29 Aug 2019 in Food Culture
Enjoy the spoils of nature in rural Japan.
This November, Japan’s first agritourism resort will open in the foothills of the Nasu mountains, a vast forested area where you can enjoy the spoils of the land through organized activities and the chef’s creative Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
The concept of agritourism – which invites guests to discover rural culture and farming techniques by staying in rustic settings – is just arriving in Japan.
And, while the new Nasu resort is the first entirely dedicated to agritourism, several other hotels allow you to sample local farming traditions and enjoy fresh produce farmed onsite.
Located around 3 hours north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture, the new Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Nasu has been designed to immerse guests in the magnificent surroundings of this north-western corner of Nikko National Park. Set in the foothills of the Mount Nasu volcanoes, the hotel’s immediate environment is bubbling mountain streams, thick forests and flooded paddy fields.
This bucolic scene provides the perfect place for admiring the seasonal changes that are so distinct in Japan, from colourful falling leaves to thick falling snow.
Each room at Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Nasu has been designed to offer optimal views of the surroundings, helping guests reconnect with nature. The large rooms in the main building are on 2 floors, with beds upstairs and a generous sitting downstairs.
In the annex building, the MINAMO rooms overlook the resort’s water garden from the living room, with forest views from the bedroom.
At night, moonlight shimmers between the trees, imbuing rooms with an ethereal light.
As a guest, you’ll have access to the resort’s hot spring baths, crafted in Oya stone. This porous rock, formed naturally from lava and ash, has a calming effect on the skin. Soaking in the warm waters, you’ll be able to contemplate the surrounding forest by day and by night.
Fresh from the garden
As part of the agritourism concept at Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Nasu, you can tend to and pick produce and herbs from the surrounding land.
The resort’s Agri-Garden is stocked with seasonal crops and herbs that are used as ingredients in the resort’s 2 restaurants, and you’re welcome to pick herbs to make yourself a refreshing herbal tea.
Or why not sign up for a hands-on workshop that will take you into the greenhouses and fields to learn about seasonal herbs and crops?
The resort also offers a fun pizza-making activity where you’ll use fresh vegetables to bake your own pizza in a stone oven.
Seasonally, locally-sourced produce is at the heart of the resort’s culinary offer. Tochigi Prefecture is known for its agriculture, with rice, vegetables, strawberries and mushrooms among its most prized products.
At the buffet restaurant SHAKI SHAKI, you can taste a vast range of seasonal produce, including plump red tomatoes, crisp leafy vegetables and moist root vegetables.
The chef uses local ingredients creatively to highlight the different textures of vegetables and bring out their just-picked freshness.
The resort’s other restaurant, OTTO SETTE NASU, fuses Italian-inspired cuisine with choice ingredients, hand-picked by the chef from a range of local producers.
Each dish is married with wine for the perfect pairing.
From Hokkaido to Okinawa
While Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Nasu has been specially designed for agritourism, other resorts also give pride of place to local produce and farming traditions.
In Hokkaido, Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Tomamu has created a small farm to produce dairy products. Set among white birch forests, the resort extends over a large area and is a top ski destination in winter.
Many years ago, the land was used for farming, and the tradition has recently been revived, with the grassy expanses opened up to grazing cows, sheep, goats and horses in summer.
Today, the farm produces milk served at the buffet restaurant, and also crafts its own ice cream and butter.
At the other extreme of Japan, in Okinawa, HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island is also reviving ancient agricultural practices. Locals on this tiny sub-tropical island used to farm as a way of life before tourism gained ground.
Today, HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island has cultivated its own vegetable garden and, by consulting the older generation of islanders, is keeping alive traditional farming methods, producing rows of Taketomi potato, foxtail millet and the local soybean kumomami, used as ingredients to create locally-inspired dishes in the resort’s restaurant.