Saturday, April 17, 2021

Elegant Niigata Ryokan with Riverside and Mountainside Baths

The windows are closed in winter but open in other seasons.

If you read Japanese and search for unique hot springs, you might know Rankeisou Onsen. Japanese guidebooks to unusual and remote onsens often include this inn. Far from major cities, not many foreigners know about Rankeisou, and even fewer have the joy of staying there.

Rankeisou stands out for its heartfelt customer service.

I was lucky enough to visit this past March and March of the previous year. In 2021, snow, even though it was spring, surrounded Rankeisou like a white Cashmere scarf on the shoulders of a beautiful woman. At night, candles burning outside the hotel flickered like jewelry. 

Japanese Inn with candles in snow lighting the walkways
View of candlelit Rankeisou.

The Rankeisou garden without snow in spring

In March of 2020, while on a press tour of ateliers and galleries in the nearby artistic twin cities of Tsubame and Sanjo, I stayed one night at Rankeisou. 

Public outdoor bath by the river

When the time came to choose a romantic location for our twenty-fifth anniversary, I decided to treat my wife to the exquisite service, baths, meals, and service that the current owners offer guests. The great-great-grandson and his wife are maintaining the high standards set by the founder.

Guests enjoy feasts in private rooms. On my first trip, I ate fish, meat, and local vegetables. But on my second visit, the owners and chef served vegetarian dishes to my wife and me. They do their best to accommodate special requests. 

Tasty and culturally rich Japanese vegetarian feast
During my second visit, my wife and I walked with snowshoes around the inn and a nearby dam. Depending on the seasons and weather conditions, fishing, hiking, river rafting, bird watching, or just relaxing inside and outside are all doable. 

The hallways are like Japanese art museums.
I recommend spending at least one night to enjoy the outstanding facilities and location. Still, day visits are possible for baths and meals. Check the inn's website for prices and other specific details. 

For more information on snowshoeing in Sanjo and our experience at Rankeisou, please click on the next link to read a story that I wrote for Snowshoe Magazine

Note: I stayed once at Rankeisou as a nonpaying guest, but I was treated by a travel company, not this inn. The second time that I visited, I paid the full rate. My positive recommendation is an honest one. I have never received free services from the owners of this inn.


  1. Hello!

    I have a random onsen query. My plant sensei asked if I'd like to go to the onsen. With this being a traditional, platonic activity for most Japanese, would this be considered normal, or is he hitting on me? 🤣 I was kind of weirded out but then remembered that onsen is not a romantic or sexy thing in Japan per-se..

    Curious your thoughts.

    1. Probably this is a friendly gesture. If you are worried, ask if you can bring a friend with you.


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