1209-6 Ōsawa, Minami-uonuma-shi, Niigata
Satoyama Jujo is perched on the side of a hill in Minami Uonuma in Niigata Prefecture. It is surrounded by unspoiled nature which is one of the themes for this ryokan, another being its attachment to the culture of the land.
The Timeless Style of an Old Folk Building
The building that houses the lobby of Satoyama Jujo is an old folk building that was relocated here from another part of the prefecture. It is dotted with works of art and designer furniture but is an amazing piece in itself. It is a nest of old beams with the timber originally selected for their unique properties (keyaki for the uprights and the more flexible cedars for the horizontal ones) but all the inconveniences of such an old building have been negated. The spaces are well heated with modern systems including a wood burning stove specially adapted to the local woods which aren’t the best firewoods, and an air circulator that takes the warm air from the top of the ten meter tall space and pumps it down to the bottom. The mixture of the best of the old with the innovation of the new is a comfortable and stylish blend.
The Food Culture of Yukiguni
One of the unique aspects of the food culture in Yukiguni is that much that is in use today has continued consistently throughout the ages. This is attributed to having to prepare enough food to last through the heavy snows and also the fact that the mountains surrounding the area created a natural barrier. Other areas have had to rediscover old recipes and techniques but not so in Yukiguni. At Satoyama Jujo they use different traditional preparation methods and ingredients as an expression of the local area, and add their own touches to those. At the back of the building you can find a snow storage hut that is a natural refrigerator once the snow falls, as well as a smoke hut. Other ingredients are being fermented, pickled or dried. Preparation of some of the ingredients for the meal you enjoy may well have started six months ago!
Coexistence with the Natural Environment
There is something unusual that you may not notice about the siting of Satoyama Jujo. You find yourself in an area of the mountains without a view of a single electricity pylon or wire. Great respect is given to the surrounding nature which also happens to be the provider of many of the ingredients for the kitchen. The area around the ryokan has been lovingly rewilded and no effort is too much to keep things as natural as possible. The view of the surrounding mountains is treasured, but due to a careful bit of design, it is not revealed in all its beauty until you make your way up to the rooms and it fills your vision. The nighttime view from the onsen is also a stunning sight.
Explore the life and culture of Yukiguni through one of the unique local experiences available.
An Insight into the Local Ingredients
The cuisine at Satoyama Jujo is highly regarded for being organic and local. Every day there is a short walking tour around the grounds that opens your eyes to the edible plants growing within easy reach. Taking just a short stroll you can learn about the many different types of edible plants that grow by the side of the paths. This can be up to twenty different species at certain times of the year. Many more hide deeper in the mountains. Depending on the season you can also see the yukimuro snow storage, or tour some of the fermenting or pickling facilities as the ingredients are maturing. Everything you witness will contribute to the unique taste of the area that you will experience on your plate at the evening meal.
Satoyama Jujo has been loving designed to offer ultimate comfort, and the attention to detail is amazing. The idea was to take the very best of the old and combine it with the comfort of the modern world so that both complement each other.
Each Room is Distinctively Individual
At Satoyama Jujo all the rooms are unique and have been specially designed for luxury and relaxation. The rooms are in the new building and have been decorated with comfortable designer furniture and works of art. They have views either overlooking the valley and the mountains in the distance, or gazing out onto the changing colors of the forest on the slopes behind the ryokan.
Art at Every Turn
You cannot go far within Satoyama Jujo without encountering some kind of art. On entering the lobby initially, one of the first things you see is a huge piece of art in the center of the reception area. There are plenty of works to contemplate as you stroll around the ryokan, and also regular art events as part of the Satoyama Art Project.
A Holistic Approach to Accommodation
Satoyama Jujo resists being easily categorized as everything is carefully designed to function together. Organic and healthy ingredients, sleep, relaxation, consideration for the environment and local culture: coming to relax here is more of an experience than a normal stay. Once you have tried the luxury here you are sure to want to return to try a different room and the seasonal cuisine from a different part of the calendar.
The boutique alongside the ryokan sells some of the designer furniture used in the rooms, as well as items produced by the kitchen. There are also locally sourced handicrafts and small artworks, along with other lifestyle goods and food products.
The private dining room that takes its design cues from the Katsura Palace in Kyoto. Intricate wooden inlays decorate the beams and are so subtle that they are easy to miss. It is a mini treasure hunt to find them all.
Windows are often protected with wood in the winter months in Yukiguni to stop them being broken by the piles of snow that have fallen off the roof. In a unique design twist, the summer veranda over the pond in front of the dining room folds up in front of the windows for winter. This provides the required protection as well as uncovering the full size of the pond to help melt the snow.