5 unforgettable moments at Hoshino Resorts

A trip to Japan is always something special. But what makes it extraordinary is when you experience one of those moments that are so unique, so out of the ordinary, that they stay with you forever. A moment of heightened inner calm, chanting with a Buddhist priest. A moment of unexpected discovery, coming head-to-head with a manta ray in the Okinawan ocean.

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Or a moment of fleeting beauty, gazing on the snow-shrouded summit of Mt. Fuji. At Hoshino Resorts, you’ll make memories of Japan like never before.

Morning meditation in Kyoto

The moment you approach HOSHINOYA Kyoto on a wooden boat along the Oi river, you know you’re in for a unique experience.

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In the morning, you’ll rise early and be driven to a nearby Buddhist temple. As dawn breaks, a priest will lead you and a small group in a mesmerizing meditation session. After around 40 minutes of energetic chanting, everyone will stop and fall into silent contemplation.

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It’s such a contrast with what’s gone before that it genuinely heightens your senses. You’ll pick out the different calls of chirping birds, feel the muscles relaxing in your neck and shoulders, and be overwhelmed by a sense of spiritual calm. A rare moment of genuine mindfulness.

Balcony breakfast by Mt. Fuji

If you’ve always dreamed of seeing Mt. Fuji, then HOSHINOYA Fuji is your dream destination. Enter your glamping cabin at this hillside resort, and you’ll find Japan’s most iconic peak staring back at you through huge south-facing windows, its snowy summit reflected in Lake Kawaguchi.

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Start the next day with an early canoeing excursion on the lake – and you’ll have the waters virtually to yourself. Propelling yourself silently forward, you’ll be able to gaze in wordless contemplation at one of the world’s most famous views.

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Then head back to your cabin to watch the morning sun rise over the mountain from your balcony, where you’ll be served a breakfast of freshly-baked bread, and seasonal jams.

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Could there be a better start to the day?

Tea ceremony in Tokyo

At HOSHINOYA Tokyo, you’ll be treated to traditional ryokan culture in the heart of Tokyo. Step into this luxury hotel, and you’ll enter a world of tatami mats, shoji sliding screens, and open-air hot spring baths.

For the ultimate ryokan experience, slip on the complimentary kimono in your room and head downstairs for a traditional tea ceremony.

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Using a sunken hearth, you’ll learn the precise art of heating the cup to the right temperature. And you’ll be taught the custom of whisking matcha powder slowly, deliberately to form a rich, frothy green tea.

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The time-honoured rituals are a form of spiritualism, an insight into Japanese culture that will stay with you long after you’ve drunk the last drop.

Okinawan sunset

At HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, you’ll stay on a tiny subtropical island lined with sandy beaches and coral reefs.

Here, in the remote Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, life is guided by the ocean.

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Imagine spending the afternoon snorkelling among luminescent fish or scuba diving in crystal-clear waters. Imagine coming face-to-face with a manta ray majestically flapping its triangular “wings” as it glides past you.

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And to cap off your Okinawan adventure, imagine setting sailing on a private sabani, a traditional wooden boat, to watch the sun setting over the island – with a cocktail in your hand.

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After such an afternoon, you’ll remember Okinawa forever.

Nocturnal encounters in Karuizawa

At HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, you’ll disconnect from the stresses of everyday life. This is a mountain retreat where Japanese tradition and modern comfort intertwine seamlessly – and nature reigns supreme.

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The forests of Karuizawa are home to sika deer, Japanese hare, wild boar – and the nocturnal flying squirrel.

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Following a guide, you’ll find a prime spot to glimpse the flying squirrel at dusk. First, you’ll see these extraordinary animals poking the heads out from among the trees. Then, suddenly, they’ll leap into the void and glide elegantly through the sky. A unique spectacle that will long stay in your memory.

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To finish the evening, head to the resort’s hot spring baths, where one pool is enveloped in darkness, inviting you to abandon yourself to meditation, to total relaxation.

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Another original experience, another indulgence to fuel your love affair with Japan.

Keep cool Japanese-style

Summers in Japan can be hot and humid – which is why the locals have developed traditions, techniques and technology to keep themselves cool.

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If you’re looking for novel ways to beat the heat this summer, look no further than Japan. How about an ice pillow? A parasol fitted with a fan? Or ancient customs like sipping barley tea?

If you’re planning to visit Tokyo in the summer, HOSHINOYA Tokyo offers a special program inspired by Edo era cooling practices: an original way to experience Japanese history!

Cooling customs

Back in the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Japanese adapted to the summer heat. People worked early when it was less hot. They wore natural fibers to stay cool. And they adapted their diet to keep their core temperature down.

At HOSHINOYA Tokyo, you can experience these traditions first-hand with the special “Edo Cool-Off Stay” summer program. You’ll also have the benefits of modern comfort at this luxury ryokan situated by the Imperial Palace.

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Your tatami-lined room will be adorned with Edo era decorations designed to relax you and keep your temperature down. These include hanging wind chimes and ferns (tsuri shinobu), as well as seasonal flowers.

