On the 25th of December 2015, I received an e-mail from The Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association (HIDA) of Japan inviting me to join nine other Experts to experience a place called Gifu.  Gifu Prefecture is located in Central Honshu, Japan’s main island and has played an important role in Japan’s history because of its strategic location.  But honestly – why haven’t I heard about this place even before this invitation?  I was excited anyway and was very eager to learn about Gifu so I packed my clothes way before my scheduled flight!

I skimmed through the documents that came along with the invitation to search for our accommodation since I committed to writing about hotels and restaurants.  You know what I found out? We will be hotel hopping for the five day trip! This is going to be an adventure!

From the list of hotels, HOTAKASO YAMANO HOTEL particularly caught my attention because their website gave an option for guests to choose to book a western style room or a Japanese style room.  I emailed, Yuki Tanaka, one of the the organizers and requested for her to book me in a Japanese style room and I was elated to find out that there was one available for me!

To cut the story short, let me just bring you to HOTAKASO YAMANO HOTEL.  Have fun with me as I explore their Japanese style room.

But before that, here is how the hotel looked like when we arrived:

hotel yamano snow
The Magical facade of Hotakaso Yamano Hotel!   Embraced by the pure white powdery snow.  As I have earlier written in one of my articles, it was like watching a Disney movie in 3D!  This resort is ideal for honeymooners!  The hotel is located at 577-13 Okuhida Onsengo Kansaka, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture 506-1421, Japan 🙂

The hotel looks heavenly right?  But that will be for another article.  Now, let me walk you through my one-of-a-kind room.

Ooops, before we get inside, I would like to remind you to leave your shoes outside.  An inside slipper will be provided for you.

shoes 123

Doozo ohairi kudasai! Please come in!

I was amazed at how many sliding doors there were when I took a peek at the room. When I realized that I will be staying here alone, I could not help but imagine the Japanese horror movies that I’ve seen especially “The Ring”. But let’s not talk about that, I am here to have fun and experience how it is to sleep in an authentic Japanese Sytle Room! haha. 🙂

To start with the experience, you must first wear a YUKATA:

YUKATA is a night clothing that is usually provided in spa resorts. They looked like Japanese costume to me so I am really in to wear it. Click this site to see how these clothes are worn.
japanese room alone 1
Here I am donning a YUKATA. (Photo by Roxy Navarro)

I could not stand being alone so I knelt down to summon some of my friends. And with a blink of an eye…


happy friends
From left to right: Roxy Navarro, me, and Kenneth Del Rosario.(Photo by Roxy Navarro)

Now, I’m ready to show you around!

A Japanese style room is called washitsu or nihonma and has these five distinctive features:

  1. Tatami flooring –
tatami flooring
You can find this type of flooring in Japanese style rooms. It is a type of woven mat using rice straw.  Tatami floors used to be found only in the home of the wealthy and it only reached the commoners home by the end of the 17th century. (Photo by Dexter Diwas)

These days, it is not unusual to find only one room with tatami flooring in Japanese houses, this is where they usually entertain guests or have special gatherings just like what is depicted below:

serving tea
Oh yes! I normally look at the camera when serving tea. haha (Photo by Roxy Navarro)

2) Sliding doors or fusuma

sliding doors
Fusuma are rectangular panels that you can move from side to side for the purpose of defining spaces within the room. The one in the picture separated where my futon is from the area where I entertained some of my guests during my short stay at Hotakaso Yamano Hotel.  (photo by Kenneth Del Rosario)

Well, I discovered that a fusuma can also be used as a backdrop for taking pictures. Whether whole body…

back drop fusuma
Fusuma as a backdrop. (Photo by Kenneth Del Rosario)

Or half body…

half body fusuma
Fusuma as a backdrop..in sepia. haha (Photo by Kenneth Del Rosario)

3)Futon – Futon is a special japanese mattress that you can lay on the floor by night and fold by day so you can use the room for other purposes.

A fresh futon on a tatami floor is so inviting!
futon model
I always dreamt of becoming a futon model and my travel to Gifu made this dream come true! Just a reminder: Futons must be brought outside to be aired in sunlight regularly, otherwise, it will accumulate dust and whatever dirt. Also, to prevent the futon from matting, they usually beat it using a futon tataki that is made out of bamboo. The same process we do when we beat our carpets. 🙂

4) Zaisu – another distinctive feature of the room is a zaisu, a chair without legs but with a comfortable backrest.

