Hoshino Resorts KAI Nagato: a samurai-inspired ryokan

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Natural riches

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.

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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.

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Other highlights include sea urchin appetizers and a dessert made with Yamaguchi Prefecture’s famous natsumikan orange.

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Coastal exploration

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.

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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.

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Enough to persuade you to prolong your stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nagato?

Japan’s unique winter fruits

Despite heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures, a wide range of fresh fruit flourishes in Japan’s winter months. Many native citrus trees are extremely hardy, their branches bearing bundles of snow-covered fruit. Strawberries are also strongly associated with winter, and Japan is home to some 300 different varieties!

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And many Japanese will tell you about the winter tradition of unpeeling mikan mandarins around a kotatsu heated table.

Head to Japan in the winter and you’ll discover a world of fruit you may never have encountered. This year, Hoshino Resorts is organizing multiple ways to make the most of the seasonal fruits – from strawberry-themed stays to citrus hot spring baths.

What better way to relax after a day exploring the snow-filled scenery of rural Japan?

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While Japanese strawberries are grown outdoors in spring and early summer, they’re best-known as a winter fruit cultivated in vast greenhouses. They’re also viewed as a luxury and closely associated with romance.

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A number of varieties have love-inspired names, such as Aiberi (Love berry) or Hatsukoi no Kaori (Scent of first love), a white-flesh berry with pink skin. The ultimate gift for your loved one? The enormous all-white Shiroi Houseki (White jewel), which usually costs around 1000 yen per berry.

More common varieties include the small, sweet Tochiotome from Tochigi Prefecture, while Amao from Fukuoka Prefecture is round, rich and often very big.

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Or how about the slightly acidic Benihoppe “red cheeks” from Shizuoka?

Strawberry stay

For the full winter strawberry experience, head to one of three KAI ryokans offering special themed programs this winter.

In the mountains north of Tokyo, Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko has created a pop-up Panoramic Tearoom for the season, offering prime lakeside views of the snow-covered volcano Mt. Nantai.

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At sunset and sunrise, you can come here to taste Japan’s much sought-after white strawberries, complete with a fondue dip of sweet bean jelly (a Nikko speciality).

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In the morning, head here to treat yourself to champagne, strawberries, and raw strawberry daifuku, a local mochi-based specialty. What’s more, you’ll be served strawberry sweet rice wine (amazake) when you first arrive, and a revitalizing strawberry milk after taking a hot spring bath.

Or how about heading to strawberry heartland in Tochigi Prefecture with a stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji? Located in the snow-strewn Japanese Alps, with free shuttle buses to prime ski stations, this ryokan is also offering a strawberry-themed stay until the end of February. You’ll be able to pick your own Tochiotome berries in the property’s watermill and then make a strawberry oshiruko — sweet red bean soup— with white strawberries.

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At Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa, also in Tochigi Prefecture, you’ll have a chance to sample different Japanese strawberry varieties while sipping on champagne. For dinner, the chef creates a strawberry and red wine paper hot-pot vanilla ice cream.

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Citrus for the senses

If you’re a fan of citrus fruit, you’ll have plenty to choose from during Japan’s winter. Yuzu is a firm favourite, its lumpy yellow skin eventually ripening to green and its acidic juice regularly used in cooking and skin products. Bathing in yuzu is said to improve the circulation and help fight off winter illness.

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At Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo in yuzu-producing Shimane Prefecture, you can lie back in natural hot spring baths surrounded by floating yuzu. A great way to recharge your batteries after a day visiting Izumo Taisha, one of the most iconic shrines in Japan.

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Other winter citrus fruit includes the iyokan, which resembles a mandarin and has a juicy, slightly bitter taste; and the mikan, an easy-to-peel satsuma orange that is strongly associated with winter.

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Or how about the dekopon, a large, very sweet and seedless mandarin variety easily recognizable by the bumpy growth on its top?

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As it originates from Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, it’s often used in the local cuisine, including on the winter menu at Hoshino Resorts KAI Aso. Set within the volcanic landscapes of the Aso-Kuju National Park, the ryokan is a great choice if you prefer more temperate climates in winter.

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And at nearby farms, you’ll also be able to discover everything from the sour and highly-prized local kabosu to the mandarin-pomelo hybrid ponkan.

