Modern sensibility presenting refined Japanese style to international guests
When hosting guests from abroad, I often invite them to this hotel, because here they can experience the true charm of a Japanese style inn comfortably and naturally. The exquisitely appointed indoor spaces, the grace and courtesy with which staff members treat guests, the seasonal ingredients and expert cooking techniques, the whimsical tableware, the tasteful private baths adjacent to each guest room and the phenomenal spa treatments: all of these give me as a Japanese person a sense of pride. Above all, it’s wonderful that the character and spirit of the owners, Kazunari and Sachiko Nakamichi, and their attentiveness to the objective of making sure that guests thoroughly enjoy their stay are obvious at every turn here at Beniya Mukayu.
When she married the fourth-generation proprietor Kazunari Nakamichi, now-proprietess Sachiko was an elementary school teacher. Sachiko, of positive and cheerful disposition, has supported her husband and helped transform what was “Beniya”, a hot-spring inn for groups, into a luxury ryokan with hot spring baths en suite. The renovation was the responsibility of Architect Kiyoshi Takeyama. By creating a spacious garden-facing lobby with a selection of low chairs and tables, he established the inn’s focal point. In 1998 the seven-story building closed and the four guest rooms in the main building were renovated.
Takeyama, who thoroughly researched inns with hot spring baths en suite, produced beautiful minimalistic Japanese-style guest rooms. In due time, the hotel began to gain popularity. However, four rooms alone can’t meet guest’s expectations. With a mixture of original and renovated rooms, reservations were chaotic, leading to misunderstandings and disappointed guests. Impelled by this reaction, the Nakamichis accelerated the rest of the renovations. It wasn’t long before the whole of the main building, Beniya, was completely renovated. With the completion of the three-story garden-facing annex, Mukayu, the philosophy of the inn became clear. Beniya Mukayu was born.
The charm of this hotel lies in the fact that it has been undergoing steady, gradual change. The second floor of the building that had been closed was refurbished as the multi-purpose space Horin, and has now been transformed into a lovely restaurant. As the inn has developed, several other use-specific areas have come into being: an herbal medicinal treatment room, Entei; a detached library where guests can spend time focused on reading; and a tea house in a corner of the garden, which with each passing year has taken on a greater vitality, thanks to the proprietor, devoted to the Way of Tea. Japanese/Western-style rooms are available, too, which are deliberately designed with consideration for those who are not particularly comfortable in tatami rooms.
The owner’s enthusiasm for contemporary art quietly permeates the inn; Inconspicuously placed in a corner of the garden, lush with greenery, is one of the great pieces of Tatsuo Miyajima, one of Japan’s foremost sculptors and installation artists. The tsukubai washbasin “Hosun” that I produced for the project “T-Room” initiated by architect Kengo Kuma in the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, is placed in the entrance of the treatment room Entei and continues to function well. Extremely pleasant and superb dishes are seasonal crabs and Kamonabe duck hot pot, but the secret ingredient of Beniya Mukayu is the contemporary sensibility that percolates in the background of these real pleasures enjoyed here.