1300 years of history have made the historic area of Nara what it is today. You’ll want to stay a night or two and enjoy the many attractions this city has to offer.
Included are the many shrines and temples designated as national treasures and World Heritage Sites. You can also enjoy the charming neighborhood townscapes.
Out of the many places to stay, we have chosen three unique traditional Japanese ryokan inns that are located in the center of Nara. Here, natural hot springs, open-air baths, great scenery, and merchant homes that embody the charm of Naramachi, a former merchant district in the center of Nara, are offered.
These inns have also taken countermeasures against Covid-19, so you can enjoy your stay with ease.
1. Onyado Nono Nara: Relax and enjoy a natural hot spring
Onyado Nono Nara is an exceptionally located inn only a minute walk from JR Nara Station and a ten-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station.
This premium ryokan-style hotel belongs to Dormy Inn, a business hotel chain in Japan.
Staying true to the Nono brand, Onyado Nono Nara wants you to experience the best of Japan’s facilities and hospitality. Therefore, it uniquely adds to its premium services by creating an environment where you can feel the harmony of Japan.
Even though the inn is located right in front of the station, as soon as you enter the building the open, traditional Japanese space will make you forget about the crowded nosiness of everyday life. Take off your shoes and feel the comfortable tatami flooring on your bare feet as the warmth and slight scent of wood envelops you.
In the lobby, you can find displays of classical Japanese decorative paintings called Yamato-e along with Akahada ware, a type of traditional Japanese pottery from Nara Prefecture. These decorative pieces provide an enjoyable atmosphere similar to that of a traditional Japanese hot spring inn.
Moderate Twin Room
The concept and aim of each guest room are to make you feel right at home. There are many types of rooms available, including singles, doubles, queens, and twins. All the rooms incorporate the warmth of plain wood along with tatami mat flooring, a type of traditional Japanese flooring made from woven straw.
Beds are placed on top of the tatami mat, transforming the space into a mix of Japanese and Western design. Furthermore, there is a door between the washroom and bedroom area, so you can separate them if needed. The room’s light switches are very efficiently placed on the headboard.
Lastly, you can find shoji windows, covered with translucent sheets on a lattice frame, as well as wooden desks and sofas in the room. This creates an atmosphere that is modern but still traditionally Japanese, offering you a space where you can completely decompress.
Semi Open-Air Bath
Yoshinosakura no Yu is a natural hot spring that draws its spring waters from the same source as Suzaku no Yu in Yurara Onsen, another hot spring in Nara City. This is done through hakobiyu, a practice that carries hot spring water underground to cities.
This particular spring has moisturizing qualities on the skin that you can feel even after leaving the bath. The refined communal bath is lavishly made out of hinoki cypress. The semi-open-air bath allows you to feel the fresh outdoor air while keeping warm in the hot spring’s waters.
The space creates a soothing atmosphere due to the light filtering through the trees during the day as well as the soft glow of the surrounding lights at night. In addition to a sauna, a single-person bath where you can take your time in bathing is also available.
Overflowing Seafood Sashimi Bowl
Offering a buffet-style service, Onyado Nono Nara is an inn that only serves breakfast. Starting with the overflowing seafood sashimi bowl, there are many dishes to choose from. This includes vegetables pickled in sake less called narazuke, a rice congee made with green tea known as chagayu, sushi wrapped in a persimmon leaf, and arrowroot starch noodles.
Also, the broth taken from Yamato chicken, a brand of chicken produced in Nara, is used to make nyumen. Nyumen is a hot noodle dish made from thin Japanese noodles called somen. With this buffet-style breakfast, you can take as much of whatever you like.
A one-minute walk from JR Nara Station and a ten-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station
■Service for Foreign Tourists
Guides available in English, Chinese, and Korean. VOD available in four languages (Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean). Staff who can speak English, Chinese, and Korean are available.
■Countermeasures against Covid-19
Indoor disinfection measures taken / Sanitizer installed / Disinfected after each guest leaves / Ventilation measures in place / Coin trays used / Plastic partitions installed / Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature / Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell / Masks required/temperature check enforced / Room service restrictions (entrance restrictions), etc. /
Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring
Omiyacho 1-1-6, Nara, Nara
2. Ando Hotel Nara Wakakusayama: Enjoy sweeping views of renowned World Heritage Sites
Ando Hotel Nara Wakakusayama, which had its grand opening on July 1st, 2020, is situated along Shin-wakakusayama Driveway. This is the mid-slope of Mount Wakakusayama, a representative site in Nara.
The best thing about this hotel is the superb panoramic view of Todaiji Temple's Great Buddha Hall and Kofukuji Temple's five-story pagoda, two of Nara's world heritage sites.
Views from one of the guest rooms in the fall.
Fourth floor lobby
Not only are there sweeping views of Nara City from the lobby, but they can also be enjoyed from guest rooms on floors four to six as well as the open-air bath on the roof. What’s more, on a clear day you can look out to see Yamato Sanzan (the three mountains of Yamato), Mount Ikoma, and Mount Shigi.
Out of the 21 guest rooms available, there are six types. The room in the photo is a panoramic twin room that has an area of 45 square feet. It’s a Japanese and Western-style room with a double bed. The room also has a lounge chair near the glass window so that you can relax and enjoy the view.
There are four booths for private open-air baths on the roof. Here, you can fully enjoy the superb view without worrying about other guests. Reserve a time and enjoy this luxurious space.
・Hours (First-come-first-serve system): Private reservations for 50-minutes (3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.) *Shower rooms attached
・Price: One reservation per room is free (*Reservation is required, first-come-first-serve system)
・Capacity: Two Adults (＋One child)
*There is also a communal bath on the second floor.
