When you first see the entrance gate of Takinami Ryokan, you might think that this is a museum or something, like I did years ago. However, the 400-year-old gate is indeed the door to the extraordinary.
Takinami is located in the Akayu Onsen (hot spring) district, which was reportedly found in 1,093 and has been giving a restful time to locals and visitors for more than 900 years. Takinami was in a financial crisis several years ago, but it has been successfully revived and reborn as a prestigious ryokan – Japanese-style hotel – with the heart and essence of Yamagata.
Since the old days, Akayu Onsen has served to heal sickness and injuries of people, especially war fighters. Takinami is one of a few ryokans whose all guest rooms are equipped with open-air spa, so that you can be healed until one minute before the check-out time.
The modern and the traditional are well-mixed in the building. The lobby looks very modern and is full of Nordic furniture and Yamagata woods. You will feel very welcomed when you come in and are served with welcome sake. On your way to a guest room, finely balanced darkness invites you to the extraordinary. A part of the ryokan was renovated from an old elementary school building, but you probably will not notice the actual age of the building until you are so told.
Having said that, the beauty of the ryokan is not the only reason to choose Takinami as part of your Story of Sake. There is an obvious reason – sake. When you have a dinner in the dynamic open-kitchen dining area, you will be able to see their sake list. Because Takinami transacts with Japan’s leading sake stores, they have a large variety of sake – from the very famous ones to the hidden gems. They even have a sake pairing course to pair with the dinner course.
If you are a fan of wine, you would also be surprised by their wine selection. Rare enough for a ryokan, they have a senior sommelier who has beyond-the-expectation knowledge. I am a kind of person who wants to enjoy the local wine (usually sake, though), and for me, wine made in Yamagata (many of which are not available in Tokyo) is waiting. However, even if you are into wine from Old World, Takinami will not disappoint you. That I guarantee, as you have access to the great bottles that the senior sommelier collected.
To summarise, even though Takinami is among the most expensive ryokans in Yamagata, this is for sure worth your once-in-a-life-time trip.