Yamaguchi Prefecture is the westernmost point of Japan’s main island. This is a region of quiet beaches, exquisite seafood, and ancient samurai towns. The small city of Hagi is known nationwide for its castle and pottery.
The celebrated fish market in Shimonoseki specializes in the infamous fugu blowfish. And Motonosumi-jinja is a stunning oceanside shrine reached via a clifftop passage of over 100 bright red torii gates.
It is here, in this area of cultural riches and sublime scenery, that Hoshino Resorts KAI Nagato will open its doors on March 12, 2020.
Set on the outskirts of the coastal town of Nagato, this new ryokan lies along the Otozure river and is part of a major project to revitalize the local onsen district, once frequented by powerful samurai. As well as enjoying the hot spring baths, guests at the ryokan will be treated to local seafood delicacies and immersed in a décor inspired by samurai culture. Where better to base yourself to explore off-the-beaten-track Japan?
Reviving the golden days of samurai
Back in the Edo Period (1603-1868), Nagato Yumoto Onsen was a thriving hot spring resort. The heads of the influential Mori clan regularly bathed here, and the district attracted some 400,000 visitors per year.
In recent years, that figure has fallen to around half – prompting the local authorities to launch a major project to restore the district to its former glory. Since 2016, Hoshino Resorts has been working with the town of Nagato to revitalize the river area, bringing new life to the resort.
As part of the project, terraces are being created along the river, with floating platforms known as kawadoko installed above the surface of the water.
The promenade will be lit at night and the open-air public baths, the oldest in Yamaguchi Prefecture, will be fully renovated. What’s more, the opening of Hoshino Resorts KAI Nagato will bring new energy to this historic area.
Design inspired by history
The concept of KAI ryokans is to celebrate local culture. At Hoshino Resorts KAI Nagato, you’ll be immersed in the samurai heritage of the region. The lobby and guest rooms all have a contemporary style inspired by samurai culture.
Step into your tatami-floor room and you’ll notice the bed is on a raised floor with a lattice enclosure – echoing the traditions of feudal lords. The headboard features a special local paper known as Tokuji Washi, a craft dating back over 800 years.
Once a popular element of décor, Tokuji Washi is now only produced by two manufacturers. It is handmade using fibres from the kozu and mitsumata plants, both grown by the ryokan as natural resources.
Rooms also feature original pieces of Hagi pottery, specially commissioned by the ryokan from local artists. Made using local red clay, Hagiyaki was extremely popular during the Edo Period, particularly as teaware for the tea ceremony.
One of the highlights of a stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nagato is the ryokan’s hot spring baths, known for their beautifying properties for the skin.
After rejuvenating your body in the naturally warm waters, you can relax in the lounge while admiring views of the Otozure river.
Dinner at the ryokan makes full use of the riches of the ocean. Squid is a speciality and you’ll sample it both sweet and thick and as soft, melt-in-your-mouth sashimi.
Other highlights include sea urchin appetizers and a dessert made with Yamaguchi Prefecture’s famous natsumikan orange.
Just a 40-minute drive from the ryokan is one of Japan’s most spectacularly-set shrines. With a backdrop of rugged cliffs and crashing waves, Motonosumi-jinja is accessed via a passage of 123 red torii gates cut into a grassy hillside.
On a sunny day, the contrasting colours are a photographer’s dream. An eccentricity of the shrine is that the offering box is located on top of the tallest torii gate. Only if you manage to land your coin in the box will your wish come true! Look out for Ryugu no Shiofuki (Dragon’s spout), an eroded cliff face that spits out a spectacular geyser when crashing waves are forced in and out of small holes in the rock.
Other highlights close to the ryokan include the samurai city of Hagi and Akiyoshido, Japan’s largest limestone cave.
Enough to persuade you to prolong your stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nagato?