24 hours at Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel

1.15pm

Shin-Aomori may be some 700kms north of Tokyo, but it takes just 3 hours to reach by shinkansen. At the station, you’ll board a shuttle bus bound for Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel.


3pm

The journey on winding, thickly-forested mountain roads comes to an end at the tiny village of Yakeyama. Here, within the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, lies Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel, the only hotel located directly on the banks of the picturesque Oirase Keiryu stream.

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Yakeyama is the starting point for both the Oirase Gorge and a spectacular 8.5-mile trail that follows the ebbs and flows of the stream through the forest to its source, mighty Lake Towada.

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Whether you’re planning to hike, fish or admire the numerous waterfalls along the way, you’ll be at the heart of nature during your stay.


3.15pm

Time to settle in.

You room features tatami mats, a comfortable raised mattress and generous sofas.

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For a special treat, opt for your own private hot spring bath overlooking the stream.


4pm

Before you head downstairs, why not slip into your complementary yukata and sandals? It’s all part of the Japanese hotel experience!

Each of the hotel’s wings has a spacious central lounge dominated by a towering suspended chimney sculpted by avant-garde artist Tako Okamoto. Both feature floor-to-ceiling windows, transporting you into the forest and making the seasons an integral part of the décor.

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In spring and summer, sunlight penetrates through a forest of lush greens. In autumn, the panorama is picture-book pretty, with crisp orange, golden yellows and deep reds crowding the trees.

Winter brings a blanket of snow, weighing down branches and transforming nearby waterfalls into glistening walls of layered ice.

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winter


4.30pm

At the Activity Desk in the west lobby, you can peruse your many options to explore the National Park. Outside snow season, the choices are endless, encompassing everything from fly fishing to firefly watching.

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For an authentically Japanese experience, sign up for one of the many moss-related experiences.

The Japanese are fascinated by moss, with the Oirase Gorge home to some 300 different varieties. Choose the morning Moss Watching Tour to get a closer look, armed with your complementary magnifying glass!

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In winter, activities turn to snowshoeing and tours of the beautiful frozen waterfalls.


5pm

Take a towel from your room and head to the hotel’s onsen. There are 2 indoor pools, but the real pull is the rounded outdoor bath set above the stream.

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Lie back in the warm waters, sourced from nearby Mount Hakkoda, and listen to the soothing sounds of the babbling stream.


7pm

For dinner, indulge yourself in the high-class French cuisine of Sonore restaurant, with a pre-dinner aperitif on the stream-side terrace.

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Or opt for the Aomori Ringo Kitchen, an immense buffet of freshly-prepared Japanese and Western dishes.

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Take a 9-compartment tray to sample a little of everything from sashimi to seafood bake, mochi rice cake to apple (“ringo”) pie. Then come back for more!


9pm

Head to the bar to cosy up on a chaise-longue sofa with views of the illuminated forest.

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How about a Japanese whisky to round off the evening?




8am

There’s another lavish breakfast buffet at the Aomori Ringo Kitchen. Take your pick from eggs and bacon, croissant and jam, or fish and miso.

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Alternatively, you can start the day on the stream-side terrace with a generous bento box.


10am

Time to explore the Oirase Gorge. If you’ve not signed up for an activity, lace up your walking shoes and head out on your own. The trail to Lake Towada takes around 4 to 5 hours, but you can easily shorten the distance by taking the hotel’s free shuttle bus or the local bus to different points along the route.

Along the way, you’ll pass 14 waterfalls, including the impressively wide Choshi Otaki and the roaring two-tiered Kumoi no Taki.

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The path climbs gently, staying close to the stream until you arrive at Lake Towada, an impressive double caldera expanse, known for its clear waters. From here, you can take a boat trip to the small town of Yasumiya, a chance to admire the seemingly endless wilderness that encircles the lake.

