Ryori Ryokan Hanaoka, Takayama – best value, best meals we had in Japan

It turned out that I needed to go overseas next Friday as Yuye’s relative is very sick and so I had to move the trip forwards. That’s only a week away. It has thrown all of my plans out the window. Originally I wanted to write up posts and schedule them throughout the trip at 1-2 day intervals but how it is possible to write 2 months worth of content in less than a week? So, I’ve revised my plan and that is to write a few posts and schedule them every 3-4 days. Hope it still works out. :S

We were rushing everywhere across town today getting our tickets booked and getting a visa for Yuye. I swear the Visa office is making loads off us. The prices have increased (again!) by $20-30. What’s more, they now require an invitation letter regardless of whether you’ve been to China before. How silly. Hope this nonsense will get abolished soon.

Anyway, as we’re possibly going to Tokyo this time round, I thought it was a good idea to finish my 2011 Japan trip posts ASAP. I know it’s taken me a whole year to write them up! The next in line after the Takayama post was Ryori Ryokan Hanaoka. It’s the best value and one of the best meals we had throughout the whole trip. The suggestion and review came from Paul’s Travel Pics. Ryori means cooking in Japanese, how can a hotel with cooking in the its name possibly be bad?

Due to the Japan 2011 earthquake, many tourists canceled their trips and thus we had the whole hotel to ourselves. It wasn’t a small hotel either which was quite sad for the lovely owners. The room was a tatami room, a bit smaller than most of the places we’ve stayed at so far, however was very sufficient for our purposes.

It’s the only place that had the futons (blankets) already prepared, most ryokan we stayed at prepares the futons while we had dinner. This wasn’t an issue though as we didn’t need the extra space for anything. Like most tatami mat rooms, there was a dedicated area for us to put our luggage so that the mats (which are made of straw) won’t get damaged.

We were on the 3rd and top floor of the building. There was a small balcony and the view was reasonable. As there were no really tall buildings, we got to see the rooftops of local houses and the distant mountains.

The only thing I didn’t like about Hanaoka Ryokan was the lack of a fridge. This was necessary for us as we purchased a bottle of sake that needed to be chilled. Luckily for us, the weather outside was very cold so we just left it right beside the door on the balcony. I had to make sure we didn’t forget to take it inside!

Of course the usual green tea and bath robes (yukata) were provided.

The bathroom was small as per usual but a pair of comfy toilet only slippers were provided. As a custom, you’re meant to take off your ‘outside’ shoes before you enter the room and then go bare foot (or with socks) onto the tatami mats. The toilet cannot be entered with outside shoes either so a pair of slippers is provided.

We arrived at the hotel a little before dinner so there was a bit of time to admire the sake we purchased during the day. We went crazy and bought 5 bottles. They were so heavy to carry around but totally worthwhile as they were all very beautiful – not to mention very cheap compared to buying them from Australia.

A prompt phone call from reception at 7pm signalled our dinner was ready. We strolled downstairs to the dining room to find only 1 table set up – ours. The table was already full of pretty little bowls and plates filled with colourful, fresh ingredients.

Dinner

Dinner was a huge 13 course kaiseki meal with the freshest seasonal ingredients which were also beautifully presented and cooked.

Course 1: The presentation on the sashimi plate was immaculate. It was so fresh and vibrant, the fish almost jumped out at me. All the sashimi pieces were naturally sweet. Not too sure what the types of fish were though.

Course 2: This clam soup came with a cute mochi ball and was clean and refreshing. It was a fantastic palate cleanser.

Course 3: This plate in the middle was absolutely stunning. It was so full of flavours and different elements that I didn’t know where to begin eating. It had nigiri sushi (sushi rice at the bottom) with cooked salmon on top, daikon which was just cooked (still crunchy), snail, edamame, cooked prawn dipped in miso and a cold tamagoyaki which had the egg white and egg yolk parts separated. The tamagoyaki was quite sweet and very interesting since I’ve never seen it made with separate egg yolk and white before. The small bowl contains seaweed in lime juice which was very sour and a bit slimy.

From this, I can see just how much love and hard work has gone into the dishes.

