NISHIYA RYOKAN (西屋旅館) at SHIRABU ONSEN (白布温泉) in YAMAGATA Prefecture started their operation during KAMAKURA Period, and has a history of over 700 years. Although it had suffered from disasters over the long history, the present main building with quaint thatched roof has a history of more than 100 years. There used to be such old thatched houses all over Japan in the past, but it’s rarely seen at the present day. It is like time-traveling to the ancient Japan.
JUNICHIRO TANIZAKI (谷崎潤一郎), a Japanese famous novelist, said in his book “IN’EI RAISAN (陰翳礼讃 / In Praise of Shadows)” that, shadows which used to be seen in Japanese houses has given the sense of beauty to Japanese people. People feel the light especially in the darkness. The shadows which the light makes in the darkness is the Japanese beauty. This inn may be the best place to realize this concept.
ONSEN of this inn is small, but the amount of ONSEN is tremendous. 1500 liter of ONSEN keep springing every minute, and that amazing amount of natural ONSEN keeps poured to bathtub and it keeps overflowing. Thanks to this fast circulation, ONSEN here is always fresh. Generally it’s said that 1 liter of GENSEN KAKENAGASHI (源泉かけ流し / ONSEN flowing directly from the spring source) per 1 customer is the standard amount to keep it fresh, so that the amount here is enough to cover 1500 customers. But actually, the capacity of men’s and women’s bathrooms is almost 5 customers each. Thus, overflowing ONSEN actually flows even outside the bathroom.
Utilizing this huge amount of ONSEN, there’s a dynamic waterfall bath which gushes down from overhead. If you have it on your shoulders and lower back, it’s just like massage.
The bathtub is made of stone and its color has been changed to black with the components of natural ONSEN through many years. This stone bathtub was built during EDO Period by hollowing out the granite. The bathroom is covered with wooden walls, and I felt like my body as well as mind were soaked in the nature.
This time I visited here just to bathe in this ONSEN without spending night, but I would like to stay night here next time. Each room has different taste, built in different era, but all rooms are Japanese traditional architecture. Since they have both bed and FUTON (布団 / Japanese-style mattress), it meets variety of needs that customers have.
There is a IRORI (囲炉裏 / hearth / fireside) at the conversation lounge, and a lot of books are placed there. It’s really nice to relax with reading books with some drinks after bathing in ONSEN.