Kifu no Sato in the north of Okayama has been chosen as a quality luxury ryokan to participate in the ILTM(International Luxury Travel Market) in Kyoto in March 2013.
Also Kifu no Sato has been voted the best ryokan in Okayama Prefecture for the last six consecutive years by JTB, one of the most established tour operators in Japan.
Please review our ryokan and our “Samurai Tour” and write about any places of interest that you have visited in the surrounding area. Your honest opinions of the experiences you have had will greatly improve our service and help many travelers to make decisions. Thank you for your cooperation and thank you for staying at Kifu no Sato Ryokan!
Randy from USA
I stayed at Kifu no Sato in Nov of 2015. In less than a month after I made my reservation, I was contacted by Junko-san via email and was sent their newsletter. Then about a week away from our stay, I received an e-mail from Junko-san inquiring if I or my wife had any allergies so that they could take that into consideration when preparing our ordered meals. Junko-san also asked me how I would be arriving to the Ryokan so arrangements could be made. Once I informed Junko-san that we would be arriving by train at the Sayo Station, she made arrangments to pick us up when we arrived.
When we did arrive, Junko-san was there waiting for us. She drove us to Yunogo from the station, however since we arrived at noon and check-in isn’t until 3 PM, she suggested that we have lunch at a local establishment in town. The lunch, by the way, was fantastic (it was a sushi shop run by a husband and wife). After lunch, it was still early so Junko-san offered to take us to the local elementary school where the Nitaidai University drill team was practicing for an upcoming competition in Hiroshima. When we arrived, the Nitaidai team was working with the local 5th grade class giving them a crash course in drill team competition. Later they preformed their routine for the 5th grade class and the people who came to watch.
After that, it was near 3 PM and time to check in. My wife and I had this part of our 8 day Japan trip as being the highlight of our trip. We were not disappointed. The service and hospitality was first class all the way. If you cannot speak Japanese, staying at Kifu no Sato will be no problem. Besides Junko-san, there were two other staff members that we interacted with who could also speak English. After checking in, before dinner, we went down to the onsen area and I was able to soak in both the indoor and outdoor bath. it was relaxing.
After the bath, it was time for dinner. We selected the Zei no Gozen Kaiseki Course which was best dinner package they had and it did not disappoint. This is what we had:
Homemade fruit liqueur
5 types of seasonal sashimi (sliced raw fish)
Fired alignment vegetables
Main dish for winter:
Snow crab grilled over charcoal
Stone grilled Local premium Chiya beef
A pot dish of cooked Puffer fish, called ‘Tecchiri-konabe’
Hodgepodge cooked with Puffer fish and homemade pickles
Homemade ice cream served with
a selection of seasonal fruit
The dinner was first class and the ambiance was appropriate for the top notch meal that we were indulging in.
The breakfast which followed was also top notch.
The package was pricy and many may be afraid to spend as much for a nights stay, however, if you consider the caliiber of the breakfast and dinner which are included in the price, you will soon realize that you are actually paying for a little more than you would be paying at a business hotel if you would partake in a meal such as we were served. Additionally, this was an Onsen resort.
I will never forget my experience, staying at the Kifu no Sato, where the onsen was great, the Kaiseki Dinner was fantastic, but the ambiance and friendliness of the staff was 5-star all the way.
I will definately try to find my way back to Kifu no Sato in the future. The package was too good to be experienced only once. Thank You Junko-san.
Kenneth from Singapore
Coming back to Kifu no Sato for the second time is like returning home from a long journey. A place where friendship is renewed, the meeting of old friends.This time, I brought my dad and friend to experience the excellent omotenashi of Kifu no Sato, Home of seasonal melody and again, it did not disappoint.
When we were first picked up from Tsuyama station, we were greeted by the warm smiles of Ryoto san, my young japanese friend. It was like seeing an old friend again
and catching up with old times, how the weather was, how were so and so, what food we were going to eat, what are we going to do. We were chatting like old friends catching up. As we went past the quiet ravine roads between the mountains, we spotted numerous kaki (persimmon) trees fruiting its orange wares. This was one of the fruits in season in Okayama Mimasaka
during the months of October. We were told that this was the season of Nashi pears, Pione Grapes, Giant Setos, and the famous Shine Muscat. If you haven’t had a
chance to pop one of these green tear drops in your mouth, please do so as it is both crunchy and candy sweet. A flavour unlike the grapes you have tasted before.
As we traveled on, Ryoto point to the left and said this was where his home was and it was like home we were returning to.
