Catriona at Shizuka Ryokan.
A touch of Japan in Victoria.
Make a relaxing and rejuvenating stop at Shizuka Ryokan. Ryokans were best known as a resting place for weary travellers.
Centuries ago, when Japan was not the safe place to travel as it is today, ryokans or inns were built as safe havens for relaxation and rejuvenation for weary travellers. Merchants stayed in the ryokans as they moved about the country, selling their wares. They have evolved into places for travellers of all kinds, and the Shizuka Ryokan is the only purpose-built ryokan in Australia.
Hepburn Springs is the b&b capital of Australia, and a ryokan is the Japanese version of a b&b.
Two school friends who lived and taught English in Japan and stayed in many ryokans during their time there decided they and their husbands should create one at home. Shizuka, which is Japanese for tranquility, has a staff of four Japanese looking after guests in true traditional style.
The building is Japanese farm-style with white stucco walls, cross beams and a grey, tiled roof. The lounge and dining areas are off the main reception. The lounge has a fireplace and comfortable chairs, and off there is a traditional sunken Japanese garden with the ryokan's seven rooms around the garden.
Each of the rooms has a private courtyard with Japanese garden and en-suite spa. Tea and coffee-making facilities are provided, but there is no telephone or television there is, however, a CD player. There is delicate matting on the floor and shoes must be removed before entering your room.
During the day, the room is set up with a low table. Traditionally, people eat dinner in their room, but at Shizuka you may eat in the dining room. After dinner, guests usually take a stroll in the garden as staff take away the dinner plates and prepare your futon, ready for sleeping.
Part of the ryokan experience is to enjoy Japanese therapy. There are two types, and they are done in the guests' room. Traditional shiatsu and aromatherapy are on offer, and can be booked for one hour or half an hour. You can also treat yourself to a facial, body wrap or foot spa.
Remember, when you wear your traditional blue and white yukata or cotton robe put the left side over the right side. The other way around is reserved for the dead!
Shizuka is nestled amongst ancient pines on a one-and-a-half-hectare property, and is simply perfect for couples or small groups, or anyone who needs some harmony, beauty and simplicity in their lives.