In 2015 the castle town of Hagi in Yamaguchi prefecture was listed as a World Heritage Site. You can still use Edo period maps when navigating this town, which is famous for being the place where the Meiji Renovation started! The small private school where the leading spirits of the renovation studied, Shoka Sonjuku, retains its original appearance.
In one corner of the historical town, a guesthouse called “ruco”was opened in the autumn of 2013.
It’s visited by guests from all over Japan, as well as overseas. In the evening the guesthouse becomes a lovely, warmly lit space. The first two floors are communal spaces where both guests and locals mingle and have fun chatting.
On the day of our visit, guests included lone travellers from Tokyo and Tottori, a hitchhiker, and locals who work in Hagi. It’s easy to make friends here. Recommended by Mr. Naohiro Shiomitsu, the owner of ruco, at dinnertime everyone heads to ‘Fumi’ the local izakaya (Japanese pub). You can enjoy fresh sashimi made with freshly caught fish from the Sea of Japan, as well as the shop’s mistress’ prided agedashi tofu (lightly deep-fried tofu).
Here at the ruco counter are Mr. Hiromitsu (right) and Yasu (left) who just started work here on this day.
“Give this to the lady at Fumi,” Mr. Shiomitsu says, and Yasu takes a bag of sweets from him. You can feel the connection between the locals.
The drinks sold at the first floor counter are mainly produced in the area. They even have a cool beer called “Chonmage”(Japanese word for the ‘topknot’ (Sumo) hairstyle)! If you stay at ruco, you can find items related to Hagi everywhere. This wall is an example.
It’s been decorated with fabrics made by Iwakawahataten, a company that makes fishermen’s banners and curtains. Making the wall look almost like a mosaic, attached to it are also bottles of sand from Hagi’s symbol, Kikugahama Beach, along with porcelain fragments from Oogayama Ceramics, which makes Hagi-ware.
These unique chairs are created by a Hagi furniture artisan. Guests who stay at ruco quickly learn about the people who live in the area and it can lead to a chance to tour the region. Locals warmly welcome ruco guests.
Mr. Shiomitsu lived in the USA and Canada for 2 years. “Over there it was like everyone faced each other from the same standpoint, and it felt really comfortable. After returning to Hagi, my home region, I wanted to create a place where a diverse range of people could stay, interact, and accept each other.”
‘ruco’ has become the center for a continuous stream of people interacting, and has also created an opportunity for people who don’t know Hagi to visit the town. The entrance to Hagi originally envisioned by Mr. Shiomitsu is here right now!
Oidemase! Come to Yamaguchi!
Before being renovated into Guesthouse ruco, the 4-storey building used to be a music shop that sold instruments. It’s a great place to stay (without meals) and to meet new people. The owner, Mr. Shiomitsu, is all smiles and will tell you the most interesting spots to visit in and around Hagi. He is the town concierge!
Location: 92 Karahimachi, Hagi city, Yamaguchi prefecture
TEL: 0838-21-7435 (Calls taken: 9:00-11:00 /16:00-22:00)
Dormitory: JPY2800 / night, Private rooms: JPY4500/night (for one), JPY7500 (for two), JPY10000 (for three)
Check out: 10:00
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hagi.ruco/ (Japanese)
The Setouchi Finder Editors
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