This trip has been planned for almost 10 years ago when I was invited by Nagai-san, a well-known Japanese collector and also my friend, to his hometown in Kyushu for the annual traditional Karatsu Kunchi Festival. Why it takes so long ,10 years? Ten years ago I was about to go, already got an air ticket, but I had to cancel in the last minute under some unpredictable circumstance, at that time I quit my job, I didn’t come back to Japan since then.
10 years later, just before my trip back to Japan, another thing happened again – I missed my midnight flight due to my unbelievable stupidity! Anyway I managed to get a new ticket within one hour, surely with some big damage to my pocket! However, I’m so happy to see Nagai-san who is waiting for me at Fukuoka airport as planned.
I used to go to Japan many times before when still in business, but all my trips – always in Tokyo. Never been to the South, it’s my first time to Fukuoka. More than that, I will have a chance to stay in an over-hundred-year-old Japanese Inn (i.e Ryokan) owned by Nagai-san’s cousin family in Karatsu – Yoyokaku.
The charm of Yoyokaku is hidden behind the old simple wooden entrance, a small reception area, but a moment later I discover the owner’s house, at the end of the huge backyard, the house designed by Nagai-san, with a nice veranda open to the garden. Standing from the veranda, I look at Yoyokaku, the inn suddenly and surprisingly turns into a splendid picture under the shining sun, with a lovely Japanese garden, surrounded by traditional houses.
Staying at Ryokan, Japanese Inn, we should know some rules by heart, right from the entrance, like taking off our shoes, wearing different slippers for indoor, for garden and for the restroom. How to put our shoes at the doorstep is also an interesting fact or if we share the bathroom or stay at the Ryokan with onsen, i.e hot spring (unfortunately Yoyokaku doesn’t have onsen facilities) we firstly sit on a small wooden chair, using a wooden bowl …to shower ourselves before the hot bath or onsen.
At Yoyokaku – One set of traditional clothes is provided for guests – yukata and haori. I wear yukata to go to the hot bath but for dinner – I prefer back to my casual dress, probably I feel more confident in it but I quite like haori, it’s like a nice comfortable jacket!
Next morning, before we continue our journey to Obama, another seaside town, famous with the onsen (i.e hot spring) and the mountain during the Autumn, I got a fabulous breakfast…
By the way, at Yoyokaku, we can enjoy a pottery gallery by a famous artist – Nakazato Takashi, later I got a chance to visit quickly the late artist’s production studio, now belongs to his son. I admire the pottery, porcelain beauty but without knowledge of the specific things and especially the technique how to create it, I’m like a window shopper!
I arrived to Karatsu in the last day of the 3-day traditional festival. Accompanied by Nagai-san, I have a half day to wander around the small town to witness the festive atmosphere, the endless love to the tradition and culture, the surprising hospitality…I will share more about this traditional festival in another post.
Back to Yoyokaku in the evening, the festive atmosphere still continues…I was told by Nagai-san we have a dinner at 19:00, I thought it would be an usual dinner but NO… I’m a bit embarrassed, seeing the huge dining room with a lot of guests sitting like U-shape. Later we still have an “opening speech” by Mr Akihiko, after that every guest, one by one, make a short introduction. Quite interesting!
The dinner has been served continuously while Mr Akihiko made his thank-you speech and surely his best wishes to all Yoyokaku’s guests in occasion of the traditional festival. Next to Mr Akihiko, his wife, Ms. Harumi Okochi and together with their son’s family – the 5th and 6th generations at Yoyokaku.
At the end, we have the performance by some invited artists together with Ryokan’s guests, like a celebrating tradition for the good harvest, and the chants of ”En-ya, En-ya!” or ” Yoisa, Yoisa!” are accompanied by Japanese bells, flutes, and drums, exactly like what I witnessed on the streets of Karatsu earlier today.
One night stay at the inn and now time for me to say goodbye to Yoyokaku, I have great moments, surprises in this small town, I did enjoy the festival atmosphere, witness the glorious parades from the rooftop, experience the incredible hospitality, to learn the tradition…Big thanks to Nagai-san, who is patiently waiting for my comeback to Japan after almost a decade!
So whenever you plan to experience any Japanese Inn, Yoyokaku could be one of the best choices. You can find it easily on many sites like booking.com with very high evaluation rate from guests or here is the direct link to Yoyokaku. Enjoy!
P.S: How to travel from Fukuoka to this Yoyokaku? I think there is many ways but what we did is to take the subway from Fukuoka, as my place not far from Nakasu-Kawabata station, so from this station directly to Meinohama station, and from there just take a taxi directly to Yoyokaku within 5-10 minutes, the fare is around 9-10 USD.