Course 4: Next is another cold dish which had daikon, cabbage and takuan pickles.

Course 5: Slow-cooked salmon, shiitake mushroom, celery and bamboo shoots.

Course 6: This one is an eel (anago) terrine with wasabi – a very interesting cold dish that is more fusion food than traditional Japanese.

Course 7: Another cold salad with spring onions and a white fish in honey and white miso.

Course 8: This dish is a cold nasu dengaku – eggplant in sweet miso.

Course 9: There’s no end to the dishes! Next up was the hoba miso (cooked on top of a hoba leaf) dish grilled with eggplant and Hida deef (wagyu from the Hida region). It was high grade melt in my mouth texture, cooked with capsicum, green veggies, bean shoots in miso paste. This hot dish is a specialty of the area and we had it at every meal during our stays in the Hida region.

Course 10: The chawanmushi (steamed egg) had different ingredients to the traditional type that you find in restaurants. It had the usual shiitake and prawn, but also had lily flower (also known as golden needles).

Course 11: Hot soba noodles served with soy broth and topped with seasonal veggies and seaweed. It was a filling dish as I was nearing maximum stomache potential, but it was very tasty nonetheless.

Course 12: The final dish is a dessert called shirogoma yokan (白ごま羊羹). Shirogoma means white sesame and yokan is a type of mochi like Japanese sweet made from red bean paste, agar agar and sugar. This dessert was fantastic as it was very strong in sesame flavour and wasn’t too sweet.

Course 13: I struggled to finish my fruit. The watermelon didn’t look the best but despite the colour, it was quite sweet and so was the strawberry.

Rice was also served, which was topped with dried fish and pepper corns. How can people eat both rice and noodles you ask? Well, it seems like quite a common Japanese habit as some dishes can only be eaten with rice (such as the pickles).

As you can imagine, at the conclusion of this meal, both Yuye and I were barely about to walk. We dragged our legs and our stomaches up to our room and after a few happy cups of sake and tea, we fell fast asleep. Early in the morning we received another call from reception, advising us that our breakfast was ready.

Breakfast

Again we were the only ones eating breakfast that day. Our lonely table in the corner gave Yuye and I an exclusive feel. It was almost like we booked out a whole restaurant! Breakfast again was a feast with an amazing 7 courses.

Course 1: The grilled hoba miso dish this time came shared as the ingredients were less – it consisted of mushrooms, spring onions and miso).

Course 2: Each person got a plate of exquisite food with grilled salmon (which was tender and succulent), seaweed, marinated Hida beef, a sweet tamagoyaki, broccoli piece, cherry tomato, fish cakes and a piece of orange. Mostly cold, this dish had so many wonderful colours and flavours.

Course 3: Another side dish, this dish was cold and came with marinated fungus, fish cake and spinach.

Course 4: It’s tradition to serve meals with pickles and these are a specialty of the Hida area.

Course 5: Doesn’t this poached egg look just SPLENDID to you? I shouldn’t call it a poached egg as it’s really an ‘onsen tamago’ – an egg that’s been cooked in hot water to the same temperature of hot spring water, which makes the egg white less cooked than poached eggs but the yolk is more cooked (essentially cooked at lower heat for longer). This version was just beautiful. The dashi broth was so clear and tasty that I drank all of it as soup. The presentation is also very intricate and elegant.

I put the egg on top of my rice and added a bit of seaweed to it. This is the best way to eat onsen tamago in my opinion. 🙂

Course 6: This tofu dish wasn’t very strong in flavour but was very silky and smooth. I love the taste of tofu as it has a natural soy flavour.

Course 7: Lucky last of the beautiful meal was the miso soup. It was hot and soothing to the soul with wild nameko mushrooms and spring onions. A perfect end to the meal.

The rice was shared as well and came in a large serving bowl.

Normally you’d expect this level of professional cooking at a high class Japanese restaurant for a hefty price.

What did we pay for I hear you ask? It was 6800Yen per person. This equates to around $80 AUD or USD per person. This includes TWO meals (breakfast and dinner) AND the accommodation! I know its location is not as central as some and requires a little bit of walking to and from the city centre and the station, BUT the meals were so good that I’d gladly stay here again, even if I have to walk twice the distance of Hanaoka!