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Yasumiya has a pleasant, laid-back feel. It’s the perfect place to end the day, wandering along the beach, visiting the hilltop Towada shrine, and sampling street food such as yakitori or shioyaki (fish on a stick). From here, you can take a bus back for a well-earned hot spring bath at Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel.

Try to win a Japanese wellness kit

⬇️ Contest form ⬇️

Answer here: Hoshinoya Taketomi Island page

This month’s prize bundle comes from HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, a small village famed for its sublime beaches.

beach

beach-2

A haven of peace, Taketomi Island is like taking a step back in time. You can explore traditional Okinawan landscapes by bike or by water buffalo cart. And you’ll be able to experience the island’s unique festivals and exceptional snorkelling.

Fresh from the island, our prize bundle is composed of relaxing local bath herbs and a special lotion for perfect skin care.

herbs

oil

It’s the ideal way to promote relaxation and wellbeing, just like on the paradise beaches of HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island!

Contest form here

Tattooed in Japan

Japan has a famously complicated relationship with tattoos. If you have visible tattoos, you may find yourself banned from certain traditional institutions, such as ryokan inns and hot spring baths (onsen). But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

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Some onsen, including those at Hoshino Resorts, welcome guests who cover their tattoos with stickers, and, by planning ahead, you should be able to avoid negative reactions to your inked art. What’s more, young people are increasingly open, and tattoos won’t raise too many eyebrows in contemporary environments, including most big cities.

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But why are many Japanese mistrustful of tattoos? What is the history of inked art in Japan? And how can tattooed travellers make the most of their visit while remaining respectful of local culture?

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We investigate the history and culture of tattoos in Japan.

A complex history

You may have heard that tattoos are associated with the yakuza (Japanese mafia). And, while that is true, the Japanese suspicion of tattoos is much more deep-rooted than that.

Despite the relative rarity of tattoos in Japan, the country actually has a long tradition of the art form and played an important role in their worldwide development. It is thought that Neolithic people used to tattoo their faces, and there is written evidence of people in Japan being tattooed for decorative and tribal purposes from the 3rd century.

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Over time, the image of tattoos changed, and by the 18th century, the art form came to be seen in a dim light, associated with the lower classes and with criminals, who were tattooed as part of their punishment.

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By the end of the 19th century, the Meiji government had banned tattoos for Japanese people, although foreign sailors continued to be tattooed and helped spread the popularity of Japanese-style tattoos around the world.

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It wasn’t until 1948, under American occupation, that tattoos were relegalized – but the negative connotations remained. And their image was further worsened by the adoption of tattoos by the yakuza.

Attitudes today

While attitudes are slowly changing, especially among the younger generation, tattoos are still banned in most places where you are required to display your body, such as onsen, pools and gyms. Many companies also require employees to cover their tattoos during working hours.

The art form itself has an unclear legal status, as it is not licenced or regulated. One tattooist in Osaka was famously prosecuted in 2015 under an obscure law requiring a medical licence for anyone using a needle to pierce skin.

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And yet, Japan’s current crop of tattoo artists are highly regarded, especially those practicing traditional tebori irezumi, a time-consuming style that involves tattooing by hand using a wooden rod with a metal needle. Artists such as Horiyoshi III have found fame exhibiting their work internationally.


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Voir cette publication sur Instagram

Une publication partagée par Horiyoshi_3 (@horiyoshi_3) le

Tips for tattooed travellers

If you’re visiting Japan with tattoos, there are a few precautions you can take to make sure you make the most of your stay and don’t upset anyone.

If you need to temporarily cover up your tattoo, clothing accessories are your best option. Keep a lightweight scarf, long-sleeve top or arm covers in your bag so you can slip them on when necessary. It’s a handy solution when visiting a temple, for example.

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Planning to visit a ryokan or onsen? Then check ahead, as many have a complete ban on tattoos. Fortunately, a number of ryokan and onsen will accept guests that cover their inked art.

Hoshino Resorts revised its policy several years ago, enabling guests to stay at Japanese-style ryokans such as Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko and enjoy the public hot spring baths if they cover their tattoos with complimentary stickers.

