For my birthday, my wife and I drove to the Berkshires and stayed two nights in a Japanese-theme bed-and-breakfast, Shirakaba Guest House (白樺旅館-it means “White Birch Inn”). We'd learned about it from an enthusiastic article in the Sunday New York Times travel section. It's at the top of a hill, and was designed by a Japanese architect to be a B&B. It has two, two-bedroom suites with a bath between the two bedrooms. These first floor bedrooms have large closets, giant, soft, luxurious beds, flat-screen TV sets with DVD players attached, mini-refrigerators, microwave ovens, alarm clock/radios that will also play an iPod, and more. There is also a lap pool, hot tub, and sauna on the ground floor level.
The second floor has a great room with a huge flat screen TV, fireplace, wonderfully soft recliner/couches, the open kitchen, restroom, and a traditional tatami room. (You remove your shoes at the front entrance and put on the inn’s slippers to walk around on the polished wooden floors.) The innkeepers, Sadao Yagi and Louise Palmer, do everything they could think of to make a guest’s stay memorable and comfortable. Fresh yukata are waiting on your bed to wear around the inn. Louise embroiders a special Japanese washcloth for each guest, a souvenir to take home. The fridge is stocked with flavored seltzers. There are cookies and microwave popcorn. The suite comes with a small bowl of chocolates. Breakfast can be either western (bacon and eggs) or Japanese (miso, oshinko, gohan, tamago) and the breakfast is big enough to hold you well past lunch. It can also include yogurt, fruit, Japanese-style toast, Japanese spread for the bread, juice, coffee, or tea.
Because it was my birthday, we ordered a special Japanese dinner, which is not included in the room rate. Louise decorated the formal tatami dining room with colored streamers, “Happy Birthday” banners, and balloons for a festive evening. The six-course dinner included edamame (green soybeans boiled in their pods), cucumber salad, miso soup, chawanmushi (a cup-steamed egg custard containing shrimp, carrots, and other vegetables), beef sukiyaki, and a dessert of homemade red-bean ice cream.
The weather was so nasty, we did not go out to Shirakaba’s gazebo until the morning we checked out. Too bad, because it is on a clearing on a hill overlooking the valley and the hills in the distance. It would have been an enjoyable spot to sit and read or to have our edamame first course. When we had to leave, Louise gave us a plastic container of freshly made oatmeal cookies. I want to go back.