Before long, we had arrived at the Grand Ryokan, greeting by Haru Ji San, the strongest 65 year old man we have seen. Able to haul of luggage as if it was a feather pillow.
He plops it by his arms and swiftly cleans the dirt off the wheels. My dad marvelled at it more than the exterior of the ryokan. From the outside, he didn’t expressed much enthusiasm,
his first time at a Ryokan. But the moment we stepped into the ryokan, we have entered a different world.
As soon as we got our shoes off, we were greeted with the familiar faces of Masaki san and his team. All smiles, they welcomed us and led us to comfortable seats to settle us down to proceed with
registration. It was as simple as producing our passport and the explaining of when dinner time and breakfast time was. We were led to our rooms, as they carried our luggages there. Thereby beginning 5 days
of being pampered with lush ambience, friendly atmosphere and excellent kaiseki dishes. The head chef was a very famous 1 michelin kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto so we were in for a treat. We booked a single room
and also a room with hot spring bath. The bath provided us relaxation time when the main bath is closed.
During our stay, we were looked after at meal times by my friend, Michiko san, who was all smiles and always ensured we had our rice and soup. She would constantly be in and out the kitchen and explaining what we were going to eat.
Perhaps we troubled her more than neccessary, constantly sending her to the kitchen to ask Shokunin the origins of the ingredients. However, she never complained and enjoyed our curiosity.
We met the ever young Grand Dame Hiroko san, Okami of Kifu no Sato. Although she doesn’t speak much english, you could tell from her smiles and eyes, she was happy to have us. Although words could not
express, our hearts also somehow told her, we too were happy to be here. A respite from the days wear in this little town in Okayama especially for our busy travels earlier in the mad rush of Tokyo.
Junko san was not around the first day. Her daughter had a piano competition however, she met us after breakfast as we rested and slumbered the night. It is amazing how the hot waters of Yunogo energises you
and you feel you have slept longer than you did. Ever Sweet, Junko, who speaks good english, welcomed us to Kifu no Sato. She also helped planned for things for us to do during our stay. We decided to watch the
Unkai, a most amazing experience at Kifu no Sato. The nearby Oyama observatory allowed us to watch the mountains peaks covered by a sea of clouds in the early morning mist. Waking up to go at 6.45 am was a
challenge but was most worth it. We were ushered by the ryokan’s shuttle bus and I wished we had more time up at the mountain. This phenomenon takes place when there is a difference between the cold and
warm air of the hot spring resort enveloping the whole town with a sea of clouds. It was certainly peaceful up there and you feel you are top of the world.
We planned to travel and Junko san helped to organise a mini van to bring us to Dairy town of Daizen, Kamba Falls, Wineries of Hiruzen and Yubara Onsen to bath besides the river. It was surprising that these
places were quite accessible from the ryokan.
Getting there was easy, by arranged transport or renting a car. The scenic sights of the above locations kept my photo bug friend happy, as we went past mountains, lookouts, ski slopes, Jeresey cows, goats,
mountain flowers and had fabulous fresh ice cream, milk, cheese and yoghurt. Cost of transportation was not cheap, but the mini van can take 11 and if divided accordingly is good value.
For folks not intending to go so far, taking the smooth cold 5.0 milk fat from the ryokan’s cafe is a good foretaste of the experience to be had.
Yubara onsen was a sight to behold. it was a simple place but bathing at the river was sublime. A real experience. It was also my first time to a mixed onsen, and for those wondering, we were mainly covered up, nothing too much to see unless…towels fall.
The stones from one of the pools were slippery and i fell leading to a not so happy end. Yet, the driver Ouji san, was so concerned that upon his return, he told Haru san about my fall and immediately Masaki san was informed and greeted me with plasters and disinfectant.
Masaki san sat on the floor tending to my toe and dressed it. Words travel fast, and Michiko san at dinner made sure I was okay and the next day, Junko san who heard from the driver ensured I was okay to continue my adventures.
We did take time to explore Yunogo onsen. It is a quiet little town, nothing much in the day. A free public foot bath in the center, a fountain by the bridge. One would quickly dismiss it as nothing much, however, the quietness rewards the treasure hunters.
In town, there is a quaint bakery that has a lovely apple raisin bun and lovely blueberry jam, a glass blowing workshop that you can make your own glasswares, a leather bag making studio where custom designed
tote bags are produced, a pottery place if you want to enact the portion from “Ghost”, a sushi shop that sells a mean gyu sugi kasu jiru or beef tendon miso soup which warms the heart on a cold day.
The chef remembers me and its this little sense of belonging, that makes you feel as if you have come by, left an impression in the lives of others however small. We were welcomed as old friends.