A whole world of fruit awaits you!

Japan’s top coffee shops

Japan may be associated with green tea, but the Japanese are also one of the world’s leading importers of coffee. Whether your favourite brew is a dark espresso or a frothy macchiato, you’re never far from a coffee outlet.

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Vending machines sell it hot and cold, convenience stores sell it at all hours – and Japan is also home to some of the best and quirkiest coffee shops around.

Discover our pick of where to go when you’re next in need of coffee in Japan!

Coffee art in Tokyo

Looking for a coffee experience with a difference? Japan’s capital is full of them! Stay at Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka and you’ll have your own coffee shop on site. This stylish urban hotel is a great base for discovering alternative Tokyo thanks to its local guides and casual vibe – which extends to the coffee shop in the reception area.

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Fresh coffee is served all day, as well as original sweet treats, including Japanese-style pancakes (dorayaki) with fruit fillings. In the evening, the café doubles up as a bar.

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From Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka, you can take the Yamanote line a few stops to Harajuku – where the tiny Reissue café has been crafting astonishing latte art since 2015. Order any milk-based drink and then put the resident artist’s talents to the test by requesting the image of your choice.


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You can opt for flat 2D art or the more Instagram-friendly 3D art. The edible milk foam masterpieces will leave you marvelling.

For more latte art, head to the café at Nissan Crossing, the glamorous Ginza showroom of the Japanese carmaker. First, you’ll be photographed by staff. Next, a high-tech latte printer will render the image in steamed milk on top your coffee – with jaw-dropping detail and clarity.


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Your final stop on the latte art tour of Tokyo? The Roar Coffee House and Roastery in Hatchobori. Here, steamed milk comes in full colour! Sit back and let the barista inject some polychromatic pizzazz to your cup.


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Alternatively, if bean quality is your priority, you’re sure to appreciate Koffee Mameya. This Shibuya shop focuses on some 15 varieties of beans from a range of origins and roasted all over the world.


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Bags are available for home brewing, but you can also order a cup at the counter – where you’ll be treated to the mastery of coffee guru Eiichi Kunitomo and his staff.

Taking their time, they’ll guide you through the diverse beans and then carefully make the perfect cup in front of you.

Beachside settings

Away from Tokyo, you can drink coffee with your feet in the sand. Quite literally at Sorano Beach Books & Cafe. Located on the top floor of Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Atami, this entire library-café is lined with boardwalks, white sand and beach recliners.

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It’s exclusively open to guests of the hotel, situated just over an hour from Tokyo and a great base for exploring the beautiful Izu Peninsula. The relaxed beach vibe extends to the menu, featuring fresh fruit smoothies as well as coffee and green tea latte. And thanks to its hilltop setting, there are sweeping vistas of the city and Sagami bay.

Another prime panoramic beach café is opening May 20, 2020 on the main island of Okinawa. Set in the middle of an inlet surrounded by craggy cliffs, Hoshino Resorts Banta Cafe offers terraced seating, allowing you to choose between shoreline sofas and panoramic seaview seats.

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Greenery and rocks are intertwined with café furniture to create a spectacular setting for sipping fresh coffee.

Fuji coffee culture

If you’re staying at HOSHINOYA Fuji, you’ll have first-class views of Japan’s most famous peak from your room – and you can help yourself to complimentary coffee around the resort’s all-day bonfire.

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Just a few minutes downhill, the town of Kawaguchi is home to a number of notable coffee houses.

Coffee connoisseurs should head to Cisco Coffee. Inspired by the third wave of coffee, its menu covers everything from organic to limited-edition flavours.

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All beans are single origin and roasted by a famed San Francisco roastery. Alternatively, head to the book café TABiLiON to sip new crop coffee while browsing English books from the shelves.

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Two other Kawaguchi coffee houses are worth visiting for their bread. Bakery Cafe Esola is famed for its 120 types of bread baked using lava from Mount Fuji, while Lake Bake Studio crafts a walnut and raisin “Aged Bun” made with wine yeast aged for 10 days.

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Both cafés offer excellent views of Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. Where better to enjoy a casual coffee breakfast?