Would I stay here again? Absolutely. The food was fantastic to say the least, the accommodation more than enough, the owners were wonderful people who genuinely cared about our wellbeing (the lady owner seemed very concerned when she felt an earthquake and asked if we were ok) and what can I say, just the best value for money.

Hanaoka Ryokan is highly recommended to anyone wanting to visit Takayama.

I didn’t mention that in the excitement of all the good food and rushing for our next destination (Shibu Onsen where the snow monkeys from BBC Planet Earth/Natural World reside), I accidentally took the room key at Hakaoka. I ended up sending the key back to them in Shibu Onsen. Luckily the postal fees were not expensive. 😀

As Paul mentioned on his site, I also booked my room at Hanaoke through JALAN. However, at the time of writing this post, I could no longer find Hanaoka on the JALAN site. The easiest way to book is probably to send them an email at hanaoka@vesta.ocn.ne.jp and write a brief easy to understand email in English.

Ryori Ryokan Hanaoka
Phone: 0577-34-4320
2-36 Hanaokamachi, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture 506-0009 , Japan
http://www7.ocn.ne.jp/~hanaoka2/

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29 comments… add one
  • Nami | Just One Cookbook January 28, 2012, 4:34 am

    WHAT, Y6800?!?!?!?! So cheap… I guess there are not enough tourists huh… I was studying if there is any dish I can post from looking at your photos. 😉 Hahaha. I got one idea from the pictures. Teehee. I miss eating ryokan food. Thanks for posting this – even though I’m a Japanese I still enjoy reading the entire post! =D

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 28, 2012, 11:34 pm

      It is a more remote town compared to the big cities…but I’ve seen many very expensive ryokans so this one is still great value. 🙂 I love it how you can get inspiration from these photos!! Looking forward to seeing what you make. 😀

      Reply
  • Deanna January 28, 2012, 6:05 am

    Someday I will make it to Japan (and the rest of Asia) and it will be magnificent. Or at least I assume it will be.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 28, 2012, 11:35 pm

      It definitely will be Deanna! Asia is amazing, especially Japan. That’s why I go back there time after time even though there’s so many countries I’ve never been to..

      Reply
  • GourmetGetaways January 28, 2012, 8:53 am

    I have thoroughly enjoyed all my trips to Japan and your story makes me want to jump on a plane and go again NOW!

    We always try and stay at the local Ryokans, we too have experienced the most authentic delicious food. I love sleeping on the tatami mats and the green tea always tastes so much better in Japan.

    I have pinned this story so that I will remember the name of the hotel. Thanks for sharing and I am looking forward to your updates from the next trip.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 28, 2012, 11:37 pm

      Thanks for pinning again 😀 There’s more to my 2011 trip which I’m desperately trying to finish before we go to Tokyo again. We’d stayed at some amazing places. Hope you’ll enjoy my future Japan posts too! 😀

      Reply
  • Hannah January 28, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Oh how I miss Japan! There is almost more deliciousness in that country than should be legal 😛 What an amazing kaiseki experience!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 28, 2012, 11:37 pm

      Oh I totally agree! Everything just seems better there…and I can’t wait to go back 🙂

      Reply
  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella January 28, 2012, 4:24 pm

    I really like ryokans-they’re clean and so cute! And they’re great prices too, I know a lot of people say that Japan is expensive, and it can be, but it can also be very reasonable as you’ve shown! 🙂

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 28, 2012, 11:39 pm

      That’s totally true. Some people have this misperception that Japan is expensive for everything. Of course, it will be expensive if you choose the expensive places whether it’s accommodation or restaurants but there are plenty of choices that will allow a very authentic Japanese experience at a fraction of the price!

      Reply
  • Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) January 28, 2012, 4:45 pm

    Excellent value! I love how the Japanese pride themselves in the presentation of everything, not just for show but because they truly pride themselves in what they’ve created. I also love how, in a country with smaller living spaces, they have a nook, bowl, crevice and device for everything. A lovely homely experience.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 28, 2012, 11:41 pm

      I totally agree. 🙂 Everything they make are so intricate, not just food, but of course, especially the food in this case. 😀 They manage to utilise every single little space they have really…something I need to learn from.