There is also a friendly officer from the tourism center that engages you and act out things to overcome the communication barrier. I still remember him asking me about the laws back home if we had to go to the
toilet urgently in the open. He was acting it out. I couldn’t help laughing and am glad i played charades as I wondered about the true to life town that i had entered in.
Do not miss exploring the town, slowly, but surely, you will find gems. The people are most friendly and language is not a barrier for a welcoming heart.
There too is an izakaya there just opposite the ryokan called Kushijin, that serves good kushiyaki but surprise surprise also has an amazing chef that sings.
Yes, Tatsumax is his moniker and he sings well, belting up tunes like his own creation, and cover songs of the beatlesto the tunes of “let it be”, “yesterday” and others. We tested him for his versatility and he was game enough to sing for us Chage and Aska’s “Say Yes.” for the first time ever.
As he sang, images of my past experiences in Japan came floating back. The people I have met when i was a teenager in Japan and the sights i have seen. It was as if i had just time travelled in the orange lighted quaint little table of that restaurant in the city.
We had such fun that we requested also Ponyo Ponyo, a children anime song that we all gamely sang. We had so much fun, we came back the second night. We were introduced to a Karaoke owner and his mama san of a karaoke called Tom. The owner eats regularly at Kushijin. Perhaps leaving something to look forward to the next time I am there.
Junko san took us out on the 4th day. She took us to the nearby tea farm Qualitea to watch the artisans in action as they pick and process the tea. It is a 3 generation tea farm with Houjicha and Kabusecha sold at
the ryokan. The family were friendly and treated us to tea and gave us some tea as omiyage to remember them by. We were 250 m above sea level, surrounded by mountains, with fresh tea scent in the air. Quiet,
you can almost see the vegetables grow. Cool mountain air, birds chirping in the distance. No wonder people live long there.
My dad suggested that i should work there a few months to enjoy the health benefits, namely weight lost. Cheeky.
We stopped by a Shokudo which was in a defunct primary school. The principal’s office was converted to a kitchen and the neighbouring staff room was changed to a dining room. There we had wild boar gyoza and
Deer meat. Deer was in abundance and needed to be controlled and this was a great way. The venison was out of this world, i think they should even export it. The gyoza was also one the best we had. These were
cooked by the villagers as part of their hobby. We are officially the first foreign guest they had. Only opened on Thursday, the villagers would prepare their menu and the town folks would make their way there to
have an inexpensive but delicious meal. On Saturdays, the ladies in the village would turn the place into a cake house serving rolls, pana cotta and other lovely sweets. I was wishing I was still around then.
Junko san then took us to buy grapes from the different stalls plying their trade in the city. This is where you must be pick up the lovely Shine Muscat if it is in season or any other lovely Okayama fruits in its shun.
Fruit stall people were friendly and often gave us room to try the grapes and gave us extra grapes to take back. We must had a most luscious bunch of Shine Muscat just plucked from the vines. Crunchy and sweet.
We made short work of it, after the hands started grabbing the lovely round tear drops from the stem.
We can’t thank Junko san enough for her kind hospitality and time to bring us around. She never had to but she did and thus makes this ryokan extra special.
After 3 mornings of Japanese and Western Breakfast, my dad needed a change. He requested for tempura udon which at first, due to time to make as well as a change in the itamae’s menu, was not able to be
acceded. Michiko san heard about it, and immediately made it happen for us. My dad was of course very pleased. Hence, we nicknamed the Udon, Bootsu Udon (beat you Udon) as we imagine, Michiko san could
have Bootsu the chef into complying. She did say later, she had good Goodwill/Guanxi with the chef and it was an easy request but we thought the legend of the Bootsu Udon was more apt. Do order Bootsu Udon
for lunch or Washoku lunch at the ryokan. You will be surprised by the lovely flavours.
We were sad to leave on the last day. Everyone greeted us and sent us off. From Junko and also Onsen Tomodachi. It was hard leaving a ryokan that many memories were made. Ryoto san brought us to Sayo
station and carried our luggage all the way up the stairs and ensured we did not miss out train to Kansai airport. I would hazard a guess that if we Bootsu him enough, he would have willingly drove us to Himeji or
the airport as he loves long drive. Alas, he has work to do so we will try another time.
It is said to me, the distinction of a good ryokan is not the hardware, the hot springs, rooms, decor, interior or exterior but rather the software which is the heart that runs the ryokan, the omotenashi and the
impeccable service. I think in all these points, Kifu no Sato has yet again exceeded our expectation.