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The dominant colour is blue, and because blue is associated with water, it is said to reduce your pulse, breathing rate and blood pressure – helping your body to cool down.

Your room also comes with complimentary clothing made with 100% rare flax, a material commonly used in Edo Japan because it is breathable and conducts heat well.

In the evening, you’ll recreate the Edo era practice of sitting outside to enjoy the cooler climate while sipping cold matcha tea with shiratama anmitsu, sweet agar jelly cubes.

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In the restaurant, award-winning chef Noriyuki Hamada will prepare a refreshing summer meal.

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You can expect seasonal seafood and a smoothie with cold amazake (sweet fermented rice) for breakfast the next day.

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Both were seen in the Edo period as essential ingredients for their high nutritional value and cooling properties.

Refreshments today

While you’re in Tokyo, make sure you explore contemporary Japanese ways to keep cool – starting with the unique selection of food and drink.

When the mercury rises, you’ll notice people eating brightly-coloured frozen mounds served in a bowl. Known as kakigori, this popular summer snack is made up of shaved ice with flavoured syrup – and it’s become a big trend. Speciality stores serve up kakigori sculpted into creative shapes with regional ingredients and unexpected twists.

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Another favourite summer refreshment is mugicha, roasted barley tea served cold.

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It’s appreciated for its rehydrating properties, flushing out toxins and replenishing nutrients lost through sweating.

Cooling accessories

To sample some of Japan’s most original cooling devices, head to a konbini. In the warmer months, you’ll find the shelves of these 24/7 convenience stores lined with an astonishing array of chilled goodies. There are cool sprays for instant relief on your face. There’s cooling lotion to soothe hot skin. And there are cool headbands, lined with a gel that keeps your head cold for hours on end.

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To combat sweating, you can buy deodorized towels to mop yourself. Or salted candy to replenish lost electrolytes. The Japanese are also fans of underarm pads to absorb sweat and avoid unsightly stains. And for the night, you can purchase an ice pillow.

Lined with microcapsules, this essential sleeping accessory guarantees you’ll keep a cool head and never wake up in a hot sweat.

Stylish parasols

Sheltering your body from the sun is an art form in Japan. You’ll see people wearing arm covers in the summer, which they often keep in their bag and slip on when they head outside.  But the most common shading accessory of all is the parasol.

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Parasols have been popular in Japan since the Edo period. While they tend to be perceived as a woman’s accessory, a trend in recent years has been the higasa danshi or “parasol man”, with designs aimed to appeal to men.

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For the ultimate summer heat-beater, how about a combined shading and cooling accessory? The so-called Fanbrella is an “only-in-Japan” invention: a parasol with a built-in fan above your head. You can even generate a spray of cooling mist simply by sticking the handle into a bottle of water.

The Japanese have truly perfected the art of staying cool!

Back to nature, back to fitness!

Feel the need to get outdoors and get away from it all? Then plan a vacation in Japan where you can fill up on nature and sharpen your body and mind.

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How about an active stay in a glamping resort by Mt. Fuji that’s specially designed to maximize social distancing? Or a total workout with Japanese-style stretching and aerobics in the forests of Karuizawa. What better way to leave behind your worries?

Fuji: serenity and social distancing

If you’re looking for a stay that will bring you peace of mind in these uncertain times, head to HOSHINOYA Fuji. This luxury glamping resort offers the great outdoors with individual dining and personalized comfort – plus vast forests as your private playground. The resort boasts prime views of Mt. Fuji above picturesque Lake Kawaguchi, and it’s currently offering a special program to avoid the 3 Cs: close contact, confined spaces and crowded places.

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As a guest, you’ll have your own glamping cabin centred on the picture-postcard view of Mt. Fuji. Large south-facing windows open onto a generous terrace fitted with a sofa long enough to recline on. This is not just a choice spot for admiring Japan’s most iconic mountain; it’s also the ideal place to enjoy your meals without social contact.

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As the sun rises over Fuji, you’ll tuck into a carefully-prepared morning bento box. And as the sky takes on hues of evening orange and red, you’ll sip sake with a meal of locally-sourced game and vegetables.

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To add to the atmosphere, the flame-lit torch on your terrace will switch on automatically at nightfall.

Forest freedom

If you prefer to venture out of your cabin, HOSHINOYA Fuji has organized everything to maximize social distancing. Relax with a Japanese whisky around a large bonfire on the Cloud Terrace.

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Make your own pizza in an outdoor stone kiln. Or eat under a well-ventilated tarp surrounded by trees. The number of seats in each dining area has been reduced, and sanitary measures have never been more rigorous – meaning you can truly relax and enjoy the experience.

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What’s more, you’ll be in the heart of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Mountains and forest stretch out for miles in every direction, offering the perfect setting for exercise far from the crowds.

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Why not rent a bike and cycle in the foothills of Mt. Fuji? Participate in the resort’s forest stretching routine?

