SUGATANIMACHI AND YAMANAKA ONSEN

PLANNED OPENING: APRIL 2019

Nestled against a cedar-forested mountain on the southeast edge of Yamanaka Onsen, our retreat offers a truly unique getaway for serious writers.

The 1300-year-old village of Sugatanimachi boasts beautifully preserved rural architecture, artisan and craftsman studios, rice fields, cherry trees, and an intact, traditional rural lifestyle for many of its residents. Visitors will see right away why Sugatanimachi has become synonymous with wood-turning, lacquerware, Kutani pottery, and cedar trees over 2000 years old.

Yamanaka Onsen is famous not only for its hot springs but also for being where the renowned poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) stayed and composed a number of prized haiku. A beautiful museum in town is dedicated to his life and work, and monuments are scattered about to commemorate some of the poems he wrote while here. More recently, the town has served as the setting for a handful of movies and novels.

The town's visitor center contains useful information for tourists, including Japanese- and English-language walking maps, and features an old Noh theater  and information about famous geisha who used to work in Yamanaka Onsen and the surrounding area.

Kanazawa is just over an hour away by car or bus, and is rich with culture. Easily navigated on foot, the city has a strong literary tradition and several worthwhile museums and monuments dedicated to its most famous writers: Izumi Kyoka, Tokuda Shusei, and Muro Saisei.

THE RETREAT

The retreat is meant to be a serious work getaway. It is dedicated to writers with at least one major conventional publication.

The retreat has two options for accommodations.

1 – A two-story traditional village house (currently being renovated). Occupying more than 185 square meters, it is likely more space than any individual retreat requires. The second floor has a dedicated bedroom and two adjoining tatami-floored rooms offering views of the village and nearby mountains. The first floor has a modern kitchen, heated Western toilet, washing machine, and full shower and bath. There is also a guest-welcoming room (chashitsu), a guest-room (with futons and bedding if guests prefer this to the Western bed upstairs), a sitting room (zashiki), and a Buddhist altar room. The long veranda on the north side of the house is full of sunlight and perfect for a day’s writing. A door at the end of the veranda leads to a small vegetable garden and kura – a former storehouse built in 1926 that is also being renovated.

2 – A two-story kura, or storehouse, that offers guests more than 66 square meters of space; construction of it began at the conclusion of the Taisho Period and finished at the start of the Showa period (92 years ago). Aside from plans to plaster the mud-and-thatch walls to increase the brightness of the kura’s interior, adding wooden flooring to support the second floor, and installing a shower and toilet, the building’s original construction will be preserved. The kura will be equipped with a double bed, antique tansu cabinets in which to keep clothing, a sofa and chairs, a washing machine, and an extensive library of Japanese literature translated into English. The kura will also have a refrigerator, hot plate for cooking, and a wood stove for chilly mornings and evenings. Inside the kura we plan to display and explain some of the old objects found in the house, some of which date back to the Edo period (1603-1868).

*The house and kura cannot be rented out simultaneously.

*Both accommodations contain old furnishings and decorative objects passed down from the original owner, whose family lived here for several generations.

*Two parking spaces are attached to the house, one of which is covered.

 

OTHER INFORMATION

YAMANAKA ONSEN

The heart of Yamanaka Onsen – the plaza and 1300-year-old hot-spring bath in front of the visitor center – is a 20-minute walk from the retreat. Eating options here and elsewhere around town are plentiful, and there is a Marue supermarket for grocery shopping (it also has a takeout sushi counter). Washu Bar Engawa is a relatively new sake bar and is owned and operated by one of the youngest sake sommeliers in Japan. Along the main road are various sake shops; small cafes; a coin laundry; ice cream vendors; a health food store that sells local vegetables and makes wonderful smoothies; and numerous souvenir shops specializing in locally produced high-end crafts. Several scenic bridges in town are easily accessed and also worth visiting, as is a breathtaking walking path along the Daishoji River. A handful of ryokan allow non-guests to use their restaurants and hot-spring baths for a fee.

SUGATANIMACHI

The nearest restaurant to the retreat is Yamaboushi, which specializes in buckwheat noodles and is just a short walk down the street. From Yamaboushi an even shorter walk will bring you to an ancient Shinto shrine where 2000-year-old cedar trees rise above the village. (SUGATANIMACHI essentially means "village in a valley of sedge.") An old Nichiren-sect Buddhist temple is two doors down. Directly across the street is a wood-turning workshop where visitors can fashion wooden objects under a teacher’s supervision. Other creative options include pottery, washi-paper art, and lacquerware. A wonderful facility called Yuyukan is just a 10-minute walk away and has a 25-meter heated swimming pool, a small restaurant with limited options, and indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths. (If you have tattoos, you can only use the private hot spring baths upstairs.) Beside Yuyukan is a michi no eki – a highway stop, essentially – where one can pick up tourist information (in Japanese) and buy local souvenirs and food products, including pastries, dried fruits and vegetables, and soft serve ice cream, among other options.

WAGATANI RESERVOIR and SUGI NO MIZU

A scenic reservoir sprawls behind the nearby mountain and, with a car, can be reached in 15 minutes and circumnavigated in less than an hour. It’s a beautiful drive with hiking courses, viewpoints, small shrines, and even a campground along the way. At the far end of the reservoir is Sugi no Mizu, a splendidly preserved village that remains open every season except winter. The majority of its few businesses are open only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. These businesses include kura-cafes with full lunch options, two soba restaurants, a traditional Japanese inn, and a renovated kura that now contains what might best be described as an indoor tree house and children's play area.

To request further information, please use the contact form on this website. We do our best to respond as quickly as possible to inquiries, though time differences sometimes make immediate replies impossible.

Posted
AuthorDavid Joiner