Otani-sanso Inn, established in 1881 and located in Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, was the first inn owned by the Otani family. With a history of over 130 years, the inn is the best-known historic hotel in the Nagato-Yumoto onsen area, and it has hosted a number of famous visitors, including the Japanese emperor and the prime minister. In 2006 Kazuhiro Otani, the fifth-generation owner, launched a new sister facility called Bettei Otozure.
The massive pool at the entrance is one of the inn’s most attractive features, as the basin’s shallow pool of water beautifully reflects the blue light of the sky like a mirror. Lush greenery fills the semi-outdoor entrance area, giving it the feeling of a tropical island resort. While many hot-spring inns serve guests a welcome drink at the entrance, here visitors are escorted to an elegant Japanese tearoom where they can enjoy their refreshments in a relaxed setting.
The inn’s spacious, open interior comes as a welcome surprise to many of Bettei Otozure’s guests, and while it offers features similar to those of a contemporary five-star hotel, there is one particular custom that sets it apart. Guests are asked to take off their shoes when they’re anywhere inside the inn. Otani explained that this hot-spring tradition enables a change of mood in guests when they arrive, as taking off their shoes allows guests to feel more at home and experience a genuinely relaxing holiday.
Eight years ago, Kazuhiro Otani’s father had the idea of establishing a small, sophisticated boutique inn, and although Kazuhiro was working in a different industry at the time, he decided to help his father expand the family business with the creation of Bettei Otozure.
Growing up in a hospitality environment and raised by his Okami (female inn manager) mother, Kazuhiro learned from childhood the fundamental basis of hospitality, which is to always have honesty and consideration in one’s heart.
Bettei Otozure embodies more than just its sophisticated architecture - every single detail reflects the spirit of the Otani family that has been carried down through the generations.
According to legend, six hundred years ago a Buddhist monk from Taineiji Temple met Sumiyoshi Daimyojin (a god) and gave him a priest’s robe. As a return gift the Daimyojin created the hot springs flowing from the mountain, and this is the origin of Nagato-Yumoto onsen, known as the oldest hot spring in Yamaguchi Prefecture. With its sister inn Otani-sanso, Bettei Otozure serves an upscale clientele, and its sophisticated design made a major splash in the architectural community when the inn was launched in 2006.
There are three basic aspects of Bettei Otozure’s local cuisine - local dishes, local cooking styles and locally sourced ingredients. There are also three types of cuisine served at Bettei Otozure - Tenzo cuisine, wine-friendly cuisine and machiya (townhouse) cuisine. Tenzo cuisine reflects the history of Taineiji Temple, and it is typically served as a menu of three dishes and one soup, all vegetarian and all prepared from local ingredients using traditional preparation methods, for a healthy meal with unique appeal.
Yumoto onsen is built on pure alkaline hot springs that produce completely odorless water. It is well known among elderly visitors, who come here to benefit from the onsen’s curative effects, said to alleviate neuropathic pain, muscle and joint pains and stiff shoulders. In addition to main bath areas for women and men, Bettei Otozure also provides open-air hot-spring spas for all guest rooms, ensuring that guests can enjoy the natural hot springs against a backdrop of scenic mountains and rivers.
Designer Chihiro Ikeda created the inn to reflect the concept of a modern hot-spring residence, incorporating clean geometric lines, high ceilings, minimal partitioning, and expansive walls of glass, echoing the transparent water in the entranceway pool. Well known for its attractive open spaces, Bettei Otozure is a stellar example of a contemporary hot-spring resort.
Reflecting the spirit of Bettei Otozure, the current Okami (female inn manager) follows a “sansouka” policy of using wild plants from the surrounding mountains in lieu of expensive flowers arranged by a florist. She feels that naturally grown mountain plants represent simplicity, strength and perseverance, and all the floral arrangements in the inn are created by the Okami herself from plants she has picked by hand. She believes that hospitality at Bettei Otozure should resemble “sansouka” - honest and considerate, to help guests relax and feel at home.
Kitchenware and tableware, decorations and ornaments used in the inn are carefully selected and attractively displayed. In addition to wood crafts, lacquer ware and stoneware, the inn showcases Hagi ware ceramics produced locally in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Hagi ware is considered to be among the finest styles of pottery in the world, highly regarded for its simple rustic forms and the natural cracks in its glazing.