Deep in the countryside, far from the foreign tourists, exists a very local fairy tale in Japan. One that will make you feel at home.
If you would like to watch the video this post is based on, then click on the video below:
There once was a girl who loved food, relaxing in nature, and meeting with people domestic to the country she lived in. Alas, few places combined all three things until she discovered…
They exist throughout the world. They are not Beds And Breakfasts. They can serve all the meals, including afternoon tea in some cases. Japanese Pensions are always family run and each is unique to the other.
Unlike hostels which are mainly foreigns tourists and hotels where people never really can meet, Pensions proved a great way to interact with Japanese families and couples. You can do a half-pension where you skip the lunch.
At breakfast and dinner, everyone gathers in an area and the owners bring out their meal, one course at a time. It is a very relaxing atmosphere. The best part is not only how good the food is, but how unique the atmosphere is.
It is said no two pensions are alike.
We have stayed at many now (I love them) and they have all been so different from each other. One had an private onsen where guests could reserve their time. I wish I knew where my pictures of that one were. It had these amazing wood carvings everywhere. Another took us on a stargazing walk at about 8pm in the mountains.
In the evening, there are private baths and you reserve your time. (I’ve never seen one where the room had its own washing area. You usually reserve your time and everyone uses the same bathing area).
There is also a lounge in most with a bar of sorts, a TV, and games. It’s a great place to socialize with Japanese couples and Japanese families. The owners usually come down and join everyone. Since pensions are too small for tour groups and you need a car to get to most, you’ll almost always find you’re the only foreigner.
Which I find nice, because I like to get to know people who live in the country.
At one pension we stayed up until one am chatting with the owner who kept giving us drinks. He was so generous that he didn’t charge for the drinks at all even though we said we were find to pay. He just love nice company.
This friendly, family air is common to most. You are not just their guest, you are like their family (even though they likely will not see you again).
If you get an oppotunity to do so, pensions are that cottage in the wood where grandma lives. But there are no wolves or dangerous things. They are simply happy places and you might find yourself in a bit of a fairy tale.