      Reply
  • Miss Kimbers @ Fruit Salad and Mixed Veg January 28, 2012, 7:58 pm

    A great post! I must go to Japan!:) When can I take annual leave again? The room at the hotel is beautiful…I would just need an instruction manual for the toilet – looks complicated with all of those buttons.
    I like how the food is so colourful and the bowls are different sizes/shapes/colours. The owners of the hotel sound lovely and I hope that business improves for them.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 28, 2012, 11:43 pm

      The first time I used a Japanese toilet I was in such awe…how can they create something so advanced and so interesting? Now I have one in my house and I love it 😀 It’s quite nice when the room is cold and the seat is warmed up for you already. 😀
      I really do hope business improved since I went, but I’m actually not sure about it…because I couldn’t find them on JALAN where I booked the room and their website shows no information at all! Hope they’re doing ok…

      Reply
  • choux choux January 28, 2012, 10:31 pm

    what beautiful photos! I so desperately want to go to Japan 🙂 The food looks amazing and the room looks really homy. Such great value.

    I hope everything with the visas go smoothly. It’s so annoying how they’ve upped the prices and added that silly invitation letter requirement 🙁

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 28, 2012, 11:44 pm

      You should go to Japan! It’s a beautiful place and the people are amazing. 😀 Everyone’s so polite and all the food’s so yummy too.

      We put in the visa fine, but now we found out we have to leave even earlier…:( we have the dilemma of needing to get Yuye’s passport back by Monday so we can leave ON Monday, at latest Tuesday. 🙁 Hope it turns out ok….

      Reply
  • Hotly Spiced January 29, 2012, 8:17 am

    What a wonderful experience. The great thing about visiting Japan is that it’s so different to here that you truly know you’re overseas. And the food looks so pretty coming out on all those little plates and dishes.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 29, 2012, 2:53 pm

      That’s right! Japan is so beautiful and unique that anyone can guess where I was just from the photos. 🙂

      Reply
  • Dolly January 29, 2012, 1:31 pm

    i’d love to go to Japan… mmmh udooon yumyum. Hope u;re eating well!!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake January 29, 2012, 2:53 pm

      So you should! It’s a fantastic country with so much to do, see and of course eat!! 😀

      Reply
  • Rosa January 30, 2012, 12:28 am

    A great review and lovely place! The food there looks amazing.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Reply
  • JasmyneTea January 31, 2012, 12:16 am

    Wow, what a feast! I love how everything in Japan is ritualised, from the tea to the removal of shoes. Hope you have a safe trip!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake February 1, 2012, 11:04 pm

      I know! Everything has its rules and rituals..that’s what makes Japan so interesting and intriguing. Thanks! I’ll be leaving on Friday, hope it’s a good trip. 🙂

      Reply
  • Kiran @ KiranTarun.com February 1, 2012, 8:02 am

    I want to go to Japan!! Like right now!! It’s such a beautiful country — hope the visa issues have panned out. It’s a pain in the butt 😀

    Reply
  • Christina June 15, 2013, 1:24 pm

    Hi there! I’ve been lurking around your blog for a while – like yourself I’m also a food and travel lover from Melbourne (except that I’m horrible at maintaining my blog)

    Just thought I’d share some sad news about this wonderful Ryokan – I was there in 2009 and had such a great experience, and wanted to return late this year for my next Japan trip. Unfortunately the email I sent through bounced back and upon enquiring with the Hida Tourism Association I found out that they are now no longer in business 🙁 so sad.

    I’m still trying to find out when did they close/whether the owner is still around doing any other business at all…so glad I managed to experience his amazing cooking and hospitality at least, but sad that I won’t be able to share it with more people!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 15, 2013, 1:30 pm

      Hi Christina, thanks for your comment…but that is really sad news indeed! 🙁 My partner and I both loved his cooking and the warm hospitality. When we went we were the only customers, I thought it was due to the earthquakes though. Really hope he’s in business elsewhere. If you find out, please let me know!

      Reply

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