The mysterious guesthouse is so unique it has a slew of repeat guests who have fallen in love with its rustic charms.
From capsule hotels to comic-themed AirBnBs and bookstore hostels, there’s no shortage of unusual accommodation options for travellers in Japan. Even when it comes to traditional lodgings, there are a number of restored buildings and farmhouses beautiful enough to take your breath away, but for many in Japan, nothing can compare to the old-world charm of Tomaya, an inn located in the rural countryside of Iwate Prefecture.
Tradition runs deep at Tomaya, with the lodging making news around the country for its beautiful thatched-roof building and traditional irori fireplace. Above all, there’s one thing that has people falling deeply in love with the place: its unique reservation procedure. Potential lodgers are required to send a letter or postcard in order to make a reservation at the inn, which has no Internet or telephones. Once they receive a reply in the mail from Tomaya, they’ll be able to stay inside the beautifully rustic building.
To take a closer look at the building and its proprietors, check out the clip below:
Aunyarat Watanabe, a freelance illustrator who lives in Tokyo, stayed at Tomaya this year and shared a number of photos from her stay online. As always, the reservation procedure began with a postal request; after sending it off in the mail, she received a reply from the inn, which can be seen on the handwritten white card on the left. On the right is Watanabe’s own handwritten postcard, ready to be sent back to Tomaya confirming her arrival on 19 April. On the right of this picture is a photograph of the noren curtain which reads “Tomaya” at the entrance to the inn.
Upon stepping into the inn, guests are immediately taken back in time to an era that predates the arrival of telephones and the Internet. There aren’t even any televisions on the premises. Guests don’t mind this at all though, because there’s plenty to view around the place, and lots to discover inside the traditional family-style home.
Guests gather around the warmth of the irori fire to chat while enjoying tea and grilled rice balls.
At night, the rural scene becomes even more magical, with the 160 year-old building looking just as it did all those years ago. If you’re looking for a peaceful night’s sleep, this is definitely the place to stay.
The evening meal is also served at the fireplace, and Tomaya prides itself on using local vegetables that have been grown with love and care, without the use of pesticides.
According to the owners of Tomaya, there are a number of reasons why they choose to maintain the postal reservation service. Apart from the nostalgic charm of sending and receiving mail, there’s also a heartfelt sense of hospitality attached to the practice, which guests and proprietors both enjoy. The fact that there are no phones on site also means travellers who lose their way while looking for the rural guesthouse need to interact with locals to find them. These traditional styles of communication are slowly dying out and the owners of Tomaya are keen to keep them alive as long as possible.
It looks like they won’t have any trouble in this aspect, as guests are keen to share their love of the inn with photos of their postal reservation confirmations online.
さわがたくん。 (@66a_jv) September 28, 2016
Rooms at Tomaya are priced at 6,000 yen (US$52.60) a night per person, including breakfast and dinner. In winter, the price goes up to 6,500 yen to cover the extra cost of heating, although the guesthouse is closed from the end of December to the end of February. To book your stay, address a letter or postcard to Tomaya, written in Japanese as 苫屋, and send it to: 〒028-8201 岩手県九戸郡野田村大字野田5-22.