Japan for the under 30s

If you’re in your 20s or early 30s, Japan is calling you now. Thanks to the “Travel in Your 20’s” program and a new hotel concept designed especially for millennials, the country has never been so accessible.

Like to test authentic Japanese hospitality at a traditional ryokan with hot spring baths? Or maybe you’d prefer a casual hotel where rules are relaxed, parties are allowed, and you can come and go as you please?

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Both types of experience are available at very attractive rates thanks to Hoshino Resorts!

Kick back in Karuizawa

In February 2019, Hoshino Resorts opened the first of its new BEB hotels in Karuizawa, the celebrated Alpine resort just an hour from Tokyo by shinkansen. BEB offers a new casual concept of accommodation aimed firmly at the younger generation. It strips back on rules and regulations and opens up to spontaneity and celebrations.

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At Hoshino Resorts BEB5 Karuizawa, you can decide your own timeline and schedule. Not an early riser? No problem: you can have breakfast whenever and wherever you want. The café is open 24/7 and you can choose to eat in the café, in the outdoor chillout space, or even in your bed!

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As a guest, you’ll have around-the clock access to the hot springs at Hoshino Resorts Tombo-no-yu, just a short walk away and at a special rate of ¥600. The hotel also offers a number of activities with no need to reserve in advance. And while checkout time is formally 11am, there’s more than a modicum of flexibility – which means you don’t need to feel rushed.

As a bonus, the hotel offers a special flat rate for under-35s. At Karuizawa, 3 people sharing a room will pay only ¥5000 each.

A wealth of party places

The café at Hoshino Resorts BEB5 Karuizawa opens up onto the TAMARIBA lounge, a vast public space with chairs, cushions and rugs. Music flows from the DJ booth and you’re welcome to eat and drink here day or night.

Order a craft beer, original blend coffee or sweet treat from the café – or simply bring your own drinks and snacks. There’s even a range of card and board games you can play.

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At the end of the lounge, glass doors lead into a large wood deck courtyard. Long, cushion-covered benches are positioned around a fire pit – the perfect place to chill or party with friends under the stars.

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Alternatively, you can take your after-hours celebrations to your room. Beds are raised above a large low sofa, ideal for mini-parties with friends.

More BEB to come

Hoshino Resorts BEB5 Karuizawa is the blueprint for the BEB brand – and plenty more hotels are planned. On March 19, 2020, Hoshino Resorts BEB5 Tsuchiura will open on the shores of Lake Kasumigaura, an hour north-east of Tokyo. In an area known for its spectacular cycling, the hotel will be bike-friendly and bike-themed!

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Guests will be able to cycle in, check in and check out on their bikes. The reception area has been designed to have plenty of space to bike around freely. You can even take your bike to your room and hang it up on the wall rack provided.

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The new hotel will be located right by the JR railway station for easy access to Tokyo. And the cycling around Lake Kasumigaura is stunning, offering prime views of the verdant Tsukuba mountain range.

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Like Karuizawa, the hotel will offer a 24/7 concept of total freedom.

Ryokan experience for under 30s

If you’re under 30 and would like to sample an authentic Japanese ryokan, the “Travel in Your 20’s” program at KAI hotels is designed for you. Unlike BEB hotels, Hoshino Resorts’ KAI accommodation offers a Zen experience with classic Japanese architecture, local kaiseki cuisine and onsite hot spring baths.

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As well as benefiting from a reduction of up to 46% off the standard rate, you’ll have access to a 30% discount on car rentals – and each ryokan also offers a specially-priced 30-minute massage at its onsite spa.

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KAI has properties all over Honshu and Kyushu. To benefit from the program, you simply need to be aged 20 to 29 and book no more than 44 days in advance. Take your pick from the mountain air of Hoshino Resorts KAI Alps, the lakeside panorama of Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko or the volcanic views of Hoshino Resorts KAI Aso.

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A total of 15 different ryokans offer you the experience of a lifetime while you’re still in your 20s!

6 eco-friendly experiences at Hoshino Resorts

Looking for an agritourism stay in Japan? A hotel that embraces the local community and culture? Or a self-sustaining resort that respects the environment? At Hoshino Resorts, our ryokans have always been built in harmony with nature and in collaboration with the locals.

Here are 6 reasons why you can have peace of mind when you stay with us.

