By Everett Kennedy Brown
When I first heard of Hokuriku I thought it sounded like a rooster call. When I actually visited the region just two and half hours from Tokyo on the new Shinkansen route (that opens in March 2015), I quickly discovered that it is one of the most scenic regions of Japan. It is a place I return to again and again to photograph and explore rural villages and rediscover the other side of Japan, the region along the Japan Sea, that is known for great local food and lodgings.
At the foot of the mountains in Ishikawa prefecture is one of my favorite country inns in Japan. In 30 years of global travel as a photographer it is one of the most fulfilling lodging experiences I have ever had. It offers not the luxury of a grand Parisian hotel, or a Balinese beach resort, but the subtle and refined luxury that only Japan has to offer, but taken to a more sublime level.
On my first visit to the country inn Kayotei, I was met at the entrance by three of the staff. They greeted me with a gentle and nostalgic intimacy that gave me the odd impression that I was returning home, to my own private country villa, after a long hiatus. From the start, the whole experience, replete with first class attendants, maids, chefs and décor left a profound impression on the body and spirit. I was hooked from the first day.
Located in the small hot springs village of Yamanaka in Ishikawa prefecture, the village remains much the same as it has for generations. The inn owners are active in promoting the long traditions of the community and are ever ready to escort inn guests to visit the local organic farmers and craftsmen who provide the soul, spirit and sustenance of the community.
Kayotei becomes a showcase for these local artists and craftsmen whose work is displayed amidst the antique furniture, long polished oak tables, hand painted screens and traditional ceramics that adorn the interior, all of which give the inn a feeling of being untouched by time. This atmosphere is also due to the finely nurtured traditional gardens that surround the garden and the ancient and thickly forested hills that rise above the inn’s natural hot spring baths.
Kayotei has only ten suite rooms. Each is designed in a tea pavilion style that provides a remarkable sense of privacy. Japanese traditional meals, using only the best local ingredients of the season are provided in room. A divine vegetarian menu is also available and the breakfasts, are considered the best in Japan by Lonely Planet.
A night or two at Kayotei elevates the perceptions to a higher aesthetic level. It is perhaps my most valued secret for making better photographs when visiting the Hokuriku region.
For more information about Kayotei, visit here. http://www.ryokancollection.com/eng/kayoutei/ryokan_story.htm?ryokan=kayoutei