For meals, you can dine at Terrace Wakakusayama located on the fourth floor. We recommend this restaurant because it heavily incorporates Yamato vegetables, Yamato meats such as Yamato beef and Yamato pork, as well as local ingredients in its menu. (Yamato vegetables and meats refer to ingredients that come from the fresh fertile farms of Nara.)
With the concept being “the unchangeable and change”, they implement traditional Japanese cooking methods along with French ones to create their course. The dinner course is served in the following order of appetizers, dishes served in a Japanese bowl otherwise knows as wanmono, assorted sashimi, grilled dishes, fried dishes, meat, rice, and dessert.
Stargazing and Nightscape Viewing at Mount Wakakusayama is a free, regularly held event provided by the hotel. This takes you up Mount Wakakusayama, which has one of the most beautiful nightscapes in all of Japan, by minibus to enjoy the view and starry skies.
A staff member from the hotel guides this tour. The event starts from 9:00 p.m. and lasts about 50-minutes, and reservation is not necessary. If you are interested, you can let the hotel staff know during your check-in.
The free events and programs offered are full of activities where you can experience Nara’s culture, nature, and history.
A 15-minute drive from JR Nara Station. A 10-minute drive from Kintetsu Nara Station. You can also make a reservation in advance for the free shuttle bus that takes you to and from the hotel. (leaves from JR Nara Station and Kintetsu Nara Station)
■Service for Foreign Tourists
The hotel has resident bilingual staff who can speak English.
■Countermeasures against Covid-19
Indoor disinfection measures taken / Sanitizer installed / Disinfected after each guest leaves / Ventilation measures in place / Coin trays used / Plastic partitions installed / Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature / Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell / Masks required/temperature check enforced
ANDO HOTEL NARA Wakakusayama
Kawakami-cho 728, Nara, Nara
3. Wakasa Bettei: Fully enjoy the atmosphere of Naramachi
Wakasa Bettei is located a 10-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station on the north-side of Omiyadori Street. It can be found on a quiet corner of Kita-machi, a northern area past the many public buildings and government offices in Nara. You will pass the Nara Prefectural Office, Nara Police Station, and Nara Prefectural Museum of Art on your way here. This inn, being only a five-minute walk from Todai-ji Temple, is a good option for those who want to access different parts of Nara.
The characteristics of this Nara ryokan are that the entryway is narrow, the building is long, and it has a lattice door. This contributes to the concept of likening it to a traditional merchant home in Nara. Furthermore, the entrance’s stone pathway and board walls in addition to the latticework on other parts of the building accentuate the merchant house-like atmosphere.
The lobby on the first-floor embodies the ambiance of a merchant’s house
The first-floor lobby is also a reconstruction of a merchant’s home. It leaves an impression with its open ceiling and latticework. What’s more, this inn has managed to reproduce the depth and length that a merchant’s house has.
The 12 guest rooms, all of which embody the quaint characteristics of Naramachi, differ slightly. Most rooms give off a fragrance of short-grass, and Nara latticework provides an atmosphere similar to that of a merchant’s home.
Each room comes with its own bath, offering an appealing variety of options to choose from. Some of the options available include open-air baths, semi-open-air baths, and even baths made from hinoki cypress.
The photos show the porcelain open-air bath of room 301. Accommodations are spacious and separated into different areas, including a living room and entertainment space. Here, you can enjoy a leisurely time.
With the inn’s top floor being the fourth floor, you can enjoy a view of Nara’s representative scenery from the communal bath. This includes the slopping roof of Great Buddha Hall as well as Mount Wakakusayama. The experience of looking out onto such a view from a bath can only be had at this inn.
During the day, you can enjoy the freeing feeling of taking a bath while sunlight comes through from the skylight. You can also enjoy looking out into the warm glow of lights during the evening. Stretch out your arms and legs in this spacious bath and let the waters ease the wear of your travels.
For meals, you can dine in a private or semi-private room that overflows with traditional Japanese ambiance. Yamato Kaiseki is offered for dinner. Yamato Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese course that offers dishes specific to Nara.
The head chef pours his heart into making exquisite dishes where you can feel the change of the seasons through the ingredients and plating. These dishes are carefully carried out one by one. The beautiful presentation and superb flavors allow you to eat with both your eyes and tastebuds. Moreover, a traditional Japanese platter with Yamato congee is served for breakfast. Yamato congee is a local dish said to be first had by the monks of Todai-ji Temple.
The rice of the congee is cooked in roasted green tea which makes the texture very smooth and easy to eat.
A ten-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station.
■Service for Foreign Tourists
There are staff members who can speak English.
■Countermeasures against Covid-19
Indoor disinfection measures taken / Sanitizer installed / Disinfected after each guest leaves / Ventilation measures in place / Coin trays used / Plastic partitions installed / Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature / 入場制限、予約制の実施-Restricted admission with reservation required / Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell / Masks required/temperature check enforced / Room service restrictions (entrance restrictions), etc.
1 Kitahanda Higashimachi, Nara, 630-8274
Hours: Check-in is from 3:00 p.m., check-out is until 10:00 a.m.
Closed: Open daily
What did you think? We’ve introduced unique accommodation where you can experience traditional Japanese culture. Everything we’ve introduced is located in the center of Nara, so it’s very easy to get to major tourist attractions such as Kasuga-taisha Shrine, Kofuku-ji Temple, Todai-ji Temple, Nara Park, and Naramachi. Fully enjoy your stay in Nara at one of these hotels or inns.
*Due to the spread of COVID-19, there may be some changes regarding business hours, holidays, and service methods.
*Information as of the time of the interview.
Kiko Matsuda, Keiko Kimura, Risa Tsuji, and a team of female writers familiar with Kansai. We love eating, drinking and traveling! We share fun information based on our experiences.