The rustic and retro atmosphere of the onsen town is characteristic of Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata. The 3 and 4 storied western style wood building inns which were built between the end of Taisho Period and the Showa Period line these streets. Among them Kosekiya Bekkan which is about in the middle of these buildings is the only 4 story wooden building. It is usually in stories as the representative building when Ginzan Onsen is in the media. The food here at Kosekiya Bekkan is also spectacular. Stay at this retro modern inn to enjoy the atmosphere and the local delicacies of Yamagata.
Kosekiya Bekkan, why bekkan? (annex)
There are 12 hot spring inns in Ginzan Onsen, and out of them 10 line the Ginzan River and are in the onsen town. Kosekiya Bekkan is the only 4 story wooden building in this town and is right in the middle of it exuding a retro atmosphere. Most of the buildings here are exactly the same as they were when first built between the Taisho and the Showa periods, and in 1986 there was a decree to preserve that old décor and atmosphere.
So why is it named the annex? Is there a main building? Actually there 2 buildings over there is the main building but due to aging the building isn’t in use at the moment. According to the owner they want to redo the main building and resume operations, so it might not be long before both the annex and main building are back in business together again.
Although the exterior is rustic and retro at Kosekiya Bekkan, the interior has been remodeled to fit the times and even has an elevator. In the winter the heating works well and you don’t have to be cold when you stay here. What do the rooms look like?
The mountainside rooms
The rooms at Kosekiya Bekkan used to be two separate rooms which were remodeled to form one big room. The riverside rooms have are Japanese style rooms with a view of the town. Pictured above is the mountainside room. This is a Japanese style room with tatami and there is a twin room with 2 beds as well.
The rooms have a sink but there is no toilet. There is one toilet per floor but one step outside the room and it is right there. Plus each floor has multiple toilets so you won’t have to worry.
The Kosekiya Bekkan has two small indoor baths, the Hokkorinochikayu and the Nukkurino Kintaroyu.
They switch at 8am and 8pm between men’s and women’s baths so you may just be able to try both baths depending on the time. It is straight from the source but because it is a blistering 63 degrees Celsius they add cold water to make it bearable.
Although there isn’t an outdoor bath at Kosekiya Bekkan a 10 minute walk away is the sister inn Ginzanso where you can use the outdoor bath there for free.
Ginzanso is a concrete and modern style building. There is the indoor and outdoor bath with a sleep bath outdoors as well. The sleeping bath is warm but not hot so you can watch the waters flow by in the river and look up at the mountain scenery in leisure while you lay down.
Kosekiya Bekkan where the food is amazing
Although the wooden 4 story construction and the spacious rooms are always topics when Kosekiya Bekkan is talked about the food deserves mentioning as well.
Meals are served in the tatami lined dining hall. Although they retain the tatami and old traditional atmosphere you don’t have to worry about your feet or legs falling asleep with these comfortable chairs.
Dinner comes with a letter from the chef and a list of the menu items. The letter in January had a heartwarming message that said “with the cold weather it is the season of the winter general. The seasonal ingredients are very delicious this time of year and I have tried to express this season in food”. This made the meal all the more delicious.
The menu comprised of Yamagata Beef steak, Yamagata Taro stew, Kaimochi Bandomushi, Tsuyahime rice from Obanazawa city, all of which are locally sourced ingredients for local consumption only.
Oshinmeshi tastes surprisingly good
At breakfast you can choose to have Oshinmeshi which is rice cooked with daikon radish, originally made to save on rice and was featured in the TV drama Oshin. Rice with radish?! Some may be worried but the texture of the daikon with the aroma of sesame, and the slight hint of salt really makes this dish taste wonderful driving many to have seconds and even thirds of this dish.
The side dish is a freshly grilled fish, squid sashimi, and others that also make you ask for more rice.
The waitress’s hospitality is spot on with timing and personality. Asking if you want seconds or would frequently say eat more. If you aren’t too keen on the radish rice, you can have white rice instead.
The matcha green tea after breakfast
After you are pretty much done with breakfast the waitress says “I’ll bring tea” and quickly brings some matcha tea. The carefully measured tea is frothed up pretty authentically. It is calming and is a great way to relax after the meal. There is even a snack that makes the tea taste even better. It almost makes you want to say the customary “Kekko na otemae deshita” used in the tea ceremony.
If you stay multiple nights the dinner is varied and a completely different menu for you to enjoy. If you have a chance it is recommended you stay multiple nights.
The quiet of the onsen town is kept by restricting car traffic
The quiet and retro feel of the onsen town is deepened by the fact that Ginzan Onsen restricts vehicles from entering.
There is a large parking lot before arriving at Ginzan Onsen free for you to use, and when you arrive you call the inn you are staying at someone will come and pick you up. Because cars can’t enter they provide a service where they take your luggage by push cart and it feels like you fell back a century or so in time.
Please be aware that route 347 and route 29 are closed in the winter and are unpassable. If going by car ask the inn what is the safest way to get there.
If you are going by train head to JR Oishida Station and take the free shuttle bus or the city bus and they will come get you at the bus stop.
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