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Or trek on horseback or by foot in the surrounding forests? Nature is on your doorstep and it’s inviting you to explore!

Karuizawa: balancing body and mind

Located in the foothills of the Japanese Alps, HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is a mountain retreat on the edge of the forest. As soon as you step into the grounds of this hot spring resort, you’ll feel an otherworldly calmness descend on you.

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The vast gardens are scattered with footpaths running alongside streams and falls – with elegant private villas generously spaced out across the site. It’s a setting that puts you immediately at ease.

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If you’re looking to escape the pressures of modern life, HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is the ideal destination. And now, more than ever, it’s the perfect antidote to the stresses of these uncertain times. What’s more, the resort is offering a special forest fitness program this summer to rejuvenate body and mind.

Quietness and movement

The weekend-long program makes the most of the resort’s stunning setting by using the vast Karuizawa forest as a fitness studio, and was designed by Taichi Yoda, a personal trainer certified by the American Association of Sports Medicine.

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On the Saturday, you’ll take part in the Breath & Core workout at a private deck in the forest. You’ll be taught to adjust your breathing while concentrating on the natural sounds of chirping birds. And you’ll learn to stabilize the core of your body through breathing.

The following day’s session focuses on aerobics. You’ll use larch logs for full-body stretching, mimic animal movements to stimulate your muscles, and finish with some strenuous circuit training.

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The final part of the program? Purifying your body and mind in the Tombo-no-yu hot spring baths, sourced by 41-42C waters and reputed to get your blood circulating. From the outdoor rock pool, you can lie back in rising steam and release every last drop of stress from your body and your mind.

Climbing Mt. Fuji in style

Imagine yourself on the top of Mt. Fuji. You’ve just hiked up Japan’s most iconic mountain. The sense of achievement is enormous. The view of the Fuji Five Lakes area is breath-taking. And you know this is an experience you’ll remember forever – especially because you’ve done it in style.

The whole way up, you’ve been in the company of a local guide. He’s not only helped you prepare and shown you the quietest and safest way up; he’s also taught you about the history, culture and life of the mountain.

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You’ve stayed the previous night lower down Mt. Fuji in a private room of a mountain lodge, complete with luxury dinner. And you know that, when you get back down, a hearty meal will be awaiting you at HOSHINOYA Fuji.

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If you’ve always dreamed of climbing Mt. Fuji but aren’t sure how to prepare, this is how to do it! The Glamorous Fuji Mountaineering program helps you get ready, takes you to the summit in style, and enables you to make the most of the whole experience. As a bonus, you’ll get to spend the night before or after at the luxury glamping resort of HOSHINOYA Fuji.

Base camp

HOSHINOYA Fuji is set on a tree-lined hillside above Lake Kawaguchi – and every one of the resort’s luxury cabins offers a picture-postcard view of Mt. Fuji.

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Admiring the mountain from the expansive sofa on your balcony, you’ll get motivation and inspiration for the climb ahead. As base camps go, this is at the higher end of the scale.

You can choose to start the program the night before you head off to conquer Mt. Fuji. If you choose this option, staff will prepare an energy bar for you of dried fruits and nuts with coconut oil. You’ll also get to meet your guide, Mr. Kondo.

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A mountaineer with over 21 years of experience, he’s climbed Fuji-san more than 650 times and won awards for his work. He’ll explain what you can expect and, together, you’ll check your equipment.

Preparation program

Not sure what equipment you need? No worries. The Glamorous Fuji Mountaineering program prepares you well in advance. When you sign up, you’ll be contacted 1 month beforehand by the Mt. Fuji Mountain Climbing School. By phone or email, they’ll advise you on how to get in shape and what you’ll need to pack.

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You shouldn’t underestimate the physical challenge. Rocky terrain, steep sections, extreme weather and thin air can render the ascent difficult. So, make sure you follow the exercises and daily routines recommended by the Climbing School to build your fitness and be ready for the long hike up.

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You’ll also be sent advice about how to select clothing and equipment. Don’t forget that Mt. Fuji peaks out at 3776 metres – and the weather can throw anything at you. Even in the summer, summit temperatures average 5C-8C, so follow the guidelines by packing plenty of layers and wearing hiking shoes. And, if you’d rather not buy your own equipment, the Climbing School offers a rental service.

Safety first

When the big day comes, the starting point is the mountain’s fifth station – where the road ends and the only way up is on foot. You’ll start walking around noon and then stay at a mountain lodge to relax for the night.

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Many climbers leave the next morning at around 1am to be at the summit for sunrise. This may sound idyllic, but hiking in the dark is much more dangerous – and you’re likely to encounter crowds at the top. Our approach lets you rebuild your strength and appreciate the mountaintop panorama in relative calm – and you still get to see sunrise from the lodge.

During the climb, your guide will regularly point out the plants and vegetation on Mt. Fuji, explaining how it was formed after repeated eruptions.

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He’ll talk about the cultural significance of Fuji and its historical importance. To the Japanese, Mt. Fuji is more than just a mountain to climb – and you’ll get to understand every facet of its personality.