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You can choose from a range of different-sized “foundation tape” stickers to cover your inked art, with the largest measuring 95 x 140mm. No more than 4 stickers can be used, but if you have full-body tattoos, you can still enjoy the hot spring experience by reserving a private onsen.

Many resorts offer rooms with a private onsen. On the Izu peninsula, for example, Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito is a recently-renovated ryokan with rooms adjoined by hot springs on a private wooden terrace or a private garden.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito

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Hoshino Resorts KAI Aso

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As a tattooed traveller in Japan, you may have to think ahead a little, but by respecting the local culture and being prepared to cover up occasionally, you’ll find that you get even more from your stay.


Photo credits:

gullevek / CC BY-NC-ND

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Young sake season

Autumn is eagerly awaited in Japan. For nature-lovers, it means momijigari, a chance to admire the colourful, ever-changing landscape of the country’s varied forests, mountains and parks.

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For foodies, it brings shokuyoku no aki, a diverse glut of delicious seasonal dishes. And for sake lovers, it’s all about hiyaoroshi, the young autumnal sake that offers a vibrant, mellow taste and is the perfect accompaniment to fatty Fall foods.

Every autumn in the Karuizawa Hoshino Area, a special Sake Terrace is organized to celebrate the arrival of hiyaoroshi. Stay at nearby HOSHINOYA Karuizawa and you’ll be able to sample a wide range of local hiyaoroshi paired with seasonal smoked food – with the vibrant colours of the Japanese Alps as your backdrop.

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A singular sake

The smooth flavour of hiyaoroshi is one of the great pleasures of the autumn. Its distinct taste is a result of both its young age and the unique brewing process. While most sake is pasteurized twice, once after filtering and again before bottling, hiyaoroshi is pasteurized just once.

The tradition is thought to date back to the Edo Period, when the cooler temperatures of autumn neutralized the threat of lactic bacteria, making a second pasteurization unnecessary. Pressed in the winter, then matured over the summer, hiyaoroshi is ready for consumption in autumn.

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Today, the release of hiyaoroshi is eagerly awaited by sake enthusiasts. Much like France’s Beaujolais Nouveau, there has been a recent drive to establish an official release date (September 9th), even if it is not strictly respected by every brewery. If you’re new to sake, hiyaoroshi is a great starting point thanks to its refreshing smoothness and deep, well-balanced flavour.

And, for connoisseurs, one of the key attractions of hiyaoroshi is that its character changes over the autumn months.

Autumn transformation

When first released in September, hiyaoroshi has a young, soft flavour that is easy to drink. But, as the autumn advances, the sake continues to age, becoming richer and more complex. Such are the differences in flavour that many breweries release their hiyaoroshi under a different name every month.

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Drink hiyaoroshi in September, and you’ll be sipping nagoshizake, usually served chilled or at room temperature to bring out its refreshing smoothness. Because it is mild and highly drinkable, nahoshizake goes well with light foods such as tofu, pickles or plain mushrooms.

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In October, nagoshizake gives way to akidashi-ichibanzake. By now, the ageing process has perfectly balanced the flavour and aroma, bringing a deeper taste with a soft edge. Drink it cold to appreciate its sharpness or warm to bring out its sweetness.

The perfect pairing? Oden hotpot or fresh saury fish.

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Finally, the November release of hiyaoroshi is known as banshu-umazake. It becomes thicker, with a mature taste packed with richness and umami. Served warm to bring out its comforting mellowness, banshu-umazake is the ideal tipple for strong-flavoured food. Take your pick from salted fish, miso dishes or anything with soy sauce.

Full fall experience

The best way to experience hiyaoroshi is by heading to a sake-producing area like Karuizawa, around an hour from Tokyo by train. Thanks to its setting in the foothills of the Japanese Alps, this small city offers a plentiful supply of pristine water, an essential ingredient for making sake.

