Hoshi Onsen Chojukan is a truly atmospheric ryokan in the wilds of Minakami. It has maintained its old fashioned appearance and everywhere you look you can see traces of its age. Looking after an old building in a region of heavy snow is no easy matter, but you have to admire the owners of some of the properties as they continue with many old practices rather than take the shortcut of modern solutions at the price of affecting the authenticity of their livelihood.
A case in point is the roofing on some of the buildings at Hoshi Onsen Chojukan. As you walk around the winding corridors of the ryokan, or gaze out at the forests from the armchair by the window in your room, take note of some of the roofs. They are made with a traditional construction that uses large strips of cedar bark held in place with lengths of bamboo.
This style of roofing is now uncommon but makes use of the abundant cedar tree. It needs to be replaced every twelve years or so, and as it ages it becomes like a miniature garden as seeds, mushrooms, and plants are able to grow on its surface, making it very much like an extension of the surrounding nature.
As with many traditional crafts it is a dying art, and the ryokan have had to be actively involved in order to continue using this style of roofing. This has included having some staff from the ryokan trained up in assisting with the skill of applying this kind of roofing. It is definitely a large investment in time and money but is a beautiful tradition to carry on.
It is definitely worth taking note of the building details as you wander around Hoshi Onsen Chojukan. The size of the beams, the old wiring, the burn marks from old lanterns, wear marks on the floor, and many other details attest the age of the building but also add to its charm.