Luxury touches

The lodge where you’ll sleep adds another level of comfort to your climb. While most hikers sleep in dormitories, you’ll have a private room for up to 4 people. For dinner, you’ll be served beef stew and wine, with staff from HOSHINOYA Fuji on hand to ensure you enjoy the same exceptional service as at the hotel.

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And, when your adventure is over, you can expect more of the same. If you’ve chosen to stay the following night at HOSHINOYA Fuji as part of your program, you’ll have a special foot treatment awaiting you in your private cabin – followed by specialities from the local Yamanashi Prefecture, such as hearty Hoto noodle soup.

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And, if you have the energy, why not head up to the resort’s Cloud Terrace to enjoy a Japanese whisky by the bonfire? After the efforts of the last 2 days, you certainly deserve it!

Exploring the Okinawan wilderness

You’re on a beach at sunrise on a subtropical jungle island. The waves lap gently against the white sandy shore. The water is crystal clear, revealing a magnificent coral reef glimmering beneath the surface. Behind you is your hotel. And just beyond, a world of wilderness is waiting to be explored.

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Should you pull on your snorkel and spend the morning admiring the colourful marine life? Head into the jungle to explore mangroves by kayak? Wander the trails for a chance of spotting the famed Iriomote cat? Or simply relax at the hotel’s pool and café?

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At Hoshino Resorts Iriomote Island Hotel, contemporary comfort combines with off-the-beaten-track adventure. You’ll stay at a remote location in the Yaeyama Islands on Japan’s southwestern tip. You’ll be at the heart of the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, known as Japan’s “last unexplored region”.

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And you’ll have the chance to glimpse some of the world’s most prized endangered species. It’s difficult to imagine a better place to truly get away from it all.

Style in the wild

Opened on October 1, 2019, Hoshino Resorts Iriomote Hotel is set beside a long beach on Okinawa’s second biggest island. Some 90% of Iriomote Island is dense jungle – and the hotel is an ideal base for exploring the extraordinary local flora and fauna.

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Wilderness may surround the hotel, but inside, the atmosphere is all about comfort. Whatever type of room you choose, it will be large.

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And you’ll have your own terrace and luxurious daybed couch. If you’re facing west, you’ll hear the waves gently breaking on Tudumarihama beach, with views of the East China Sea beyond. And if you’re east-facing, you’ll hear a morning chorus of jungle birds emanating from thickets of dark green foliage just outside your window.

Swimming and seafood

The hotel has all you need to relax after a day of exploration. The 21-metre long outdoor pool is sheltered from winds by swathes of bougainvillea and casuarina. Just a few metres away, the sandy beach invites you into the ocean.

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And the hotel spa offers everything from a Hibiscus footbath to a revitalizing treatment using cosmetics made from Okinawan coral and shell ginger.

At the restaurant, you’ll be able to sample creative local food such as wild boar brown sugar sukiyaki and Japanese blue crab.

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There’s plenty of room to eat outdoors, meaning you can enjoy a fresh-fruit breakfast with the first rays of sun.

Ephemeral beauty

In early summer, breakfast can wait until later. Why? Because this is the time to experience the extraordinary natural phenomenon of the Sagaribana powder-puff tree. From late June to mid-July, this unique plant produces brightly-coloured flowers that bloom for one night, then wither and die the next morning.

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Sagaribana grow along mangrove rivers – and, as the only place to house all seven species of mangrove native to Japan, Iriomote Island is the ideal place to see the “phantom flowers”.

In the early morning, you’ll board a kayak and paddle down one of the many rivers to see the celebrated powder-puff flowers gently falling to the surface – with the characteristic vanilla scent of Sagaribana floating in the air.

Natural wonder

The unique, exotic beauty of nature is everywhere on the island – and, at Hoshino Resorts Iriomote Island Hotel, you can take your pick from a remarkable number of activities.

In winter, why not head into the forest at dusk to catch the natural illuminations of Yaeyama fireflies? Just 5mm long, these tiny insects glow in groups of tens of thousands for around an hour after sunset. A mesmerizing sight.

How about snorkelling among turtles and clownfish in one of the world’s largest coral reefs?

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Watching the sun set as you paddle past mangroves on a SUP?

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Or, if you prefer hiking, the hotel can provide equipment – and you can head into the jungle for a chance of spotting rare species such as crested serpent eagles, yellow-margined box turtles and the endangered Iriomote cat.

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With sea, rivers, mountains and jungle in abundance, Iriomote Island offers almost every outdoor experience you could ever imagine.

Hakone’s hidden gems for families

Thinking of taking your family to Japan? The challenge of any family holiday is to balance the wants of both adults and kids. Ideally, you need a destination with something for everyone.

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So, how about a region where you can walk amid bubbling geothermal pools and then visit a kid-friendly volcano museum? Where sweeping lake vistas of Mount Fuji can be admired from a pirate’s ship? And where hot spring baths become a water theme park?

