Review: Kyushu Karnival – Hoteiya Yufu City

Introduction
Cathay Pacific The Cabin Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
KA 380 HKG – FUK 333 J
Grand Hyatt Fukuoka
Seikai Beppu
Dining at Seikai Beppu
Exploring Beppu
Hoteiya Yufu City
Dining at Hoteiya Yufu City
Exploring Yufuin
Lounge Fukuoka Fukuoka
KA 381 FUK – HKG 333 J

Ranking: Location 5/5 Service 5/5 Modernity 5/5 Little things 5/5 Meals 5/5 Overall 5/5

The hotel we would stay at for the fourth and fifth nights were very hard to decide. I actually wanted to stay at the ANA Crowne Plaza Kumamoto New Sky, since I also wanted to acquaint with IHG (and cross off two hotel chains in one trip). However my mother wanted to stay near Aso, and wanted us (me and my sister) to experience the ryokan life my mom and dad had visited some 20 years ago.

I really wanted to stay at the Irifune Aso, which looked modern while cultural.

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Irifune Aso

However the Irifune Aso was out for the nights, and TripAdvisor #1 ryokan Sozankyo wasn’t nearly as nice as we’d hoped (apparently HK$1000 per person doesn’t seem like high quality to my dad)

We came up to a list of a few hotels around Kumamoto and Ōita Prefecture:

After a few weeks of deciding we settled on Hoteiya, a 14 room ryokan hotel. While KAI seemed nicer, it was infinitely more expensive, so I do think we made the right decision. 🙂

It’s worth noting the website has updated after our stay, and the grammar is not nearly as bad. At least we’re still supposed to sit around the “hearth”. Thanks, but no thanks…

Knucklehead_becomes_Flameballhead

Anyway, I anticipated this hotel stay more than any other that week.

My stay at Hoteiya Yufuin

I arrived after a 45 minute drive from Beppu after a safari. The place was really remote – it was situated in a small driveway, at the end of the road, almost.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Driveway

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Hoteiya Yufuin Driveway

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Hoteiya Yufuin Signage

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Hoteiya Yufuin Driveway

We walked to the lobby, which had a stove (the “hearth”), the concierge, the stairs to the restaurant (which was only for breakfast – dinner was at the room) and a DVD rental area.

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Hoteiya Yufuin stove

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby Stairs

Most of the hotel doesn’t allow shoes, so there were slippers for wearing around the hotel.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby Slippers

I want to say that the toilet is nearly as nice, but between the dark red urinal and toilet bowl, it really wasn’t.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby Toilet

There were displays of wine in the lobby (all for a price).

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby Wine

We checked in, which was quick (as there’s no booking number, you just give him your name and prove it with your passport, and you pay at the end of the stay). Our associate (who actually took care of us until we left the next morning…more on that later) explained that there was geothermal heat-cooked yam and eggs available anytime over at the lobby.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby Food

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Hoteiya Yufuin Lobby Tea

Furthermore our escort gave us our pamphlets about the area and invited us to make popcorn (oh, so that’s what “roasting hail in the hearth” means) and fire some fireworks.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Pamphlets

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Hoteiya Yufuin Information Sheet

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Hoteiya Yufuin Information Sheet

We were assigned ryokan Naokawa “直川”, which was the second last ryokan from the outdoor hallway.

The three days we had at Yufuin actually had some of the better weather I’d seen given that it wasn’t actually raining except for the first night. That was a real grace, since the hallways weren’t covered; though for the first night when it was raining the associates did make sure we went to our rooms in utmost comfort (which included helping umbrella us to the rooms).

Speaking of that, I think this hotel could compete with Aman when it came to service – more on that later.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Hallway

The view from the hallway was surreal. Too bad only one room had this view in the whole hotel, and ours wasn’t one of them.

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Hoteiya Yufuin View from Hallway

On a good day the views were equally good, but in a completely different way.

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Hoteiya Yufuin View from Hallway

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Hoteiya Yufuin View from Hallway

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Hoteiya Yufuin Entrance

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Hoteiya Yufuin Ryokan Entrance Signage

Hoteiya Yufuin
Check-in: Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Room Type: Naokawa
Room Number: 直川
Stay duration: 2 nights
Check-out: Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wow, I was stunned. This is a ryokan in its own right.

The room smelled of rhubarb, but I think the tatami throughout the whole room could have to do with that.

The room featured a large entryway (so large that it was probably the size of a hotel room in and of itself).

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Entryway

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Entryway Light

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Entryway Sculpture

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Entryway

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Entryway

The entryway led to a large hallway that connected the bedroom, living room, bathroom and separate toilet.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Hallway

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Hallway

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Hallway Decor

I personally preferred this room much more than the room at Seikai Beppu, as it was actually big (and not a junior suite split into, uh, fifteen parts).

The escort brought us to the living room, which was pretty huge, probably the same size as the whole room at Seikai Beppu. It featured a short table with four chairs (which were removed at night for two mattresses), power plugs, a wardrobe, a flatscreen TV with a DVD player, a wardrobe and some decorations.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room Cupboard

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room Power Plugs

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room TV

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room Light

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room Decorations

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Wardrobe

The living room led to a porch and the tea room (which connected to the bedroom). The porch was a nice place to get some fresh air, even though it didn’t have views of anything, sadly.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Porch

The tea room featured a table with two chairs, a sink, a few tea bags, a minibar and a tea maker.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room Sink

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room Water Boiler

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room Door to Bedroom

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room Tea

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room Minibar

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room Tea Selection

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room Tea Selection

I kind of liked the roof of the tea room.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea Room Roof

The tea room led to the bedroom, with two “actual” beds, another flatscreen TV and another few power ports.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bedroom

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bedroom Flatscreen TV

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bedroom

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bedroom Platform between Beds

 

Then there was the toilet and the bathroom.