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Located outside the centre and surrounded by forested hills, Sonmin-Shokudo restaurant in the Karuizawa Hoshino Area organizes a special Sake Terrace every autumn to celebrate hiyaoroshi season.

This year, the ninth edition takes place from September 9th to October 6th, a chance to sample a range of autumn sake from some of the thirteen local breweries.

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Staff are on hand to explain the different varieties and guide your choices. And to accompany the mellow tones of seasonal sake, what better accompaniment than freshly-smoked food?

Help yourself to smoked cheese, fish, Nozawana turnips and much more – all grilled inside large sake barrels and smoked using lees from the sake-making process.

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For the ultimate autumn experience, combine the Sake Terrace with a night at nearby HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, where you’ll stay in a large tree-filled park crisscrossed with rivers and red footbridges. And you’ll have plenty of time to admire the vibrant colours of the tranquil forests surrounding the nearby volcano, Mt. Asama.

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ice-skating


Photo credits: Kurand.jp

Agritourism experience

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.

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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.

Nasu nature

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.

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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.

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In the annex building, the MINAMO rooms overlook the resort’s water garden from the living room, with forest views from the bedroom.

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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.

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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?

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The resort also offers a fun pizza-making activity where you’ll use fresh vegetables to bake your own pizza in a stone oven.

Farm-to-table

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

local-okinawan

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Resort booking banner HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island

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.

Try to win an exceptional stay in Japan!

Experience Japan’s unique lifestyle at 3 remarkable KAI properties. Our KAI Hotels are perfect for blissful bathing and dining !

⬇️ Contest form here ⬇️

Answer here: Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa official page

Total package:

– 3 nights for 2 people in 1 room: 1 night (breakfast included) at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji, 1 night (breakfast included) at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa, 1 night (breakfast included) at Hoshino Resorts KAI Tsugaru.
– 1 dinner for 2 people* at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji. (*drinks excluded)
– 1 dinner for 2 people* at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa. (*drinks excluded)
– 1 dinner for 2 people* at Hoshino Resorts KAI Tsugaru. (*drinks excluded)
– Available from September 1st, 2019 to June 30th, 2020

– Excluded dates for:

Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji

Fridays, Saturdays, Day before national holidays, Closed period,
2019/10/5 to 2019/11/16, 2019/12/27 to 2020/1/4, 2020/4/29 to 2020/5/6.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa

Fridays, Saturdays, Day before national holidays, Closed period,
2019/11/1 to 2019/11/16, 2019/12/27 to 2020/1/4, 2020/4/29 to 2020/5/6.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Tsugaru

Fridays, Saturdays, Day before national holidays, Closed period,
2019/10/4 to 2019/11/3, 2019/12/28 to 2020/1/4, 2020/3/20, 2020/4/18 to 2020/5/6.


Still not convinced? Here’s more about the prizes:

Located in Tochigi Prefecture some 100 miles north of Tokyo, Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji is the perfect contrast to the buzz and bustle of Japan’s capital.

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japanese-onsen

What can you expect from your stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa? Unique gastronomic experiences, hot springs rejuvenation, and relaxation in the lush gardens.

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And discover Tsugaru’s national parks, ancient settlements and moving castle while relaxing in a revamped ryokan: Hoshino Resorts KAI Tsugaru.

All about onsen

As a land of volcanic activity, Japan has plenty of hot springs. In total, there are estimated to be some 30,000 dotted around the country, with around 3,000 transformed into onsen resorts. These facilities offer traditional ryokan-style accommodation, allowing guests to make the most of the bathing experience.

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If you’re looking for a unique insight into Japanese culture – as well as total-body relaxation, a visit to an onsen is a must. But what kind of onsen should you choose? How should you behave in the public baths? And how can you get the most from your hot spring experience?

A long history

In Japan, the official definition of hot springs is any water, steam or gas that originates from underground at a temperature of at least 25C and contains different salts and minerals. Most hot springs are of volcanic origin, with the water heated by magma several kilometres deep into the Earth’s crust and jettisoned to the surface. In onsen facilities, the water temperature is usually around 40C.

