During our last trip to Japan, we finally had a chance to experience staying in a ryokan, a type of Japanese traditional inn. As it was our first ryokan stay, we weren’t too sure what to look out for but I’m glad we found Isaribi!
Isaribi Ryokan Stay Review
Located at the Shizouka prefecture, Isaribi is a ryokan perched by the eastern shores of Japan. While looking for which ryokan to book, we immediately fell in love with this one because of the amazing sea view, private onsen in all rooms, and it’s the relatively affordable price! Here’s my full review of our wonderful one night stay there.
Getting to & pick-up at Izu-Ōkawa Station
I wouldn’t say that getting to the ryokan is exactly easy. It takes around 2 hours from Tokyo Station on the Shinkansen, with a change to a local line at Atami Station. We came from Kyoto before this and it took us 3.5 hours to get to Izu-Ōkawa Station, the nearest train station to Isaribi. The good thing is, the whole journey was included in the Nation-wide Japan Rail (JR) Pass so we did not need to pay additional train fees to get there.
Isaribi also provides free pick-up at the station from 2.30 to 7pm daily, just make sure you let them know your estimated arrival time before your check-in day. We told them our exact arrival time and they were right on time. They helped us load our baggage to the van and in less than 5 minutes, we were already at the property.
Checking in at Isaribi Ryokan
Upon our arrival, we were asked to remove our shoes and immediately ushered to our room at level 1 (When booking a stay in a small ryokan, you would usually pick which exact room you’re going to stay in because each room is usually set up differently and has different capacities). There was no formal check-in process at the counter which made us feel like we were the only guests in the ryokan.
As we entered the room, the staff had kindly prepared our welcome matcha tea and snack – what a great way to start our ryokan stay! As we drank our welcome tea, the ryokan manager, who is half Japanese and spoke very good English, began to share more about the facilities available in the property and asked what time do we want to have dinner.
Our room, room 105, featured 10 tatami mats that could accommodate 5 people. While the room itself was not big but space usage was well planned and it did not feel cramped. As you enter the room, there’s a hallway that links up the sitting area, which faces the beautiful outdoor private onsen and the sea, and the bathroom.
I didn’t know this before but there was only one shower in the room and it is outdoors, which can be seen from the window of the room! Only the toilet and sink were located inside. It was a slight issue for me as I was sharing the room with my fiancé’s parents and cousin. Thankfully, there was the public onsen area which had showering facilities as well so throughout my stay, I ended up showering at the public area instead.
Meanwhile, the tatami area doubles up as a dining area during meal times (dinner and breakfast) and was transformed, by the ryokan staff, into our sleeping area at bedtime. Initially, I was quite worried when we made the booking as the parents would have to sleep on the tatami mats instead of a normal bed. However, my worries disappeared as I saw that the pillows & mattresses were Tempur! They were extremely comfortable to sleep in and in fact, was comparable, if not better, than the normal hotel bed.
Other than the basic hotel-like amenities, we were also provided with a yukata each to wear during our ryokan stay. There was also a bottle of water and an Asahi beer can for each in the refrigerator. Not to forget, each room also gets a large thermos flask filled with hot drinking water which can be refilled by the staff.
The public onsens
The public onsen rooms, one for females and another for males, located in the basement of the building, are available for public use from most of the afternoon and evening. During dinner timings, the onsens will be cleaned and when it re-opens at 9pm, ryokan guests are able to close it up (first-come-first-serve, using indicative boards shown at level 1) for private use.
Before dinner, I made my way to the female onsen area and I was pleased to find that it was empty! The female onsen area was pretty small, one dressing table with three or four showers and a small indoor pool. There’s also an outdoor onsen pool facing the ocean but it was raining so I didn’t stay long outside.
After dinner, when the public onsens were available for private use, I went ahead to book and use the male-side of their onsen. Surprisingly, the male indoor onsen pool was bigger, almost double the size of the female’s! They also had 2 seats at the dresser. I think you can make the best out of your stay by maximising and planning your strategy to try both onsens.
Meals at Isaribi Ryokan
If you’re planning to stay at Isaribi, I would highly recommend getting half-board which includes dinner. Not only because it’s hard to get food in the area (unless you’re driving), but also because the dinner made our first ryokan stay experience more memorable! We were given a choice of dinner start time and we decided to start at the earliest possible time which was 6.30pm. I was just soaking at the public onsen before dinner started and when I returned to the room, I was shocked by the number of appetizers we had on the table. It looked like a full sashimi course but we still had 9 courses after appetizers. The sashimi itself was extremely fresh and not fishy at all.
Although we were extremely full (the lesson is, come prepared with a big appetite!), we ended up finishing all 10 courses served because everything was delicious & well prepared! We ate everything from nabe (Japanese hot pot) to ochazuke, a dish in which hot tea is poured over cooked rice and raw fish. Of course, we also had dessert to top the meal off. Each course was served separately and the ryokan staff came back to our room to clear the previous course and serve the next one at good time intervals. I think it took us around 1-1.5 hours to finish the whole course.
Similar to dinner, we were also given a choice for the timing of breakfast service and we chose to have it served at 10am – the latest possible timing. This gave us time to wake up late if we wanted or if we ended up waking early, enough time to have a soak in the onsen before breakfast. Around 30 minutes before the start of breakfast, the staff came to our room to clear the futons and set up the dining table.
Breakfast was not as lavish as dinner, but it was still an interesting experience as we were served with local, traditional Japanese bento breakfast. The whole meal was served in one go, unlike dinner but still had plenty of dishes for each person. Personally I did not enjoy the breakfast as much as the dinner because some of the dishes are harder to appreciate – we didn’t even know what each dish was as unlike dinner, the staff did not come in to explain each item.
Other common areas
Other than your room and the public onsens, you can also spend some time relaxing with a glass of tea or coffee of choice while enjoying the view at the lobby area. For ryokan stay bookings in rooms without in-room dining service, you can also enjoy dinner at the hotel’s small public dining room.
For a ryokan stay that cost us around 300 SGD per person for one night, I would say that it was very worth it considering the food, service and relaxation we enjoyed. One night is more than enough to fully enjoy the facilities offered. For those who really need a break from the busy city life and are looking for a peaceful place to disconnect, I would definitely recommend a stay at this ryokan! Find out more about Isaribi Ryokan, check other reviews and make a booking, you can do so via my link if you’d like to support my blog.