We stayed at Edosan, a ryokan in Nara Park. It was superb, so I want to recommend it. I should say up front that I don’t think the staff speak much English, but they do have forms for foreign guests to fill in, and I’m sure that they’d make an effort to communicate. The website, however, is all in Japanese, although you can see pictures.
First, there is the location of the ryokan. It is actually in Nara Park, the site of Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha, two of the major tourist attractions (and World Heritage Sites) in Nara. Because it’s in the park, the only noise at night when we stayed in November was that of the deer calling to each other. Every room is in a separate small building, scattered around near the first torii marking the edge of the precincts of Kasuga Taisha. The rooms all have toilets and wash basins, and there’s another small building with two private-use Japanese style bathrooms, which are also extremely nice, and very up-to-date in their fittings and facilities.
Then, there are the rooms. The buildings are all traditional Japanese style, some with thatched roofs, and the interior rooms are also traditional Japanese. You sit on the floor to eat, although there are back-rests provided (you can see one in the photo), and you sleep on a futon spread out on the floor, laid out by the staff when you are ready for bed. Our room was, I assume, typical, and was decorated with delightful traditional Japanese objets d’art, including the screen you can see in the photo.
The food, both evening and morning, was delicious. We had a full kaiseki meal (lots of small courses) for dinner, and a traditional Japanese breakfast (rice, grilled fish, and lots of other things); they don’t, as far as I know, serve western food.The service, however, was what really stood out. It was generally excellent, considerate and efficient, and the person responsible for our room even helped carry our luggage to the ryokan where we were staying for our second night. The most impressive thing, however, was how they dealt with Mayuki.
First, I need to say that I didn’t pay anything for Mayuki. At three years old, the website says that she should be half the adult price, but when I phoned to book (admittedly, you have to do that in Japanese), the ryokan said that she was probably too small to eat even half of the dinner, so it would be better not to pay for it. Then, in the evening, they still provided a chair, place setting, and rice, furikake, and seaweed for Mayuki to eat. Since this is just about all she eats anyway, she was very happy with it, and with the same again in the morning. After dinner, the staff brought a small basket of cheap toys, and let Mayuki choose three, as gifts. She really enjoyed that.
Overall, it was a candidate for the best ryokan experience I’ve had in Japan, and it was far from being the most expensive: it’s about 20,000 yen per night for an adult. Thus, it isn’t cheap, but it is, in my opinion, extremely good value. The contact email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, although I should emphasise, again, that I only ever communicated with them in Japanese, and they apologised for not being good at English. If you email in English, keep it simple.
My only criticism is that, as it was high season, they would only accept a booking for a single night. I would like to go back to Nara, as there is still quite a lot we didn’t see, and I definitely plan to stay at Edosan again.