Hot springs have long had an important role in Japanese society, closely associated with the ritualistic cleansing of body and soul since the rise of Buddhism in the 6th century.

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And from the early 18th century, they were recognized by the medical community for their curative and restorative powers. Today, numerous hot spring hospitals still offer treatments for everything from rheumatism to post-operation recovery.

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Many towns have forged their reputation on the quality of their onsen. Hakone, home to Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone, is known nationwide for its baths dating back to the 8th century.

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And in the foothills of the Japanese Alps, HOSHINOYA Karuizawa has a century-old history. It was established in 1914 by Kasuke Hoshino, and has since been transformed into a luxury onsen resort by the 4th generation of the family.

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Mineral benefits

The mineral content of hot springs can vary significantly depending on their source. And each type of hot spring is said to have different effects on the skin and body, with many Japanese people claiming to feel the difference as soon as they enter the water.

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A so-called “simple” hot spring is one that contains only small amounts of minerals and has an alkaline pH of 8.5 or more. These hot springs, which include those at lakeside Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko in the Nikko National Park, are known for reducing fatigue and gently stimulating the skin. The alkalinity also helps to soften collagen and remove sebum, an oily secretion that can cause acne.

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Chloride hot springs, such as Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone, are rich in chloride and sodium, with the salt coating the body and helping to warm and moisturize the skin. Sulfate baths, meanwhile, help hydrate the skin, protecting it from drying out and accelerating the body’s natural healing process.

At Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito on the Izu Peninsula, the sulfate baths are also rich in calcium, giving the skin a smooth, silky glow.

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Private or public

Most onsen offer single-sex public bathing, where visitors must respect a certain etiquette. This involves washing your body and hair at the shower space before you enter the water, tying up long hair and covering any tattoos. And you need to be naked: swimming costumes are not allowed! To optimize the experience, many Japanese use special breathing and stretching exercises to draw minerals into the body and improve the circulation.

At Hoshino Resorts, the onsen feature both indoor and outdoor public baths, usually with a view of nature.

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At Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone, you can bathe while contemplating the verdant hillsides of Mt. Yusaka. And at Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu hotel, the outdoor baths overlook the spectacular Oirase Gorge.

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For an original onsen experience, head to HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, where you can bathe in the dark, or to HOSHINOYA Tokyo, where the roof-top baths are open all through the night, allowing you to gaze up at the stars in the middle of Tokyo.

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Resort booking banner HOSHINOYA TOKYO

And for the ultimate luxury, why not treat yourself to a room with your own private onsen? Many Hoshino Resorts properties offer this service, but perhaps the ultimate setting is at Hoshino Resorts KAI Aso, where each private villa features an expansive terrace with a large hot spring tub, illuminated by a flaming torch at night.

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What better way to loosen your muscles after a day walking in the volcanic wilderness of the surrounding Aso-Kuju National Park?


Now you’ve read the article, test your knowledge with our Onsen Quiz!

bouton quiz

24 hours at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko

12.30pm

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.

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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.

1pm

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.

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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.

3pm

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.

3.45pm

Thanks to its setting above the road, Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko offers magnificent panoramas.

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From the reception area, the impressive Mt. Nantai volcano (2486m) looms in the foreground, while forested mountains encircle the lake.

4pm

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.

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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.

5pm

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.

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Lie back in the naturally warm Chuzenji waters, known for their softness, and feel the stress seeping from your body.

7pm

Every night, Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko holds a special tap-dancing show to celebrate the Nikko geta, a sturdy straw sandal designed to withstand the harsh local climate.

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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!

7.30pm

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.

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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.

10pm

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.

8am

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.

9am

You’re all set to explore the wilderness on your doorstep. Land or lake? It’s up to you.

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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?

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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.

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At Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko, there is truly a whole world to explore outside your window.