From the team, looking after us, we were pampered much and would once again become an everlasting memory etched in our lives. The town and surroundings were again gems to be explored and discovered and
even I found new things this time round. I believe there are more to be found. Knife making Setouchi City for one. I have yet to return a ryokan I have been to before, but Kifu no Sato was my first and perhaps not my last.
I look forward to the day I could bring my wife and son to see my japanese Tomodachi yet again.
Till that time, till we meet again, thanks Kifu no Sato for indulging in us. Indeed it was Melodious in the seasons.
Domo Arigato Gozaimashita!
From Mr. Kim Pao Yu
This is one of the best ryokans that my wife and I, frequent travelers to Japan, have stayed.
We thank Junko-san for making our stay a most pleasant one.
The ryokan in itself is a work of art and the food is outstanding.
We strongly recommend this ryokan to any traveler who would like to experience the best essence of ryokan stay in Japan.
Kenneth from Singapore
I stayed at Kifu No Sato recently in March. It is a most lovely ryokan with the most beautiful garden and flower arrangements i have seen. That said, I have been to many ryokans. From the outside, and even from google maps, the surroundings looks like the ryokan is in a commercialised area, but far from it being the truth, the ryokan sits in a very quiet area of mimasaka city in yunogo onsen. Once you enter into the ryokan, you have also entered into another atmosphere of what i describe as impeccable Omotenashi. The service is perhaps the best i have stayed so far. The people are warm, friendly and there is a culture of family amongst the staff. Junko san for example made it a point that i was comfortable and looked after especially being a single traveller. She offered to take me to himeji and made sure ryoto san looked after me for my lunches in the city. They arranged for transportation to Sayo station so i was more comfortable and made sure i had lunch at the ryokan which was the best tempura udon i had. I was also looked after so well by michiko chan and her colleagues for meals and they would take pains to go to the kitchen to check with the itamae the origins of the kaiseki i had. the kaiseki was good and gave me many ideas on how i could improve on my own cooking. Kifu no sato sets new standards for me to judge ryokan’s by. the gift shop was well stocked, generous with many manju, daifuku to try. more so my experience in seeing the last winter’s snow amidst Kifu no sato beautiful sakura and ume trees has etched forever in my memories. Opening the windows of my rooms, i could see the beautiful of the mountains surrounding the quaint and quiet town, watching little kids go to their school and the locals running in and out of the izakayas. But never once, i felt i was in a urban place, my stress oozing out in the pristine onsen, and cool mountain air. i miss this ryokan already and i do turn to my photos to remind me of my time there. I highly recommend Kifu no sato and i would say you will be looked after well by the grand dame, Okami Hiroko san too. the property booked with luxury ryokan collection is amongst the top in japan and the value is exceptional. They accept single visitors but this would be a place you want to bring your family to. It was easy to reach, and the journey was beautiful through the countryside. So thank you Kifu No Sato for a most lovely and memorable stay.
the rivers in the city, okayama observatory, fruit jelly, ice cream and milk from marui super market, gyu sugi kasu jiru from a sushi ya is not to be missed. please ask them about this soup, they will be happy to tell you too.
Thank you once again for a most enjoyable stay.
The Wall Street Journal movie critic, Joe Morgenstern, stayed with us last Autumn. This is what he had to say about us!
“… the ryokan was extraordinary, a level of unadorned luxury and expertise that’s new in my experience.”
Authentic Iai and Kendo martial activities with Trevor Jones
We had a very nice stay at Kifu No Sato Ryokan during the Easter holidays. The ryokan is amazing – super relaxing atmosphere with hot springs, great traditional food and fantastic hospitality. As part of our stay, Hiromi arranged for us to visit Musashi’s hometown in Miyamoto and spend time with Trevor Jones in a ‘hands-on kendo and iaido experience’.
The Musashi hometown was a great place to visit. As someone interested in samurai culture, I was keen to explore the sites of Musashi’s birthplace. It was fascinating to see such a historical site. But the essence of the place is the Japanese way of the sword and the hands on Kendo/Iaido session we had booked with Trevor Jones offered the opportunity to not only visit but truly immerse myself in its spirit and participate in this.
Having practiced martial arts since childhood, I was a bit skeptical. These types of activities can sometimes be very commercial or mediocre. Instead, I met in Trevor a true martial artist of the finest caliber, someone who has dedicated a big part of his life to the Japanese way of the sword. Most importantly, someone who showed true passion for the art and was passionate in sharing it with others.
One does not need prior experience in martial arts to enjoy the session with Trevor. He breaks down a complex art into simple concepts, he communicates clearly and is very engaging throwing in his good sense of humor. Besides having an authentic learning experience, I had a lot of fun!
