- Beatiful historic ryokan surrounded by mountains
- Antique indoor hot springs bath house
- Natural outdoor hot springs pool
- Traditional rooms combine tatami mats with flat-screen TVs
- Restaurant serves traditional Japanese cuisine (half board included)
- Free Wi-Fi throughout
- Free parking
- Remote location away from everything (a pro for some)
- No Western-style breakfast offered (a pro for some)
- Main building rooms share a communal bathroom (a pro for some)
- Rooms do not have showers or bathtubs (a pro for some)
A authentic timber-framed ryokan dating to 1875, Chojukan is steeped as much in Japanese culture as it is in the steam rising from the natural hot springs that it's built upon. While authentically rustic, it rates four pearls for this style of accommodation, which definitely isn't for everyone. Chojukan is a 30-minute drive from the nearest town, and about three hours from Tokyo, but seclusion is part of its allure for those looking to indulge in the rustic yet sophisticated bathing practices that predate modern civilization's en-suite bathrooms -- be aware that there are few of those here, and the traditionally styled rooms that do come with bathrooms still lack showers or bathtubs. Rooms provide some 21st-century amenities like flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi, but guests should be prepared to sleep on tatami mats and forgo Western food while they're opening up themselves -- and their pores -- to one of the finest, and oldest, communal bathing experiences in Japan.
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Hoshi Onsen Chojukan
Historic ryokan and bath house
Chojukan is registered as a cultural heritage property, and its main building was constructed in 1875, but communal usage of the onsen (hot springs) dates back at least 1,200 years, and the site remains an important place in Japanese Buddhism. The timber-framed buildings are classically Japanese, with additions in the 1940s and 1980s preserving the aesthetic. Inside the lobby, tatami mats serve as seating areas around low tables on the hardwood floors, and rice-paper screens cover the walls. In a lounge around the corner, a traditional sunken fireplace called an irori sits in the middle of the floor with an open wood fire heating the room, and the medieval iron kettle suspended above it.
In the mountains along the Houshi River
The Chojukan hotel is located in the mountains along the Houshi River in Minakami, within Gunma prefecture. It's a 30-minute drive to the village of Takumi-no-Sato and a 35-minute drive to Jomokogen Station. It's surrounded by mountains, and the regional hiking and skiing attraction of Mount Tanigawa can be reached in about an hour by car. Expect a three-hour drive to Tokyo, or slightly less -- about two hours and 30-minutes by public transportation via Jomokogen Station (which includes bus transfers at the Sarugakyo stop near the hotel).
Traditional rooms with tatami mats, some with fireplaces
The 35 rooms are split between the old main building and a newer annex building, with the main difference being that the latter have en-suite bathrooms. Bathrooms have electronic toilets with bidet functions but no showers or tubs -- all bathing is done in the communal bath houses. All rooms have a minimalist, traditional decor with hardwood floors softened by iconic tatami mats and futon bedding. Low tables are accompanied by seat cushions, and most rooms have an additional seating area with a small table and two chairs beside windows with views to the surrounding mountainous landscape. Yukata robes are provided for all guests to wear around the grounds, and all rooms have flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, and electric tea kettles. Some larger rooms and suites have wet bars and brick fireplaces.
Indoor and outdoor natural hot spring baths, and a restaurant serving traditional kaiseki-style cuisine
Chojukan's reason for being is its large 140-year old timber-framed indoor hot spring bath house. Its high ceilings with huge exposed beams allow steam to rise from the separate pools set into the wooden floor below. It has a fixed schedule of mixed bathing hours with a shorter time reserved for women-only, though there is also a smaller bath room that's strictly for women. Adjacent rooms hold wash basins with wooden spigots and walls of wooden shelves to hold clothing and personal belongings. Outside, a picturesque hot spring pool surrounded by massive boulders complete with a little waterfall bubbles beside a wooden deck. All the baths are open 24-hours a day. Rates include half-board with traditional meals served either in-room, or in a small communal dining room. The food is served kaiseki-style in several courses with a focus on fresh local produce and seafood. Guests should note that there is no Western-style breakfast served.
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Poolside Drink Service
Disclaimer: This content was accurate at the time the hotel was reviewed. Please check our partner sites when booking to verify that details are still correct.