A zaisu in my Japanese room. At first, it would look uncomfortable to be sitting on this chair but the back support and the cushiony seat gave me the much needed comfort after a busy day. (photo by Dexter Diwas)
comfortable in a zaisu
Roxy the web developer and videographer, Dexter the blogger, and Kenneth the writer are seen here being comfy using a zaisu! (Photo by Roxy Navarro)

5) Kotatsu

Kotatsu. A low wooden table frame. I am not sure if this has a heater underneath it but kotatsu usually has a heating device that is used during winter. They cover this with a thick blanket to capture the heat coming from underneath.
tea parties japanese style room
Kotatsu is perfect for tea parties! (Photo by Roxy Navarro)

You might wonder, how about their restroom?  Well, it looks pretty much western to me.  The only difference is that the toilet is separated from the shower.

restroom japanese style room
The floor in the restroom is covered with straw mats and that gave me the feel of the continuing Japanese theme.

I also enjoyed the regular soaking tub..

soaking tub japanese hotel
This is not a screen grab from a horror movie. That was me enjoying the soaking tub!

Those are the five distinctive features of a Japanese style room.  Throughout the night, I could not hide my amazement at how rich the Japanese culture is and I am truly blessed to have experienced it through an overnight stay at HOTAKASO YAMANO HOTEL at Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

Thanks to The Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association (HIDA) for a successful tourism program! My “Japanese Style Room Experience” was worth accepting your invitation!

To learn more about the wonders of GIFU, visit the following facebook pages: GIFU GETAWAY and GIFU CROSSROADS.

by: Dexter Duclan Diwas

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ARCA’S YARD: A fusion of early tradition and modernization.

My wife and I were looking for a place for dessert and a cozy spot where we can sit, relax, and plan for our year 2016.  Since it is the 24th of December and knowing that there is an impending heavy traffic, we decided to drive outside the Central Business District of Baguio City and found ourselves at…

arca's yard signage
You will not miss the Arca’s Yard signage if you are traversing the road towards Ambuklao.

wife at arca's yard
The wife looks excited as to what Arca’s Yard has to offer. 🙂

I am sorry that I never bothered to ask who ARCA is, where is ARCA, is ARCA a he, a she, or whether ARCA stands for something. (lol)  But one thing is for sure, ARCA has a YARD and we are about to check it out…

arca's address
ARCA’S YARD has an easy to remember address – 777 Tiptop, Ambuklao Road, Baguio City. I had to add a touch of sepia on my pic to conform to Arca’s theme. 🙂

When we entered the place, my wife and I were greeted with art pieces that made us feel as if we visited a cordilleran museum.  With that, I already told my self that it was worth the drive.

paintings at arca's yard
The furniture, the paintings on the wall…made me say that ARCA didn’t only have a YARD but he/she or it has an artistic sense too! Why won’t they call it…ARCA’S YARD, ARCA’S PAINTINGS, ARCA’S EVERYTHING! lol  ARCA, IKAW NA!

And there is this wall…

ARCA’S LADLES! You can say that there is obvious obsession with ladles here. I can imagine the chef saying – “to achieve this particular saltiness, we need to use a special ladle” or “this ladle is for adobo, that one for sinigang, and the other one for pina-upong manok”. hmmmm

ARCA’S YARD has a dining hall on its ground floor and it has a stairway leading to an attic.  We opted for the attic and wow…

arca's masks
On your way to the attic, you will be welcomed by these creatures. Is ARCA one of them? Who are they? I surmise that these are the people who did not pay their tab. That would be a very scary way to say “goodbye world”.

ARCA’S YARD attic is like a mini library filled with books, carpets and pieces of furniture where you and your friends can comfortably dine.  It has magical windows that allow you to experience a view of the cordillera mountains.

library arca's
This spot is very inviting. I almost took a nap. If you notice, on the left side of the pic, there are different kinds of “bululs” or we call them anitos. These anitos are believed to be guardians of the granary or the household by the cordillera people.

magical window
This is the magical window that I was talking about at Arca’s Yard. hehe. 🙂

magical arca window
I call the window magical because it brought out the artist in me. Just by looking outside, it gave me the inspiration to look at the bright side of every difficult situation, more especially now that I am going through a phase called “writer’s block”.

