It is almost a rule for traditional Japanese guesthouses (ryokan) to offer both breakfast and dinner and guests are not allowed to evade this rule. However, even as Japanese I find it a burden to eat every evening stereotype full-course dinner with tempura and sashimi. There is another problem about ryokan. It is not possible for a single person to find a room in ryokan. I do not know the reason why, but every room should be used at least by two persons and in many cases by several people.
Therefore, without B&B Asuka I would not have been able to travel alone to Asuka, the cradle of Japan. Sometimes Nara is called as "cradle of Japan", but I cannot agree to that understanding. Asuka was the center of Japan in the seventh century when the political power of Japan came to be centralized in the hands of Emperor, and the country name "Nippon" was invented and used in the official documents and the title of "Tenno" (Emperor). It is not strange that many Japanese feel at home when they come to Asuka.
Kataoka-san (Mr. Kataoka) opened B&B Asuka in 2006 upon his early retirement from SONY Company. He did not hesitate to infest his entire retirement allowance on the construction of a B&B inn. He dreamed to manage a B&B, a relatively unknown style of accommodation in Japan, as he had excellent experiences of B&B inns in the UK. He was also attracted to live in the historical landscape of Asuka. Therefore, he opened together with his wife a three rooms' inn near the center of Asuka.
B&B Asuka looks in fact rather traditional Japanese from outside with its tiled roof. However, two of the guestrooms are equipped with beds and its wall paper is authentically British. The breakfast room and the dinner room also look very much European. The breakfast comprises of thick toast bread, salad, a hard-boiled egg, fruits and coffee/tea.
However, if you look into the closet, you will find "yukata" (Japanese style night wear) and slippers as well as tea making set with a couple of green tea bags. Also in the bathroom a toothbrush, a hair dryer and a razor are prepared - a typically Japanese style service of an inn. Of course, if you want, there is also a room with traditional Japanese "tatami" mats. So, those who want Japanese comfort do not miss it.
Mr. and Mrs. Kataoka
Kataoka-san says he wants to offer the best things which are expected from a B&B inn. In fact, he combines both the British and the Japanese style comforts in his inn. I stayed three nights with him and felt very much at home. However, he wants something more special.
He acquired a big land not far from his inn and started to grow wine grapes. This year the first 37 bottles of red wine were produced from the grapes he harvested from his vineyard. Kataoka-san then made a special label for his wine bottles, using the image of a famous wall painting in the Takamatsu-zuka Toumb from around the year 700. I had luck to get permission from Kataoka-san to taste his wine, the very first wine ever produced in Nara Prefecture! Its grapes are called "Kai Noire". "Kai Noire" is a special sort of wine grape created in Yamanashi prefecture from Black Queen (cross breed of Bailey and Golden Queen) and Cabernet Sauvignon.
After coming back from my daily walking tour in Asuka and its neighborhood, chats with the owner’s couple were really entertaining and made me feel very much at home. For dinner, I had a freedom to choose myself what to eat. On the first day I took a train and got off at the next station and sat in a classy "izakaya" (5,400yen including two glasses of sake). Then, I bought a lunch box at a super market on the second day (480yen) and ate it at B&B Asuka. And on the last day I ate pork cutlet menu at "Asuka Health and Welfare Center" after having taken bath there (1,200yen including a jug of draft beer).
If you happen to make up your mind to visit the "cradle of Japan", I would advise you to stay at B&B Asuka. You will not regret your choice!