Flo & Nancy
25 May 2014
from Mark & Charlene
Thank you for a VERY enjoyable stay at your ryokan. Kaori-san really touched our hearts with her lovely manner and fantastic service. She is to be commended for her personal, yet professional manner and I would like it if you were able to pass on our appreciation to the head of the ryokan.
Thanks again and I look forward to visiting Kifu no Sato again in the future.
Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year also.
Mark & Charlene
22 December 2013
New Year holiday visit
Your ryokan is very interesting. ?You can’t find it in any other country. ?It’s very clean and new.
Our favourite food was Ise lobster and Chiya beef and the coffee and tea were enjoyable, too. ?
The most memorable part of the stay is the hot spring baths and the peal pillow!
I love the coffee/tea spoon,,,wish I could buy them for my own home. (Two family group from USA)
The “hobbit” restaurant
I was floored, quite literally! After a hectic week in Kyoto we arrived somewhat frazzled and just impatient to get to our room. But the moment I walked into the lobby sans shoes(!) on the tatami floor, I felt really relieved. The peaceful atmosphere with all the gorgeous artwork and flower arrangements, the outdoor hot spring bath, delicious sushi, and kind staff all made for one of our most memorable stays at a Japanese ryokan. I could have been dreaming when I sat in the sunshine streaming though large windows overlooking the beautiful garden, then looked up to see a pair of hawks circling gracefully in the sky – but I wasn’t. I was living the dream. Highly recommend, hands down.? AND, be sure to go to the “hobbit” restaurant (aka Mitaki-En) hidden away in the mountains for the most enchanting lunch and authentic countryside experience ever. Indoor fireplaces/hearths sunken into the floor, massive tables made from a single slice of tree trunk, moss and flower covered thatched roofs, persimmons strung up in long rows set out to dry… Need I say more? ?(One female traveler from USA)
The Peach Family from Australia
10,May 2013We had a very warm and welcoming stay at Kifu No Sato. ?Hiromi Charles met us at the train?station on our arrival and showed us around the little town before driving to the ryokan. ? Little English is spoken at the ryokan, however,?Hiromi was nearby to assist with organising day trips?and restaurant bookings. ? We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at this traditional Japanese ryokan and would recommend it to others. ?We had one of our most memorable lunches in Japan at a tiny sushi bar where we were entertained by the owner, a great sushi master, and her puffer fish!
7 April 2013
we would like to thank you and the whole staff of Kifu no Sato Ryokan for the warm and enjoyable welcoming and stay we had in Yunogo. It was such a pleasure for us to experience the Onsen, the beautiful landscape (including the tea plantation on top of the mountain) and last but not least the delightful and outstanding food.
We were especially pleased with our charming host who was taking care of us and would like to send her a souvenir from Wien, but unfortunately we forgot her name. She was very lovely and her english was quite good. So can we maybe ask you to give us her name and the correct address of the Ryokan that we can mail something to her?
Thank you again and we hope you will have many international guests from now on!
ILTM March Fam Tour Group
“10 March 2013
Thank you very much for your kind hospitality. ?I had a great time staying with you as I felt right at home.
Very warm welcome by all your staff and team. ?It was so nice to wake up to the stunning mountain views and
relax in the hot spring bath. ?I can’t wait to be back again!”
Luxury Leisure, Australia
“It was a wonderful stay. ?Staff very welcoming. ?Rooms are lovely with comfortable beds.
Overall service was excellent.”
Deidre Van Antwerpen
ICAN Holidays, South Africa
“Thank you for an amazing stay! ?The best steak I have ever eaten, a great experience
and loved staying at such a traditional ryokan.”
Luxury Travel Magazine, Sydney, Australia
“Thank you so much for your kind hospitality during my stay at your hotel.
It is great to relax and experience traditional Japan in such beautiful surroundings.
The dinner was fantastic and of course, the hot spring baths are not to be missed.
Keira Fitzgerald, HK/UK
“I like the hot spring bath very much. ?The service in the restaurant is good
and the food is nice. ?I love the flower arrangement in your ryokan. ?The garden is nice.”
Target Magazine, China
I stayed with my wife at Kifu no Sato for one night in February this year. This small ryokan in Yunogo has struck a perfect balance between exceptional service and genuine hospitality. The dinner was superb and the dishes did not seem to stop coming. It was a guided discovery of local traditional gourmet cuisine. The room was spacious and timeless and its outside private bath made our Japanese cultural experience extra fun and unique.
The ultimate pampering experience was without doubt a few hours spent in the Onsen (public hot spring) and its stone sauna.