Apart from eating, here are some of the things you can do at ARCA’S YARD:

arca read
READ with semi crossed legs @ ARCA’S YARD

Model and pretend to read with semi crossed legs @ ARCA’S YARD.

Talk to nature and go “tameme” with nature’s response only @ ARCA’S YARD.


But more than the many things that you can do at ARCA’S YARD, of course we came here to taste their food, so…

ring the bell and order at arca's yard
Let us RING THE BELL and ORDER food @ ARCA’S YARD! You need to ring the bell to call the staff for them to take your order.

We made our selection after asking them their best sellers and so let us start to do what we are here for:



rhubarb arca's
Rhubarb Pie Ala Mode @ P140.00 per slice – the pie that will make you witness war between sweetness and sourness. The crust is cooked out of rhubarb stalks and is the one that produces that mysterious sour taste.  You will also be surprised as to how that sour taste is drowned by the taste of its ambrosial toppings. The vanilla ice cream and the caramelized walnuts sprinkled around the pie calms the struggle between sweet and sour. (Ano daw?) If you really want to know what I mean, you’d better pay ARCA’S YARD a visit.  One more thing, RHUBARB ALA MODE is seasonal and is only available during the months of December to January and August to October or depending if there are other other suppliers.

STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE @ P90.00 per tall glass.  I usually don’t like ordering strawberry shakes because most of the restaurants overdo its sweetness.  However, when I sipped from my wife’s drink, I loved every drop of it because the sweetness is, if I may use the word, tame.

Just in case we get a little hungry from our year 2016 planning, we ordered their CHEESEBURGER w/ FRIES @ P240.00.

At first look, there is nothing really special about this burger but the obvious absence of grease made it stand out. The patty looked pale but the fact that it is healthy, it saved it from not being recommended. The fries are crunchy, but it is just sad that I am not a big fan of fries.

We stayed at ARCA’S YARD longer than we thought because we enjoyed the serenity and what are the odds that we will be having the attic to ourselves.  It was so serene and my body was demanding a nap but of course that is not possible.  If you visit during non-peak hours or non-peak days, the only sound that  you will hear are some chit-chats from guests dining in the ground floor, vehicles traversing the Ambuklao Road and the click clacking of horseshoe sound.

We already achieved our purpose of planning for the year 2016 but we thought that our ARCA’S YARD experience won’t be complete if we won’t taste their best selling CAMOTE PIE ALA MODE:

camote and cloud tea arca
As an Igorot, camote pie is not new to me. My grandparents cooked this almost everyday when we were young and we love it. But let us talk about ARCA’S YARD CAMOTE PIE – it has a smooth texture with some chunks of camote.  The pie is topped with something crispy, I think those are nuts too. This cordillera snack complimented their CLOUD TEA priced @ P60.00. The cloud tea is very relaxing, the taste of the wild honey soothing and the presentation wow. You will witness how the foam on top will merge with the other elements of the drink. It is like watching the Baguio City fog caress a beautiful lady’s cheeks.

Now, we need to rate our ARCA’S YARD experience:

PRICE:  Very reasonable.

LOCATION: Without traffic, it is 12 to 15 minutes drive from the Central Business District of Baguio City.  It has an easy to remember address – 777 Tiptop, Ambuklao Road, Baguio City.

PARKING SPACE:  Their frontage will fit about 2 cars, you can also park by the road side.  I am not sure if they have other provisions for parking.

AMBIANCE:  Very conducive for meeting and catching up with friends.  You can have an alone time if you visit them during non-peak hours.  They play instrumental music which adds to stimulating your artistic juices.  If you are a writer, I am sure you will find some inspiration at ARCA’S YARD.

CUSTOMER SERVICE:  The staff are very patient and will immediately attend to your needs, well that was probably because there were a few customers when we went there.  We will try to visit them during peak-hours/season and see if the service will still be the same.  Accordingly, they are mostly full during weekends.

So if you are from Baguio City, explore this restaurant and experience how they fused early tradition with the gourmet era.  For tourists, don’t leave our City without having a taste of ARCA’S YARD RHUBARB PIE ALA MODE and CAMOTE PIE ALA MODE, don’t forget to complement that with their CLOUD TEA!!

Until the next spoonful folks!