Welcome to the region of Hakone, just an hour by train from Tokyo and set in a breath-taking national park.

A base for exploring

Where to base yourself during your stay in Hakone? If your family are creative souls, Hoshino Resorts KAI Sengokuhara is an excellent option. Some of Japan’s best museums are within easy access of the ryokan, and you can participate in the evening art workshops, where guests paint their own tenugui hand towel.

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Alternatively, Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone is a ryokan set on a verdant hillside by the babbling river Sukumo. From here, you’ll have easy access to the beautiful caldera Lake Ashi, home to a host of family-friendly activities.

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Parks and boat rides

From Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone, mighty Lake Ashi is a short bus ride away. You can also reach it by taking your family on a hike along an ancient cobbled trading path in the forest.

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Walking on the old Tokaido highway, you’ll be following in the footsteps of Japanese traders and travellers from 400 years ago!

Lake Ashi is a scenic spot lined on its south-eastern side by Onshi Hakone Park, a peninsula with landscaped gardens and winding paths that are great for kids to explore. On a clear day, head to the Lakeside Observation Building for views of Mt. Fuji reflected in the lake.

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Best of all for kids, you can cross the lake in a pirate ship. The half-hour trip takes you past the floating torii of Hakone shrine – and there’s plenty for kids to explore onboard. Look out for lifelike pirate figures and 3D art, or challenge your kids to find the hidden treasure chest on board.

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For a post-pirate ship treat, head to Bakery & Table Hakone. Here, you can eat while soaking your feet in hot spring water!

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A foot bath replenished by local hot springs is positioned under the outdoor tables, so you can munch sandwiches, sweets and soft ice cream with your feet in the water and views of the lake.

Volcanic adventure

The area of Hakone is famous for its geothermal activity. Take your family to the Owakudani valley to see plumes of smoke rising from gaping volcanic vents.

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You’ll be able to walk along a short trail to get close-up to bubbling pools and hot rivers. As a fun experience for the kids, try one of the celebrated kuro tamago or black eggs. These boiled eggs are cooked in the local springs, with the shell becoming black because of the sulphur and iron in the water. According to local legend, you’ll add 7 years to your life for each egg eaten.

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On the same site, the Hakone Geo Museum offers a fascinating insight into volcanoes. Children can view different types of lava under a microscope and take part in experiments, such as reconstructing a volcanic eruption with balloons!

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Not far away, Hakone Kowakien Yunessun is a unique hot spring amusement park for everyone from babies to adults. Most hot spring resorts are calm, adults-only affairs, requiring bathers to be naked. But not here!

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The complex includes hot springs where you can wear swimwear, a 30cm deep hot spring for babies wearing diapers, water slides, and a pool with suspended buckets of warm water emptied onto bathers below.

Outdoor exploration

There’s plenty of grandiose scenery in the Hakone area. One easy walk for all the family is the Dogashima Valley Promenade, a 1-mile trail that follows the river Haya and takes in a suspension bridge and a weir.

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Nearby, the Hakone Open-Air Museum combines the outdoors with art.

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The sprawling grounds are home to 120 large-scale sculptures, plus 5 exhibition halls featuring the likes of Picasso, Rodin, Miro and Henry Moore.

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Kids will love Curved Space, a giant play area where they can climb into a structure of hollow geometric blocks.

For an adrenaline rush, head to the treetop adventure courses of Forest Adventure Hakone. Older children will love the ziplines, Tarzan swings and tightrope walking, and younger kids can play on the climbing wall, trampolines and mini-golf.

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A great way for the kids to expend energy before you all head back to the ryokan to relax in style.

Hands-on cuisine and creativity in the Japanese Alps

The tiny city of Omachi (27,500 inhabitants) is just an hour’s drive from Nagano, host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics – but the two places are worlds apart in terms of atmosphere. While Nagano is a vibrant hub for the local area, rural Omachi has the feel of an authentic working town.

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Situated at 700 metres altitude, its streets are filled with cottage industries and small businesses that excel in traditional Japanese arts and cuisine. Many of these local companies offer hands-on workshops to guests.

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If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten track experience or you want genuine insights into Japanese cuisine and crafts, Omachi is the perfect destination.

Why not try your hand at making mountain food such as oyaki stuffed dumplings? Crafting your own miso from soybeans. Or exploring your artistic side under the guidance of local artisans.

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As a bonus, you’ll have the mighty peaks of the Northern Japanese Alps as your backdrop – and plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors during your stay.

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At Hoshino Resorts KAI Alps, Omachi’s craft and cuisine culture is on your doorstep. This recently-renovated ryokan in the city’s northern district is a 10-minute drive from the centre.

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Inside the ryokan, contemporary design combines with classic Japanese hospitality. You’ll have access to indoor and outdoor hot spring baths, plus a communal room centred on the irori, a traditional Japanese wood-burning hearth. In winter, the ryokan provides free shuttle buses to the powder-snow haven of Hakuba.