The toilet featured, well, a toilet, and a sink. Well, the toilet was a Category 3 toilet, the only Category 3 toilet I had had in a hotel room toilet on this trip.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Toilet

The fact that the Japanese ryokans don’t put soap next to their in-toilet sinks pisses me off, though it is a first world problem I guess.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Toilet Sink

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Toilet

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Toilet Sink

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Toilet Towel

The bathroom featured double sinks, a shower and an outdoor onsen (which was tiny; the problem with that is that the water inside is scathingly hot, and the hotel has said that the water will “reduce burns”). 😉

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Double Sinks

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Laundry Basket

While this shower had “massage function” outlets, they were like needles piercing into your skin, so go figure that I hated these.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Shower

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Shower

While most bathrooms only have the basics like combs and toothbrushes, this had nail clippers as well, which I appreciated.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Nail Clipper and Bandaids

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Amenities

The hotel featured two amenity brands; Shiseido and Mikimoto Cosmetics. (Shiseido was for the soap and perfumes, Mikimoto Cosmetics were for the body and shampoo.) I liked the Shiseido amenities, but the Mikimoto amenities were borderline offensive (I actually would use Mikimoto Cosmetics more often in the hotel due to the fact that I would be showering using it, but it was just for two nights, and I had backup, and…)

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Phyto and Rose Shiseido Soap

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Auslese by Shiseido Amenities

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Mikimoto Cosmetics Amenities

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Mikimoto Cosmetics Amenities

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Fluffy Rug

The bathroom led to the onsen, which was outside, didn’t have good views, and was small and hot, but at least was existent…

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Onsen

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Onsen

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bathroom Onsen

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room from Onsen

Overall, the room was really well furnished, modern (unlike some ryokans I’ve seen online which are more or less offices), and massive, and I loved it more than any other hotel stay this year.

The first thing we had to do after being toured around the room was choose our yukatas. The escort gave us a few choices and we chose from her pile. Our escort(s, the escort changed the next day) were both cheery and warm, and I felt like I was part of them (except for the language barrier).

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Yukatas

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Yukatas

We were then invited for an in room tea ceremony with the escort, who tried to engage in small talk with us though the language barrier was a little too wide.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Tea and Biscuit

She then noticed a bug by the wall, panicked, and got a tissue and scraped it down. She then rushed to the bathroom to get some antiseptics, wiped the wall and ran back to the office to replace our antiseptics. Now that‘s what I call running a marathon… 😉

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Bug

The escort asked us when we would like dinner, which we told her (same for both nights, 6:30). While I’ll have a food installment here as well (the food was actually really impressive compared to the Seikai), I’ll share some pictures.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Dinner (with fugu)

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Dinner

After that we were escorted under the hotel’s umbrellas to the lobby, where we made popcorn, drank barley tea and made fireworks. It was fun, not epic, but definitely relaxing, which is what I’m here for. The experience spoiler was actually the dinner, given we were so full both nights popcorn wasn’t really our thing by 8:30.

Expecting a full room where there was a “workshop” for making popcorn, it was actually an open area where they watched and taught us, which I definitely prefer. Also there was only one other family there during the nights we were out there making popcorn (different families each night), so it wasn’t crowded either.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Night “Hail in Hearth” Roasting

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Hoteiya Yufuin Night Barley Tea

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Hoteiya Yufuin Night Tea and Shochu

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Hoteiya Yufuin Night Firework Lighting

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Hoteiya Yufuin Night Drinks

Then our (tatami) beds were set up, and we were bid goodnight by the escort.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room Tatamis

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room Tatamis

It’s worth noting that the pillows were very hard. I think asphalt would have been softer, though one side of the pillow was more unbearable than the other.

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Hoteiya Yufuin Naokawa Room Living Room Tatamis

We ended up watching Mr. Bean both nights (my sister loves Mr. Bean and I had some episodes to quickly cross out, which I did), and the first night I slept with my sister, and given how much my sister loves my mother, the second night she slept with her on one of the “real” beds, while I had a double tatami to myself (if that is a thing). Ah, the joys of traveling with family… 😉

The hotel has its own share of wildlife in the area, which I guess I appreciated (annoying flies were not part of the category).

Hoteiya Yufuin Hallway Crab

Speaking of the hotel’s facilities, there was an onsen, which was usually empty, though I didn’t take pictures in case I caught my father in one, sorry.

There was also a little pavilion with WiFi which I didn’t use, as I had my own router. The hotel itself, sadly, was not fully WiFi equipped (though I guess that can be understandable given the style and location).

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Hoteiya Yufuin WiFi Pavilion

Service was spectacular. It truly exceeded my expectations and I’d actually say it was worth what we paid for.

That said, I can’t say I was treated like family. I think that was mostly to do with the language barrier. For example, after breakfast, the escort explained to us that “me…change”, which meant that she was off for holiday while another escort would be taking care of us. Not the best way to present…

Bottom line on Hoteiya Yufuin

I’m damn impressed. Due to the price I wouldn’t return, but I’d say this ryokan was great. Definitely an experience worth paying for (though there are also pretty good similar ryokans in Kyoto).

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