In Yufuin Hot Springs in Oita Prefecture, there is a Japanese-style hotel called Sanso Murata. Situated high up in a forest overlooking the town, Sanso Murata, one of Japan痴 most representative ryokan, provides a serene, high-quality atmosphere and warm hospitality that give guests the feeling that they have returned home. The facilities are imposing and dignified, and the cuisine is most thoughtfully prepared throughout the four seasons of the year. For these reasons, Sanso Murata is so popular that even if you call six months in advance, you might not be able to make a reservation.

The sensibility and business sense that created this ultimate yet very natural world stem from the philosophy of its owner, Koji Fujibayashi.

Yufuin Hot Springs is one of the most popular hot-spring resorts in Japan. Hailing from Oita Prefecture, I first went there when I was a senior high school student, and I have gone back many times since then. To understand why so many Japanese today name Yufuin as the hot-spring resort they would most like to visit, it is necessary to go back to 60 years ago.

Yufuin is a wonderful location. Centered on Lake Ginrin and Yufuin Station, the town spreads out in a basin with bubbling hot-spring water overlooked by Mount Yufudake, the so-called Mount Fuji of Bungo (the old name of Oita Prefecture). The father of the community was Kumahachi Aburaya, the founder of Kamenoi Bus Co. Ltd., which operates sightseeing as well as regular bus services, in the 1920s. Aburaya took his hint from Baden-Baden in Germany, and the company flourished in the national leisure boom that erupted after World War II. At the same time, in 1952 a dam construction plan that would have split Yufuin in two was scrapped following a campaign by residents, and that incident gave rise to a deep-rooted inclination among local people to take the initiative in thinking about the future of their community.

Opposed to the trend toward turning hot-spring resorts into entertainment districts that emerged in the period of high economic growth, the mayor of the town at that time, Hidekazu Iwao, inspired a movement to protect Yufuin痴 nature and environment. Individualistic young figures such as Kentaro Nakatani (Kamenoi Besso), who had aspired to be a movie director at Toho, and Kunpei Mizoguchi (Tamanoyu Hotel), who had worked in a museum, were enlisted, as a result of which the prototype of present-day Yufuin took shape.

The following generation, including Fujibayashi-san, further developed the community. The name Murata is a Buddhist term meaning 妬nfinite tower. It was chosen by his mother, who was brought up in a temple.

Sanso Murata ranks alongside Kamenoi Besso and Tamanoyu as one of the three leading Japanese-style hotels in Yufuin. It was also Fujibayashi-san who produced the highly successful Zarai restaurant in Tokyo operated directly by Oita Prefecture, which I introduced previously in this column.

Fujibayashi-san loved music, and it is well-known among music fans and audio fans that the equipment in the music space at Sanso Murata produces great sounds. 的 like not just an audio space but a space with audio, he once said. And indeed, the audio equipment in the hotel痴 Tan痴 Bar is fantastic. The centerpiece is a grand reddish-purple Western Electric 16A horn speaker apparently brought all the way from Carnegie Hall. This stately equipment fits in perfectly with the elegant surroundings. The instruments hooked up to these speakers are all classics, too. Simply amazing!

的f you combine a large horn and a 300B, said Fujibayashi-san, 土ou can have a conversation while listening to music anywhere. Even if you池e in a corner, you can listen to a fine sound And just as he said, a wonderful time flowed by.

After only recently completing the construction of his own home, replete with a wonderful music space, Fujibayashi-san left this world at the end of July. It is an unfortunate and great loss, both for Yufuin and for Japan.

I visited Yufuin again in the summer holidays. Cradled by Mount Yufudake, the scenery was just the same as always . . . .