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And all year round, you can hone your culinary and creative skills at nearby restaurants and shops.

Celebrated soba noodles

Omachi has a long tradition of culinary expertise. Like much of Nagano Prefecture, it’s particularly well-known for buckwheat (soba) noodles. At Iroya Yasaka, the art of artisanal soba making has been passed down from generation to generation – and you can learn their secrets at a 90-minute workshop.

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You’ll be taught to knead dough of buckwheat flour and water, spread it thinly with a stick, and cut it into long thin noodles.

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Alternatively, you can sign up for a 3-hour session to make oyaki, a speciality buckwheat dumpling baked on a hot plate. This is hearty mountain food, with the filling likely to include seasonal vegetables such as leafy nozawana, eggplant or onion.

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After your hard work in the kitchen, you can enjoy your creation in the restaurant – along with other specialities like oysters and tempura.

Miso masterclass

Ever wondered how miso is made?

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At Marukome Co. Ltd., you can find out first hand. This miso specialist crafts and ages the Japanese speciality using a cold preparation method that deepens the taste.

During the workshop, you’ll crush Nagano soybeans by hand until you form a paste and then mix it with salt and koji, a fungal culture used to ferment the paste and transform it into miso.

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You’ll have to keep your creation a few months before you can eat it, but the company also offers a Miso Comparison Classroom, where you can taste different ingredients and products of various ages.

Ancient soup stock

Wachigai is a restaurant housed in a beautiful 130-year-old townhouse, lined with tatami mats. It serves local Omachi specialities such as frozen mochi and Wagai Nagadashi noodle soup. Every Wednesday, the chef reveals the secrets of his soup stock and invites visitors to make their own.

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The experience lasts about 2-and-a-half hours, including eating your soup at the end. As a bonus, the restaurant will give you recipes for some of the other items on its menu, so you can try to recreate them back home.

Craft creation

If you prefer crafts over cuisine, Omachi has plenty to offer. At the Matsuzaki Washi company, you can make your own washi paper postcard. The four-person workshop has existed for over 100 years and specializes in mixing local flowers into their paper.

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At their premises, you’ll learn how to sieve a solution of pounded bark and glue to achieve just the right thickness of paper – and then decorate it with wild flora. If you’re feeling ambitious, why not progress to make your own washi fan, coaster or candle holder?

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Your final hands-on experience? A workshop to make your own scent at the Aroma Experience Studio. Choose from a dozen essential oils, then add ethanol and Alpine meltwater to create your own unique room spray.

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What better souvenir to remember your creative stay in the heart of the Japanese Alps?

Making the most of rainy season

From early June to late July, the rainy season works its way up Japan from south to north, bringing high humidity and heavy showers region by region. Doesn’t sound like a good time to visit? In actual fact, the rain doesn’t need to put a damper on your trip, and there are many benefits to travelling at this period.

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You’ll find tourist sights much less crowded, accommodation is easier to find, and forests and mountains are often at their most verdant and spectacular.

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What’s more, themed stays during the season range from rainy glamping near Mt. Fuji to a mud-splattered off-road rally experience in Hokkaido.

Get equipped

The Japanese refer to rainy season as tsuyu meaning “plum rain” because it coincides with the period when plums are at their best. It’s a neat way to put a positive spin on the situation – and there are many more reasons to be upbeat. In Tokyo, the average temperature high is 25C (77F) – far more pleasant than the extreme heat of mid-summer or the cold of winter.

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And rainy season doesn’t mean it rains every day. Sometimes, the entire season amounts to no more than 150mm of rain.

Still, it’s sensible to be equipped for wet weather if you’re visiting during rainy season. First and foremost, that means having an umbrella. Rain boots and a rain jacket are also a good idea.

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And you might want to consider a waterproof bag if you’re carrying valuable gear like a camera or a laptop.

Wet weather wonders

If you’re staying in a city, you’ll have plenty of indoor options to avoid the rain. But it would be a shame to miss out on the great outdoors, which is often at its best during rainy season.

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The wet weather brings lush new foliage and plant life to forests and hillsides. Head to Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel and you’ll be ideally positioned to explore the celebrated Oirase Gorge.

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Here, in the depths of northern Aomori, you can follow a spectacular 8.5-mile trail from the hotel, following the ebbs and flows of the Oirase stream through the forest to its source, mighty Lake Towada.

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In rainy season, the forest turns a luxuriant green and the Gorge is strewn with glistening moss. Some 300 different varieties of moss grow here, attracting moss enthusiasts from all over the country – and you can even sign up for a Moss Watching Tour at the hotel.

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As you walk, keep your eyes peeled for seasonal wild flowers such as hydrangeas and Tiger Lilies.

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After exploring the Gorge, enjoy getting soaked all over again – in the hotel’s hot spring baths, which include an outdoor bath overlooking the bubbling stream.

Fuji tipis in the sky

At HOSHINOYA Fuji, the resort’s signature glamping experience is given a rainy season makeover.