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Taketomi’s Tanadui festival

Situated around 1,200 miles south-west of Tokyo in Okinawa Prefecture, the tiny sub-tropical island of Taketomi has its own unique culture. Every year, it celebrates these time-honored traditions in some 30 different festivals. By far the most important – and most spectacular – of these is the Tanadui festival, held every autumn to pray for a plentiful harvest.

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The festival comprises 10 days of prayers, theatre, dance and music, culminating in 2 days when over 80 lively performances are enacted by exuberant, colourfully-clothed locals.

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As part of its mission to celebrate the island culture, HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island is inviting guests to experience the festival from the inside. Stay at this luxury resort and you’ll be able to participate in a ceremony alongside the islanders, get insights from local guides, and enjoy the culinary treats of one of Okinawa’s most original festivals.

Preserving tradition

Tanadui is held every year in the ninth month of the lunar calendar (14-23 October in 2019). The festival dates back some 600 years and is designated as one of Japan’s Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. For such a tiny island (Taketomi measures just 1 mile wide and 3 miles long), it’s a major celebration.

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When HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island was established in 2012, its founding principle was to coexist with the island – and the Tanadui festival is an important part of that. The resort is made up of private villas, built in the island’s signature style of wood and red roof tiles, with white sand streets and stacked coral walls perfectly mirroring the style of Taketomi’s three small villages.

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Islanders regularly come to the HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island to demonstrate their culture, arts and cuisine. And, at the entrance to the resort lies a vegetable garden that plays a key role in the Tanadui festival.

Sowing the seeds

While agriculture was once a major part of life on Taketomi island, most locals now make their living by other means, including tourism. In order to preserve the island’s farming traditions, HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island has worked with the older generation to maintain age-old techniques and keep flagship produce growing on the island. Head to the resort’s garden and, alongside rows of Taketomi potato, you’ll find an area reserved for foxtail millet – a key ingredient of the Tanadui festival.

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Millet seeds are sown as part of Tanadui and islanders perform a special dance to win favour with the Gods for a successful crop. Foxtail millet is also a key ingredient in much of the festival’s food – but, for many years, it had to be imported specially for Tanadui. That all changed last year, when the first crop from the resort’s garden was used as an offering for the Gods.

This year, the gardens will again be the site of the ceremonial sowing of millet seeds on the fifth day of the festival, following by Shinto chanting. Guests are welcome to come and see the event for themselves.

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In addition, HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island will be serving a special festival breakfast (1-23 October) featuring dishes such as gokokumai, a mix of rice and foxtail millet, and andansu, made with millet and miso.

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In the afternoons, you’ll be able to sample a traditional festival snack called Iiyachi, a sweet rice cake of millet and red beans. And early evening, you can treat yourself to 3 types of pindako, a Tanadui garlic-and-octopus dish made using recipes from 3 different islanders.

Sing, dance, chant

The festival’s eighth and ninth days (21-22 October) are the liveliest, with some 80 performances staged in honor of the deities. And, thanks to special tours organized by HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, you’ll be able to experience them to the full.

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On the eve of the eighth day, the locals perform a ceremony known a Yukui, visiting houses in the village while chanting a prayer. Homeowners offer the visitors pindako, along with salt and awamori (Okinawan sake). By signing up with HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, you can take part in the ceremony, training with staff to practice the chants beforehand: an immersive experience you’ll remember for a long time to come!

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During the climactic two days of performance, you can opt for a guided visit of the festival with a local expert. From the side lines, you’ll hear about the different costumes, music, dances and kyogen (comic theatre sketches) that make Tanadui such an exuberant and memorable moment in the islanders’ year.


Photo Credits:

Tetsushi Kimura / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Kanazawa cuisine

If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, the central Honshu city of Kanazawa is one to put on your wish-list. Set between the Sea of Japan and the Japanese Alps, it is blessed with ideal conditions for growing quality rice and a whole range of unique vegetables.