1 – Powered by mountain rivers

When our first resort opened in Karuizawa back in 1915, it was already generating hydropower using a wooden water wheel.

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That same site has since become HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, our luxury eco-resort in the foothills of the Japanese Alps – and it’s still creating its own energy through water!

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Inspired by the Energy In My Yard (EIMY) model, we have built two HEP stations on site to harness the natural power of the mountain river that flows through the ryokan’s gardens.

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This energy is supplemented by geothermal energy from the local hot springs. Together, these two sources allow HOSHINOYA Karuizawa to be 70% self-sufficient in energy.

2 – Farm Hoshino

Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Tomamu in Hokkaido is a leading ski resort – but it’s also a farm. The grassy expanses within the resort were once used to graze cows, sheep, goats and horses – and the tradition has recently been revived with Farm Hoshino.

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This small farm specializes in dairy products, with fresh milk served at the buffet restaurant. The farm also crafts its own ice cream and butter.

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What better way to enjoy farm-to-table?

3 – Eco-tours in a wildlife sanctuary

HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is set among forested hills beneath the famed Mt. Asama volcano. Just opposite the resort, wildlife organization Picchio offers an extensive range of eco-tourism experiences, including a chance to spot the native mountain serow or glimpse the Japanese flying squirrel.

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Picchio is a long-time partner of Hoshino Resorts and, as well as organizing ecotours, it has an active role in protecting and conserving wildlife. The national bird sanctuary beside HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is home to 80 species of birds, including the native Japanese Green Woodpecker and Copper pheasant.

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Picchio also runs a protection program for the Asian black bear, which roams this part of Honshu. To promote the safe coexistence of bears and humans, the wildlife team captures bears that venture near town and tags them with a radio-collar so their movements can be tracked. Specially-trained dogs then chase off the bears with loud barking to dissuade them from returning.

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The idea is to reduce potential conflict between bears and humans.

4 – Targeting zero waste

When you stay with us, you’ll find very little single-use plastic. Individually-packaged toiletries have been replaced by pump bottles filled with high-quality body wash, shampoo and conditioner.

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Bottled water is being phased out in favour of water coolers. And we now recycle all discarded toothbrushes. Back in 2011, our flagship resort HOSHINOYA Karuizawa managed to achieve zero emissions. That’s the aim for all our properties.

5 – Preserving agricultural traditions

On a tiny island in Okinawa, HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island is reviving ancient agricultural practices. From the outset, the resort was designed in respect of local traditions, with the private villas all featuring wooden walls and red-tile roofing.

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Since 2017, the resort has cultivated its own vegetable garden. By consulting the older generation of islanders, it is keeping alive traditional farming methods, producing rows of Taketomi potato, foxtail millet and the local soybean kumomami.

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The harvest is then used as ingredients to create locally-inspired dishes in the resort’s restaurant.

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6 – Japan’s first agritourism resort

In November 2019, Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Nasu opened as Japan’s first agritourism resort. Set in the foothills of the Nasu mountains, the hotel is surrounded by mountain streams, thick forests and flooded paddy fields.

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During your stay, you’ll be able to tend to and pick produce from the surrounding land. You can sign up for hands-on workshops that will take you into the greenhouses and fields to learn about seasonal herbs and crops.

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Or how about making your own pizza with fresh vegetables and baking it in a stone oven?

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Of course, the restaurant uses seasonally, locally-sourced produce from Tochigi Prefecture, known nationwide for its rice, vegetables, strawberries and mushrooms.

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Alternative ski experiences in Japan

Looking for a ski experience with a difference? This winter, you can hone your freestyle skills in a world-class terrain park – even if you’re just a beginner. Or how about hurtling down the slopes while making videos and chatting with up to 10 friends? You can even ski 2 resorts in a single day.

It’s all part of the experience on Mt. Bandai in Honshu’s Fukushima Prefecture – where the ski season runs for 150 days!

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Alternatively, you can test a unique urban ski experience in Hokkaido. Based in Asahikawa, you’ll make the most of the city’s famed nightlife while skiing at a different resort every day.

Powder snow and halfpipes

Stay at Hoshino Resorts Bandaisan Onsen Hotel and you’ll have a ski paradise on your doorstep – including one of Japan’s very best terrain parks.