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The luxury cabins, all offering prime views of Mt. Fuji, come with complimentary ponchos and rain boots.

Set on a forested hill above Lake Kawaguchi, the resort is spread over terraced levels. At the very top, a bonfire crackles away at the Cloud Terrace – with special “rain shelter tipis” suspended from the trees during the wet season.

These designer tipis not only provide shelter; they also change colour when they’re wet, creating a lively décor in the sky whenever the heavens open.

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The resort provides a host of rainy season activities, including a watercolour postcard workshop and seasonal sweet treats around the bonfire. Guides can also take you out to explore the vivid rainy season colours and strong scents of the forests near Mt. Fuji, including the legendary Aokigahara Jukai “Sea of Trees” forest.

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In the evening, you’ll dine outdoors (sheltered from the rain) sampling local cuisine such as game and mountain vegetables.

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Mud fun in Hokkaido

Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, has no rainy season. But it still rains occasionally – and, when it does, you can drive through the muddy puddles in an off-road buggy at Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Tomamu.

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Set in a vast ski and farm domain, this family-friendly hotel hosts a special rally experience for guests in the summer months.

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Held only on rainy days, the Tomamu Muddy Rally features several courses taking in forests, grasslands, muddy paths, and puddles aplenty.

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You’ll be kitted out in jumpsuit and boots and shown how to operate the four-wheel drive buggy. Then it’s up to you to rev around the course as fast as you can.

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Children are welcome to take a back seat, and there’s no need to worry about getting lost: a guide will follow behind in case you need help.

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Record the fast time of the day and you’ll be awarded champagne and a medal. Then enjoy a soak in the resort’s open-air bath: the perfect antidote to Japan’s summer rain.

Introducing Hoshino Resorts OMO3 Tokyo Kawasaki

Planning a trip to Tokyo? Then make sure you don’t miss out on the surrounding area.

An hour south by train lies Yokohama, famed for its lively waterfront and bustling Chinatown. Beyond is Kamakura, a treasure trove of Japanese history.

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And a little further south, the long sandy beaches of Sagami bay invite relaxation, snorkelling and surfing. The central point of all these destinations? The thriving city of Kawasaki, home to a new hostel-style hotel from Hoshino Resorts.

Opening June 11, 2020, Hoshino Resorts OMO3 Tokyo Kawasaki makes a great base for exploring Tokyo and beyond.

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From the city’s train station, you can travel directly to Tokyo Skytree, Yokohama or Zushi beach. Haneda airport is less than 20 minutes away and Tokyo station just 30 minutes.

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And then there’s Kawasaki itself – a buzzing, working city that offers a fascinating insight into urban life off the usual tourist track.

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At Hoshino Resorts OMO3 Tokyo Kawasaki, you’ll even have your own guide to take you to the town’s choice bars, restaurants and sake joints.

Casual and contemporary

Located close to Kawasaki station, Hoshino Resorts OMO3 Tokyo Kawasaki is a hostel-style hotel infused with the pop-culture spirit of the city itself.

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While Kawasaki’s industrial waterfront has a moody sci-fi vibe, its inland centre is a dynamic hub for cultural and foodie creativity.

The hostel features a vast, open-space first floor combining a laid-back lounge with the long wooden tables of the dining area. The design is contemporary industrial meets Japanese minimalism.

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It’s a space for hanging out and researching your next day trip from a wealth of pamphlets and insider tips posted on the wall.

A pod or a private room?

Ever wondered what it would be like to sleep in a Japanese-style capsule hotel? If you’re looking for a budget option, you’re travelling on your own, or you’re planning on spending most of your time out and about, opt for a NEDOCO Pod room. These dormitory-style beds are self-contained pods, complete with reading light, hanger rails, Wi-Fi, and a safe for your valuables.

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In the communal area outside, you’ll find lockers, showers, toilets and complimentary toiletries.

Following a contest call-out for local artists, each pod is decorated with an original mural on the wall at the head of the bed. Artists were asked to convey the city’s sense of excitement and adventure in the medium of their choice – meaning that each pod has its own personality.

If you’d prefer a little more space, the COBACO Cabins are compact single rooms with a calming, meditative décor.

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Alternatively, the top-floor SUMICA Rooms accommodate 2 adults – plus up to 2 children under 7 years old.

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These rooms come with a shower and toilet.

Delve into Kawasaki

One of the signature traits of OMO hotels is your access to “OMO Rangers”, local guides who lead you into the streets to uncover hidden gems most tourists never get to see.

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At Hoshino Resorts OMO3 Tokyo Kawasaki, the Rangers let you sample Kawasaki’s colour and energy first-hand.

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How about following an OMO Ranger to explore local historical sights, many dating back to the city’s time as a major stopover for travellers in the Edo period? Or maybe you’d prefer to sample some of the local haunts on a night out?

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From tiny eateries and historic restaurants to live music venues and old-school bars, the OMO Ranger will take you out in small groups to experience Kawasaki’s blue-collar past.

