Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time-Honored Classy Onsen Ryokan, Rankeiso

Rankeiso, located in the Shitada area of Sanjo City, is popular among “onsen” lovers young and old as it is one of Niigata’s best hot spring inns.

When I was a high school teacher in Sanjo, I often volunteered to be an organizer of school parties in order to choose Rankeiso as the venue as it is an ideal setting for relaxing parties.

Recently, I met Rankeiso’s president, Keigo Otake, who is the fourth-generation manager of this family-owned inn. Though he comes across as a bit shy, he is not timid when he speaks about the three points that make his inn one of Japan’s best secluded hot spring spots.

First, he noted, the quality of the inn’s onsen baths is outstanding. The cold spa water is quite rich in minerals and surprisingly tasty. It is a little salty and tastes like seaweed tea. He even uses the water to make Onsen-gayu, a special type of rice porridge for breakfast.

A second factor that makes this inn an unforgettable experience, he noted, is the tantalizing cuisine. Four distinguished chefs turn any of the inn’s traditional country-styled dishes into a high-class banquet. (Having recently attended a family reunion at the Rankeiso where we partook of many of the inn’s best delicacies, I can personally attest that this is no exaggeration.)
The third element, he touched on, and perhaps the most important, is how the inn lies in gentle harmony with it natural surroundings. Scenic woods envelope the inn while the Sumon River runs beside it, allowing those who come there to feel as one with nature.

During our talk, Mr. Otake noted that the “Go” in his given name, Keigo, means “five.” In this way, his parents and grandparents consigned in him five wishes. He didn’t say a lot, but he knows what his family expected of him and he is obviously full of high hopes for his inn.
He didn’t brag about his high ambitions to expand his business, but he did modestly mention that he would like to keep pace with the times. He then concluded my interview by saying he envisions the future of his inn, the village and its people, all the time.