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Being able to access these places to get a sense of what life was like back in those times is a valuable chance to experience a piece of history as well as create unforgettable stories. And sometimes, a cherry is thrown on top and you can immerse longer into traces of a colourful past now almost only ever seen in faded photos or at touristy locations. This is the case with Shinmutsu Ryokan, a former brothel turned ryokan from the Meiji Era, still standing after years.
Shinmutsu has been run by four different generations including a former geisha, the mother-in-law of Kawamura Kumiko, the current owner and a large part of the charm of the place. Kawamura-san is not only very hospitable, she is also full of stories about the old goings on and visitors. The proof is laid out in several books which contain thousands of signatures of the many customers, photo albums of the women who called Shinmutsu home, and other wooden paraphernalia from the wilder times.
This is not only a comfortable ryokan but with all the antiques it can definitely be taken as a small Meiji-Era gallery. The building has been designated a special national cultural property and is preserved under government programs. As you walk around the place, the wood smell is very captivating and footsteps are followed by creaks that make you wonder what it was like to walk on those same floors a century ago.
The tatami rooms are large, comfortable, and also preserve the old sliding doors of the past. Shinmutsu does not have a hot spring bath although a shared hot bath is available for those travelers wishing to use it. For those not needing meals, a cheaper accommodation-only rate is available and is quite reasonable for staying at such a charming place. Kawamura-san is such a nice woman that she sometimes throws in a few snacks even though the no-meal options has been chosen, and of course there will be random conversation accompanying those snacks.
If staying at Shinmutsu from Saturday to Sunday, it is recommended to skip out on the breakfast and instead head to the Tatehana Wharf Morning Market which is only a few minute drive away from the ryokan.