15 Aug 2019 in In immersion
An unbeatable mix of world heritage and world-class hiking.
From Tokyo, it’s just over 2 hours by train to reach Nikko. Set within the mountainous Nikko National Park, this small city is instantly likeable thanks to its laid-back vibe and cool climate.
If you’re only staying one night at Hoshino Resort KAI Nikko, make the most of your time by heading straight to the city’s must-see Toshogu Shrine. You can leave your luggage in a locker at the station.
As you approach Toshogu, it feels like you’re walking into a grandiose past. Giant 17th-century cedar trees tower above the wide path before an immense stone torii gate announces the entrance to one of Japan’s most exuberant temples. The site’s vibrantly colored, gold-bedecked buildings sprawl across the forest, a fitting show of opulence for the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period.
Must-sees include the Yomeimon Gate, lavishly embellished with 500-plus richly-painted carvings, and the intricate friezes of the Sacred Stable, including the famous “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil” monkeys.
If you have time, there’s plenty more to explore in Nikko, including Rinnoji, an imposing temple housing 3 magnificent gilded statues.
Take a bus or taxi to Lake Chuzenji, whose shores house Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko. After 30 minutes of steep switchbacks, you’ll arrive at over 1200m altitude, where the land levels out and the lake lies before you.
Thanks to its setting above the road, Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko offers magnificent panoramas.
From the reception area, the impressive Mt. Nantai volcano (2486m) looms in the foreground, while forested mountains encircle the lake.
You’ll be guided to your room via a corridor of tatami – which means socks or bare feet only. In total, some 1,700 tatami mats line the ryokan’s floors, including those of your room.
Inside, modern comfort (raised mattresses and comfy chairs) fuses with upscale ryokan tradition (shoji sliding doors, complementary yukata robe). And the furnishings feature intricate elements of the local kanuma kumiko latticework.
Treat yourself to a soak in the hot spring baths. You can choose from indoor or outdoor bathing in the single-sex onsen, and there’s an additional outdoor bath available at different times to men and women.
Lie back in the naturally warm Chuzenji waters, known for their softness, and feel the stress seeping from your body.
During the show, you’ll learn all about the geta – and performers will demonstrate its extreme robustness with an energetic routine. Be prepared to don your own pair and join in!
Time to treat your palate to the delights of Nikko cuisine. The restaurant’s multi-course kaiseki menu marries local specialities with creative cuisine and beautiful presentation.
Yuba (tofu skin) is served in a soy milk hotpot with melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef. Expect tempura of mountain vegetables and thick slices of fresh sashimi served with aromatic shiso flowers. To accompany the dishes, there’s a wide choice of local sake.
If it’s a clear night, head to the lounge. With minimal light pollution, Chuzenji offers world-class star-gazing. A great way to ensure a sound night’s sleep.
Start the day with a hearty Japanese breakfast. You’ll need the energy, so fuel up on the likes of fresh yuzu juice, trout from the lake, tofu and mushrooms.
You’re all set to explore the wilderness on your doorstep. Land or lake? It’s up to you.
If you take to the water, you can choose between a cruise (a great way to admire the autumn colors), stand-up paddle boarding or fishing. And if you prefer to stick to land, the options are endless. How about taking the half-hour bus ride up to Yumoto onsen and walking back down via the old-growth forest of Lake Yunoko, the spectacular falls of Yudaki and Ryuzu and the wildlife-rich marshlands of Senjogahara?
You can take the bus back at various points depending on how long you want to walk. Hardened hikers can tackle the hilly 25km round-the-lake trail or head up the steep climb to Mt. Nantai. And don’t forget to visit Kegon Falls, one of Japan’s most spectacular – and just a few minutes’ walk from the ryokan.
At Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko, there is truly a whole world to explore outside your window.