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The Artisans Welcoming Travellers in Yamanaka Onsen

In the hot spring town of Yamanaka Onsen, a collective of artisans are welcoming visitors into their homes and studios for an insight into the work they do.

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The hot spring district of Yamanaka Onsen has long attracted visitors for its cultural richness and as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Kayotei Ryokan sits at the heart of this region, aiming to give guests a memorable experience with a focus on wellbeing and traditional Japanese culture.

The ryokan specialises in cuisine that utilises natural, organic ingredients, which have been grown and produced locally. Grilled fish is served with local organic rice, alongside wild fern and mushrooms, which have been foraged from the surrounding mountains. This approach to healthy eating, along with the fresh mountain air and therapeutic hot springs makes a stay in Yamanaka Onsen good for both body and mind.

The artisans of Yamanaka also play a part in each traveller’s experience. By using traditional methods that have been passed down the generations, these artisan-makers produce organic food specialties and handicrafts. The collective works together to welcome visitors who pass through Yamanaka Onsen into their homes and studios to see the work they do.

One such person is Munetsugu Tanaka who’s been farming rice for the past 50 years, 20 of which have been spent perfecting the ‘Aigamo’ rice-duck farming method. By releasing ducklings into his rice paddies, he eliminates the need for chemicals, as the ducklings eat the insects and their droppings act as a natural fertiliser.

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Organic eggs are supplied by the farmer Toyohiko Ise, tofu is made from locally grown soybeans by Hiroki Yamashita, and soy sauce is made by Konishi Tatsuya – the fourth generation of Yamanaka Shoyu, a company established back in 1897 – by crushing and steaming soybeans, then maturing them with malt for 10 months while stirring the mixture 100 times each week.

Beautifully crafted wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) in shades of green, yellow, pink and blue are made by Kurudo who’s been perfecting the craft for 36 years, aiming to appeal to all five senses with his creations.

Perhaps the most established though is the sake distillery, dating all the way back to the Edo period. Fumiaki Matsuura is the fourteenth generation chief sake brewer, making rice wine to be paired with both Japanese and western cuisine.

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Experience it yourself

For a taste of these wares, and to meet the local craftsmen, Kayotei Ryokan gives visitors the chance to step into the artisans’ homes, studios and galleries while they show you the work they do. Visit a woodturner, Kutani porcelain master or Japanese paper artisan. Go hands-on by taking part in a Japanese tea ceremony or try your hand at gold lacquerware. After seeing how sake and shoyu are brewed, join a wagashi class, make soba noodles, and take part in the Aigamo rice planting method. Then, after feeding your mind, reward yourself by soaking in one of the town’s outdoor hot springs.

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The Explorer Blog