Ryofuso Ryokan - A Cave of Wonders!

Ryofuso Ryokan - A Cave of Wonders!

Have you ever dined or taken a bath in a cave? Now you can! At Ryofuso Ryokan Hotel, you can enjoy a unique dining experience and a bathing experience like no other! Don’t worry - these two experiences don’t happen at the same time!

In my search for a reasonably priced hotel nottoo far from Tsu Station - but not a “business hotel”, I came across Ryofuso Ryokan. Built in 1962, this“ryokan” or Japanese inn, is about 20 minutes away from Tsu Station by car, iseconomical, and has the typical quaint features you would hope for in aJapanese inn. And if you’re coming by train, the hotel staff will pick you up if you make a request.

But what really caught my eye was that you can have dinner in a cave! The staff at Ryofuso entertain lunch and dinner guests in “caves” that were originally part of a rock mine. The sand that came out of this and other nearby mines was used to polish steel pots, knives and even dentures!

If you come by car, the main parking lot is just behind the hotel to the left, in case the limited parking in the front is full.

Ryofuso consists of 4 buildings, with a total of 20 guest rooms, and can host up to 100 people per night. One building houses two large baths, and two, smaller, private baths which are available to guests to rent in 45 minute slots. (More about those later!)

My room was on the first floor of the main building. The room itself is small, but can easily sleep two people. There’s a relaxing view of the trees half-surrounding the hotel. During warmer weather, you can even relax out on the deck.

I had some time before dinner, so I headed to the public baths. I exited the main building and took some stairs leading up to the neighboring building. Just down the hallway with smooth wooden flooring, I found the men’s bath where I enjoyed a relaxing bath in a cave-themed bathing area. It wasn’t the cave bath I had seen on the website, so honestly, I was a bit disappointed.

Until I came back out and noticed the two signs on the wall next to the building entrance. There were two private baths as well! The doors were locked, so I decided to ask about the private baths after dinner.

Underground Paradise

Underground Paradise
I had a dinner reservation for 6:00PM, so I headed outside to the cave entrance, just on the other side of the parking lot. Several meters down a short path, I came to an impressive site. A large black wall with a demon face above a door which lead down into the earth. “What IS this place!?” I thought.

I entered the doorway and followed the staff down the downward sloped corridor. The tunnels and caves were carved out of volcanic rock. You can see chisel marks everywhere.

The attendant showed me to my cave, or rather my corner of the complex of caves. Here, I enjoyed an amazing bbq dinner with both seafood and beef, as well as a variety of other side dishes. My expression in this photo does not accurately reflect my excitement.

One dish that was brought half way through dinner was the famous “Tsu gyoza”. Much larger than a regular sized gyoza (dumpling) the “Tsu gyoza” has a thicker skin and has a lot more stuffing! And the presentation was a lot of fun! Candles stuck into a mandarin orange - a bit random, but along with the Japanese and American flags, I felt like we were celebrating international relations.

“Pirate bath” 海賊

“Pirate bath” 海賊
It was time to check out the private baths. I went to the front desk and inquired. The baths were available, so I requested one. (Private baths are available for 2500 yen for 45 minutes.)
I got the key to the “Pirate Bath”. (The neighboring bath was the “Bandit Bath”.) Inside the changing room, there were two baskets, but easily enough room for 4, so if you’re in a larger group, perhaps borrow a couple from the public bath?

The bathing area itself is like you are inside a natural cave - but with a washing area and bath big enough for 4, and small enough to be enjoyed by one - or two, if you come with that special someone!

In the morning, breakfast was served in a small dining area adjacent to the entrance of the hotel. This was a fairly traditional style breakfast, with small portions of a variety of foods. Delicious!

I spoke with Mr. Itoh, the owner and operator, and learned that there are currently not many foreigners who visit. That’s a missed opportunity! While the guest rooms are not top of the line, enjoying great food in a cave-like environment is definitely a unique experience! Mr. Itoh encourages people to come even just for lunch or dinner. I would add that you definitely try the private bath!

So come stay at Ryufuso! It’s a great place to launch the next day of your visit to Tsu or the surrounding areas!

Tel: 059-228-8413
2860-1 Handa, Tsu, Mie 〒514-0823
Reservations accepted from 9:00am to 8:00pm, open all year
HP: http://www.ryoufu.com/en/access/

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