When planning our Japan trip we booked our Kyoto accommodations first, sensing while doing a cursory initial search, that we would have the most difficulty here for finding something within our requirements and budget. We didn’t want to stay at a standard Western-style hotel, and we also didn’t want to splurge on a $300/person/night Ryokan. (Heck, even a $100/person/night would have been a little steep for us.) That left a few mid-range Ryokan or Minshuku, and we didn’t necessarily want to stay at backpacker's hostels, either.
And that’s where Shunkoin Temple fit the bill, though I did send out more emails inquiring as to where other places had availability. In truth, my first choice had been the Guest House Waraku-an, found through Flickr friend San ku-kai’s beautiful photostream of his Japan trips. Waraku-an bills itself as a hostel, but has private accommodations available for couples and groups.
Staying in this quiet mountain town and at the wonderful little Ryokan was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The fact that we decided to visit Takayama at all was of course, all due to Paul and his indispensable travel blog. Ryori Ryokan Hanaoka was just the icing on the cake. Takayama is in Central Japan, in the Gifu Prefecture. It boasts a well-preserved old district, with beautiful machiya (merchant townhomes) as well as numerous centuries-old temples and shrines, many of which are accessible via a 3.5km loop north of the main town. The Ryokan is truly a short little trot from the JR Takayama Station - all told, some 5-6 blocks away by foot. Note that the proprietors adhere to checkin time, which is at 3pm sharp, though they will gladly hold your luggage for you prior to checkin.
We got to Osaka at around 11:30pm. We had been traveling for nearly 24 hours straight, having left Los Angeles on the morning of the 25th of March, arriving Tokyo Narita after an 11-hour flight on the 26th at 3pm, after which we hopped on a shinkansen and various subways that would get us to Osaka and into our hotel a few minutes shy of midnight. Not that it was all that terrible... it was fun navigating the various transportation systems, and everywhere we turned there was always someone who kindly assisted when we had questions. We had slept a little on the flight, and snoozed/ dozed on the shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka. By the time we emerged from the Namba subway, and saw the huge Namba Hips amusement center looming in the dark, the sense of excitement kept growing. We walked around the corner to our street, directly the Dotobori itself, looking for the hotel's trademark 4 statues, named "Asian, African, Arabian, Western" and which, according to the hotel website, "...created with a desire to welcome guests from all over the world..."