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And thanks to its coastal location between the cool northern and warm southern currents, its fish and seafood are famed throughout Japan. Combine these natural resources with a tradition of culinary knowhow, and you’ll understand why Kanazawa is a foodie favourite.

At Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga, you can sample some of the region’s most famed dishes, from steamed snow crabs to fresh abalone sashimi, in an upscale hot spring ryokan.

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You can easily spend a few days in the area, exploring not just the culinary scene, but also Kanazawa’s rich culture and history.

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Known as “Little Kyoto”, the city boasts wonderfully-preserved geisha and samurai districts, as well as one of Japan’s most celebrated gardens.

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Gourmet tradition

Just 3 hours by train from Tokyo, Kanazawa has a varied food scene, commonly known as “Kaga cuisine”. In the feudal period, the ruling Maeda family brought advanced cooking techniques to the region, and the culinary tradition lives on today.

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Specialities include jibuni, tender duck coated in flour or potato starch and simmered in a soy-based broth, gori-kara-age, crispy deep-fried fish that come bite-sized, and hasu-mushi, lotus root delicately steamed with vegetables, shrimps and seasonal fish. But there is much more to Kaga cuisine.

Fresh catch

One of the great pleasures of a trip to Kanazawa is treating yourself to some of Japan’s freshest and most flavorsome seafood.

Crab season runs from November to March, with the snow crab (zuwaigani) prized as winter’s choice treat.  At Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga, you can sample a particularly creative zuwaigani dish known as shimenawa-mushi, snow crab steamed in a saltwater-soaked rope to make it plumper, juicier and more concentrated in umami.

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You’ll also find crab served throughout the multi-course kaiseki menu: charcoal-grilled, fried, as raw sashimi or in a shabu-shabu hotpot with rice porridge.

Each season brings a new seafood delight. In summer, Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga serves abalone sashimi floating in ice water with a special liver-based or hard tofu sauce.

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In autumn, you can look forward to the much-prized blackthroat seaperch served as a delicate sashimi, or rosy seabass, a fatty white fish accompanied by seasonal vegetables.

All year round, the restaurant uses special crockery, carefully picked out to accentuate the presentation of the food.

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This meticulous marriage of plate and dish is a tradition of Kaga cuisine, inspired by the philosophy of legendary Japanese artist and epicurean Kitaooji Rosanjin, who famously said that “the plate is the kimono of a dish”.

Native vegetables

Thanks to high-quality water from the Hakusan Mountains, the plain of Kaga provides a fertile ground for growing excellent rice (which, in turn, produces top-class sake) and so-called Kaga vegetables.

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Some 15 vegetables are recognised by Kanazawa City Agricultural Association as native Kaga vegetables, each with their own distinct form and colour.

The small heta murasaki eggplant, is delicious in noodle dishes thanks to its thin skin and soft flesh. The satsumaimo sweet potato is baked to heighten its soft, flaky texture, while the kinjiso is a leafy green-and-purple vegetable with a deep flavour when served as tempura.

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For a unique vegetable experience, head to nearby Kaga City to test the Kaga Parfait: a five-layered dessert made by combining Kaga vegetables with sponge cake and jelly.

Must-visit market

Even if you’re not a foodie, make sure you visit the bustling Omicho market, dubbed the “Kitchen of Kanazawa”. Held every day, it’s a hive of activity, with locals shopping around for the freshest fish, stall-holders pushing carts through the maze of alleys, and businessmen queuing up to eat in the numerous restaurants.

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Many stalls prepare and serve seafood dishes in front of you. At Shimada Suisan, you can sample anything from fresh crab to juicy oysters and plump Kuro shrimp. Or head to Shunsai Yaki, where abalone steak is grilled in front of you, served with homemade sauce and butter.

Other highlights include Tofu Shop Futaroku, where you can see tofu being made from the shop’s own homemade soy milk. And, before you leave, take the time to sample at least one of the more than 50 local sakes on sale. Kanazawa is reputed for producing some of Japan’s very best!