare in Japan, it might be a reason to reconsider Saito. This would allow you to interact with him and craft a more memorable meal- as opposed to dumping an omakase order on Sawada or Mizutani. Just saying as you say you are keen on a perfect experience. Whatever you choose, enjoy. They are all supposed to be top notch.

                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                        thank you! I really look forward to visiting these places, any of them at the end of the day should be just plain fantastic

                                  2. re: FourSeasons

                                    Thanks, I really look forward to sawada. as for the taxi, that is a good idea, although I guess silverjay has a point. once again I must say that the whole thing is not too big a deal, it is just that there are enough amazing choices to allow oneself the luxury of being extra picky, although saito, overlooking this point of personal concern, is definitely the perfect 3 star pick for someone with my criteria.

                                    oh, and anywhere I end up going to, I will go for an omakase dinner(assuming there are other choices), and if they have more than two sets of prices, I will order the second-most pricey option, and if they have only two sets, I will get the more expensive set. that is my general ordering strategy.

                                    1. re: shekamoo

                                      Hi shekamoo:

                                      Sawada is very good; I actually give him a slight edge over Saitou and Mizutani. Michelin Guide is wrong and Sawada definitely deserve a 3 star, in my opinion. All of them are top notch with his own style that won't disappoint anybody. However, Sawada is also the most expensive; the omakase dinner starts from Yen 32k all the way to 50k, if my recollection is correct. Just another advise: book early, probably 2 months in advanced. It is tough to get reservation in any of them.

                  2. Since you will be going in February, I suggest staying at Tsubaki Ryokan. "Tsubaki" means camellia, and the over 100 varieties planted on the hill behind the inn will be in bloom at that time. Tsubaki Ryokan has some of the better food to be found at onsen/ryokan near Tokyo, at least without having to pay too outrageous an amount of money. I think you may be able to find a deal online from around 40,000\¥per person.. Rooms on the pond with private onsen bath are more.
                    Their English page is here: http://www.tubaki.net/en/

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: edozanmai

                      looks great, thank you, really appreciate the tip. the choices are increasing!!

                    2. The recommendations for Hakone are wonderful, but if you want something a little more convenient to Tokyo than getting on local trains, with a transfer to get to Hakone (2 or more hours on trains), you might also consider the ryokans around Atami (a 50 minute shinkansen ride).

                      Here's a Google map of the area (not sure if the ryokan links will come up):
                      http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&s...

                      And another site with a good listing of ryokans in Atami nicely mapped:
                      http://www.atamispa.com/atami_ex/engl...

                      Here's a link to Rakuten travel's English booking site for Atami (not sure if the search results will show; under destinations, select Shizuoka prefecture, and then Atami city). This will give you an idea of prices and accommodations.
                      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/en/index....

                      And here's a link to an English language service with some detailed info on a limited number of ryokans around Shizuoka.
                      http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/db...

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: E Eto

                        definitely tempting and useful information. Thank you!
                        my general expectation of course is that great food can be found in any of these areas, but still how would you compare the quality of the Kaiseki dinners we will have in this area with those in Hakone? any particular place you would suggest for great food?

                        my plan for getting to hakone would be to get picked up and dropped off in tokyo by the hotel. although the fee for that seems surprisingly high

                        1. re: shekamoo

                          picked up and dropped off in tokyo by the hotel ??

                          Wow, I would like to know how much they charge for this. You must have a reason for doing this but just in case, it is good interesting experience too to take those public transportation in Japan.

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            Besides cost, that's a brilliant way to blow half a day sitting in a mini van. Odakyu Romance Car takes about 1.5 hrs from Shinjuku to Hakone and if you sit on the right side of the car, you can view Mt. Fuji for much of the trip. Most ryokan will do pickup/dropoff service from Hakone station.

                            1. re: skylineR33

                              around $300 it seems. I wanted to do it that way mainly for speed and convenience, but the fee is giving me second thoughts!

                              1. re: shekamoo

                                By car, it will take no shorter than 1.5 hrs, but probably longer- much longer if it is a weekend.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  good to know, will make sure it is not on a weekend then

                        2. I stayed in Taiseikan once in Hakone, and I loved it there.
                          The season was fall, and from the hot pools you could look across a small valley and see leaves changing color. Also, the food and room were lovely.
                          However, I can make no comparison to the others recommended here, since I've only been to the one place.

                          www.taiseikan.co.jp/english