When I visited to Niigata Prefecture, I really wanted to stay in a very unique Japanese style Inn. I tried to search with lots of kinds of keywords including handmade, agricultural experience, getaway, hot spring, nature experience, auberge and so on.
Finally, I found Kukuno Inn where only 1 group can stay at a time. Kukuno Inn is served by the owner couple just moved from near Tokyo to Niigata to start a Japanese style Inn.
At first, we could not find Kukuno when we were reaching there. The house looked very old and shaky, and we thought it must be a private house. There was a gentle slope in the front of the house and we needed to drive up the slope backward for parking.
Dinner & Breakfast
The owner cooked seasonal ingredients which came from the nearby woodlots or from their farm. In May, wild vegetables were in season and various kinds of recipes could be enjoyed.
We also enjoyed well cooked meats and fish at Kukuno. Every night, the owner served different kinds of dinner and we also tasted amazing Japanese Sake and Wine in Niigata. Since the late 19th century, some areas have been harvesting grapes for their wineries. Now, they are creating original wine which suits Japanese foods.
Breakfast was much simpler than dinner, but we could get refills of rice and Miso soup. Every morning, we could enjoy different kinds of fish from Naoetsu Harbor.
Against all expectations, the inside had been renovated into a very modern house. Especially, the bathroom had a huge bathtub for about 4-6 people. You could enjoy outside sounds through a window while taking a bath.
We could choose our own pillows from various kinds of pillows which the owner provided for guests. We kept our guest room windows open to listen to outside sounds. There were a lot of natural sounds including the blowing wind, running water from a small river and some living creatures. It was much noisier than in the urban area, but we had very good night.
Local Hot Spring near Kukuno
At Kukuno, you can relax by taking a bath in the huge bathtub. However, Yakusugi no sato, a hot spring house, near Kukuno is also recommended to visit. Yasuragi no sato provides hot springs for local people and tourists. It is located in the middle of fields.
During our walk around, we found frogs, small lizards and carp-shaped streamers near Yasuragi no sato. There were no obstructions so we were provided with great landscape views from the bathroom.
If you missed seeing cherry blossoms in April, please come to Niigata in early May. You can still enjoy breathtaking pink scenery and vivid colors of moss phlox. Niigata is the one of best rice-growing districts in Japan and people had already started to plow their rice field. Walking around, you will see green rivers and enjoy the tender fresh season in May.
Enmei shimizu spring
We also visited a Yakushi, an old temple and Enmei shimizu, a spring that you can drink from. It took 30 mins from Yasuragi no sato by car. The water was unbelievably pure. The surroundings and scenery of the temple looked like it had come directly out of very old Japanese tales. People we met kindly guided us to the spring and chatted with my family.
How to get there
The closest Shinkansen bullet train station is Joetsu Myoko. It takes 30 mins by car to Kukuno from Joetsu Myoko Station. A rental car costs about 6,000 yen per day.
The road is not crowded and the way was easy to drive. Kukuno was a little bit far away from the seaside, but we could access to Hisui Beach where you might find a piece of green jade Joetsu Science Museum and Kanaya Mountain.
Types of Accommodation
In Japan there are several ways to express hotels in Japanese. Minshuku is managed by a family and usually a farmer or fisherman provides their house as an accommodation. It is similar to Agriturismo style in Italy and B&B in England.
A ryokan is a more formal type of hotel to serve customers, and traditionally has tatami-mat rooms and communal baths. A ryokan is managed by an Okami, landlady, and Nakai, kind of butler and housekeeper. I prefer to stay at Minshuku to communicate with the family and enjoy local produce.