Unlimited day tripping

When it comes to sightseeing, you couldn’t be better placed.

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Kawasaki itself has a number of tourist-friendly sites, including Kawasaki Daishi Heikenji Temple, founded in 1128 and visited by those who want to fend off evil and misfortune.

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And, with the train station just a few minutes’ walk away, you have endless possibilities for day trips.

Hop on the Keikyu Main Line to travel directly to Asakusa, where Tokyo Skytree provides panoramic city views and Sensoji Temple offers grandiose architecture.

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Travel just 20 minutes to cosmopolitan Yokohama, 40 minutes to historic Kamakura. And, in less than an hour, you can check out the local beach scene.

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At Hoshino Resorts OMO3 Tokyo Kawasaki, a new experience awaits you every day.

Japanese cocktails and craft beer

Looking for an insider’s take on Japan’s drinking culture?

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Perhaps you’d like to delve into the world of Japanese cocktails in the city of Asahikawa, famed for its prize-winning mixologists. Or how about comparing craft beers from microbreweries along Tokyo’s Yamanote Line?

This summer, you can test both experiences thanks to special programs led by local guides at Hoshino Resorts’ OMO hotels. And, if you can’t make it this summer, staff can help you organize your own drinking-themed stay. There’s plenty to sample all year round!

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Asahikawa is the second biggest city on Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. Most Japanese know it for its cold winters and warming culinary offerings, such as ramen and the grilled mutton speciality Jingisukan.

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The city’s other claim to fame is its drinks: several prized sakes are crafted here, the Taisetsu-ji Brewery makes highly drinkable pilsners and ales, and cocktail fans will find plenty to satiate their thirst.

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At Hoshino Resorts OMO7 Asahikawa, you’ll be ideally positioned to explore the city’s drinking scene. This contemporary-design hotel has urban attitude, a central location – and a bar serving a range of beers and cocktails.

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You can sample the classic Hokkaido Red Eye cocktail, a combination of local beer, tomato juice and vodka. Or how about a Calpico with sake, which mixes a milky soft drink with local Otokoyama sake.

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As a bonus, the hotel is adding a pop-up beer cocktail bar this summer. Seven original cocktails will be offered, including “Black & Black”, a dark soda drink made from guarana berries combined with Ryuhyo Draft, a dark Hokkaido beer brewed using iceberg water.

Japanese cocktail culture

Asahikawa is a great place to explore Japan’s cocktail scene at any time of the year. In winter, you can sample the nightlife while skiing in the day thanks to a special urban ski program at Hoshino Resorts OMO7 Asahikawa.

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In the morning, shuttle services take you directly to the slopes. At night, the hotel’s local guides, known as OMO Rangers, will show you the best bars in town.

If you’re a cocktail-lover, there’s plenty to explore. Japanese mixologists are reputed for their precision and perfection.

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Ice is often hand-shaved from a solid block, and you can expect all accessories, from mixing spoons and shakers to cocktail glasses, to be exceptional quality.

Which tipples should you try? Lemon Sour is a refreshing mix of shochu liquor, club soda and freshly-squeezed lemon. You’ll often see the lemon replaced by other homegrown citrus fruits such as yuzu and sudachi.

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How about a Ginza Mary, the local take on the Bloody Mary that includes sake? And for cold winter nights, the perfect remedy is Tamagozake, heated sake combined with raw egg yolks and sugar.

Tokyo’s craft beer scene

If you prefer craft beer over cocktails, the northern Tokyo district of Otsuka is an excellent place to start. The area is full of narrow streets lined with small izakaya drinking dens and specialist restaurants.

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And, at Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka, you’ll be shown the choice venues by the hotel’s OMO Rangers.

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One of the Ranger outings is a Craft Beer tour. In the last few years, Japan has become a vibrant market for ji-bīru (craft beer) and is now home to more than 200 microbreweries.

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Just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, Smoke Beer Factory produces 5 of its own craft beers and also stocks an eclectic range of Japanese and international brews. Smoked food is a speciality here – and the technique even extends to the beer, with the bar’s iconic Namachan no Raoho using smoked malt to create a smooth, aromatic taste.

Yamanote brewery line

The Smoke Beer Factory is one of 4 breweries participating in a special summer program at Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka. Until September, the hotel’s bar is hosting the Yamanote Craftbeer Festival – a chance to sample lagers, ales and IPAs from 4 microbreweries situated near stations on Tokyo’s Yamanote Line.

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The hotel itself is just a minute’s walk from the Otsuka stop.

During the festival, you’ll be able to test offerings from the Spring Valley Brewery, which produces Daydream, a white beer with unique Japanese ingredients such as sansho peppers and yuzu.

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You’ll sample brews from T.Y. Harbor, a specialist in pale ale, IPA and Imperial Stout.

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And you’ll be served creations from DevilCraft, a brewery famed for its dark, rich-flavoured Black Igneous.

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Can’t make it this summer? Not a problem. You can come anytime and hop on the Yamanote Line to order a beer from the breweries in person!