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The Ryokan Collection
"Luxury for the Senses"
A series by The Ryokan Collection and Kateigaho International Japan Edition
Onko chishin – Evolving traditions
Some Japanese Ryokan take special pride in the historical and cultural significance of their buildings, always striving to respect and preserve it. These establishments draw guests into an extraordinary world beyond the constraints of any single era and reveal the evolving aesthetic of wooden architecture.
One Key principle of Japanese culture can be summed up in the term ONKO CHISHIN. It refers to the process of learning and thoroughly understanding the old ways of doing things, then looking to them for fresh, new ideas. The concept comes from the Analects of Confucius, attributed to the Chinese philosopher(551-479BCE) and his followers. The three ryokan introduced here embody the principle, immersing guests in timeless craftmanship.
Over the centuries Japanese have drawn on the spirit of ONKO CHISHIN to build upon their traditions. For example, it is common in WAKA poetry to borrow words from famous poems to give one’s own verse deeper resonance. This is called honkadori.
There is a similar practice, known as utsushi, among painters, including those of the Kano school, founded in the late 15th century and the largest movement in the history of traditional Japanese art, and also the slightly later Rinpa school. Many artists have referenced distinguished pictures from an earlier age and brought elements of them into their own works. The same sort of thing can be seen in crafts, traditional theater and dance, ikebana, and architecture.
Each generation learns the aesthetic and principles of its predecessors, then endeavors to preserve and build upon them. Thus, instead of just copying, each generation adds its own flavor and original ideas to ancient traditions, always seeking to enhance both depth of understanding and artistic excellence.
In this article we present a few architectural treasures now serving as ryokan establishments.
Kotohira Kadan
Founded nearly 400 years ago, this ryokan has long been a favorite of noted artists and writers.It nestles against the hills where the famous Kotohira Shrine stands, dedicated to a powerful god of the sea and many other elements. The three plush lodges within its gardens today were all built in the sukiya style more than a hundred years ago. There are three other accommodation buildings with a range of rooms that tastefully combine Japanese design with modern Western functionality; some rooms feature private outdoor baths.

1241-5 Kotohira-cho, Kagawa
42 rooms
Spread across extensive grounds adjacent to Mount Sakado, this ryokan boasts accommodations in 16 traditional houses, many originally built for wealthy samurai or farming families.Last year, on its 50th anniversary, ryugon underwent a major renovation, reopening to offer guests an outstanding experience of life in the snow country of years gone by. In the traditional architectural aesthetic, designs relate to the surroundings.Interior spaces are stylish and sophisticated.Meals and activities are also arranged to showcase the best of local history and culture.

1-6 Sakado, Minami-Uonuma, Niigata
30 rooms
Standing atop a headland, Ginrinsou has a panoramic view over Ishikari Bay and the port of Otaru. The main building is an important piece of local history, constructed in 1873 and relocated to this site in 1938. Building materials reveal utmost attention to quality and luxury. Only the best timber was used and stone was imported from overseas, reflecting the wealth of Hokkaido’s fishing magnates of the day. Meals, especially the kaiseki banquets, celebrate the island’s status as a renowned source of food—particularly seafood for the nation.

1-1 Sakura, Otaru, Hokkaido
17 rooms
Twice a year, in March and September, Kateigaho International Japan Edition brings you the latest on off-the-beaten-track travel destinations, new and inspiring traditions, modern lifestyle ideas, and gastronomic culture. Subscribe or order a gift subscription for your family and friends to discover new perspectives in Japan. The current issue, Autumn/Winter 2020, features the encounter Japan’s Beautiful Heritage; DesignLab – Products : Face masks woven with Japanese tradition : Luxury for the Senses - Prestige properties in the Ryokan Collection: These and other interesting insights into Japanese culture await you in Kateigaho International.
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