Review: Guest House Oku and Nara Hakushikaso, Japan
During my stay in Nara I spent one night in a cheerful hostel called Guest House Oku and the next in a traditional hotel or ryokan named Nara Hakushikaso. They were both lovely places in different ways and a here’s a review of both.
Guest House Oku
I chose the very affordable Guest House Oku for my first night since I was arriving in Nara near midnight and frankly just needed a warm room for myself and my partner. Guest Oku fitted the bill and was a very sweet little hostel with a lovely host, and a cute living/play room with a heated kotatsu.
They upgraded our room from one with a single bunk bed to one with two large double bunk beds and the room was super large and warm. The only issue I had was that I had to fumble around in the dark towards the toilet as we’d stayed in the room furthest away from it. I would recommend it if you are comfortable with the fact that there are no locks at all; it was a very affordable stay at 6,500.00 JPY / 43.20 GBP for a double bedroom for the night. I have no complaints and can recommend it for an affordable and comfortable stay.
For the second night we opted to splash out on a traditional Japanese hotel/ryokan after a long day exploring Nara.
We picked up our luggage from Guest House Oku and wheeled it two streets away to Nara Hakushikaso, a hotel with a modern exterior and traditional interior. I’d chosen this place because the ryokan offered a traditional kaiseki dinner and breakfast, was centrally located, competitively priced at 28,080.00 JPY / 186.62 GBP for a night and included the use of an indoor onsen.
Two staff members showed us to our traditional tatami room and gave a brief explanation of the room amenities including the yukatas in the cupboards, as well as details of the onsen downstairs; they then promptly disappeared like the wind.
It was the first time that I’d worn a yukata and something was definitely wrong; it was far too long. It would have been nice if a staff member had stayed to help me and my bf because I was tucking like mad to not drag the yukata on the ground like a dishcloth. It was only when I’d visited Morizuya and wore the yukata there did I realise that we were simply given yukatas that were way too large for us in Nara.
That aside I immediately shuffled off to try the onsen. As it was an odd time (late afternoon) I had the pool area mostly to myself which was nice because of all the nakedness involved. I eventually adapted to bathing with others at Kinosaki onsen, but it was nice to ease into the full experience. The pool area was clean, the shower facilities plentiful and the water blissfully hot. Being alone I committed the cardinal onsen sin of swimming; I figured it was acceptable since there was no-one around to splash hot water at. No regrets and the whole experience is highly recommended.
I then spent a ridiculously long time putting on the provided yukata, before returning to my room for the kaiseki meal. Unfortunately the member of staff presenting the food to us didn’t speak English and didn’t even attempt to explain the food she was showing us, so I had very little clue.
Our futons were laid out for us and I attempted to fall asleep. The futon was thick enough to ensure the floor never felt too hard, however due to the residual effect of jet-lag I couldn’t fall asleep for a long time which was no fault of the ryokan.
The next day we went into the tatami dining room on the ground floor for our kaiseki breakfast, of which we took the Japanese style breakfast option. We had roughly less than an hour to wolf everything down before we had to catch the limited trains to Iga Ueno. It was delicious but perhaps a bit heavy for the morning in terms of shear number of plates.
Ultimately Nara Hakushikaso was a pleasant ryokan with polite if distant staff, although I reckon most of this could be attributed to the language barrier. The onsen was an awesome bonus which was much appreciated after a long day sightseeing and the rooms were very large and comfortable. I found the ryokans in Nara to be more affordable than other regions and a very accessible way to experience a traditional Japanese stay.
Have you experienced an affordable ryokan stay that you would recommend? Leave a comment below.
Guest House Oku
Address: 29 Takamaichicho, Nara, 630-8238, Japan/〒630-8238 奈良県奈良市高天市町29
Address: Japan, 〒630-8266 Nara, Hanashibacho, ４丁目/〒630-8266 奈良県奈良市花芝町４丁目
Tip: It’s a 13 minute walk from JR Nara to Kintetsu Nara station and a 3 minute and 6 minute walk to Guest Oku and Nara Hakushikaso respectively from Kintetsu Nara station