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This stylish highland hotel overlooks Lake Inawashiro and offers easy access to 2 ski resorts. It’s also the perfect option for post-ski rejuvenation thanks to its spa, hot spring baths and Japanese-style hospitality.

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And it’s just 3 and-a-half hours from Tokyo on public transport or by car.

This season, a snow trail has been created linking the 2 ski resorts: Alts Bandai on the southern face of the mountain and Nekoma Snow Park on the north side – famed for its powder snow. The new path means you can walk between the 2 resorts in just 15 minutes, rather than having to drive an hour between the two.

Freestyle festival

Whether you’re a freestyle first-timer or a seasoned pro, there’s a terrain park for you at Mt. Bandai. Both resorts on the mountain feature jibs and jumps for skiing and snowboarding. Never tried before? Sign up for the Beginner’s Park session. You’ll be taught the basic rules and tricks so you can experience the adrenaline rush of jumping over your first kicker.

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And you’ll learn how to handle undulating terrain such as banks and waves in the Flowable Park.

If you’re a confident freestyler, there’s plenty to test your mettle. The slope-style Monster Park at Nekoma features triple kickers and all sorts of jibs.

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And the Global Park at Alts Bandai has been designed by the team behind the Pyeongchang Olympic Games. It’s regularly used by pro snowboarders such as Miyabi Onitsuka, who won the 2018-19 World Cup Women’s Snowboard Park & Pipe category.

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As well as a 20-metre kicker and 15-metre long jib, the park features a new kicker that launches you diagonally in the air.

Hi-tech skiing

Together, the 2 resorts on Mt. Bandai provide plenty of top-quality downhill runs – and thanks to a new offer at Alts Bandai, you can experience the powder snow in a whole new way! Fun Ride + is a service that lets you change your snowboard to suit the conditions of the day. What’s more, you’ll be able to equip yourself with cutting-edge technology so you can take photos, film videos and talk with your friends while speeding down the slopes.

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With GoPro HERO 7, you can record top-quality images of your time skiing in Japan’s famed powder snow. The camera comes with image stabilization technology and is voice-operated so you don’t have to remove your gloves.

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And to enrich your day on the slopes, how about equipping your group with BONX earphones? This hands-free device connects with your smartphone to provide a communication network for up to 10 people. You’ll be able to talk to everyone in your group as you weave your way down the mountain, sharing your experiences in real time.

Urban ski adventure

If you prefer your skiing with a dash of urban excitement, head to Hoshino Resorts OMO7 Asahikawa this winter. Set in Asahikawa, Hokkaido’s second city, this contemporary-design hotel is offering a special package so you can make the most of both the local nightlife and the local skiing.

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Free shuttle and pick-up services give you easy access to 4 varied resorts in Japan’s “powder belt”, including Hokkaido’s largest ski area in Furano and the island’s highest peak Daisetsuzan Asahidake (2291m).

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You can read the morning ski report and pick the destination with the best conditions.

And, back at the hotel in the evenings, you’ll test the city’s exuberant side. Simply follow the hotel’s insider experts to the most buzzing bars and best places to eat in town.

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Proof once again that Japan’s skiing experience is about much more than simply gliding down the slopes!

10 unique experiences at HOSHINOYA Kyoto

In December 2019, HOSHINOYA Kyoto celebrates 10 years of existence. Over the last decade, this luxury ryokan has earned plaudits for its customer experience unlike anywhere else in Japan’s ancient capital.

Here are 10 reasons to stay on the anniversary of its 10th year.


That riverside setting

You’re in Kyoto but you wouldn’t know it. Set by the Oi river and surrounded by the forested foothills of the Arashiyama mountains, HOSHINOYA Kyoto is the perfect place to recharge your batteries after a day of sightseeing.

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Every room has a river view – and you’ll arrive by river on a traditional wooden boat.

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A haven of tranquillity in one of Japan’s busiest cities.


Arashiyama

The ryokan is located in the western district of Arashiyama – one of the city’s most intriguing and tourist-friendly neighbourhoods.

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Within minutes, you can be walking across the iconic wooden Togetsu-kyo Bridge, regularly featured in historical films.

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Togetsu

Visiting the magnificent 14th-century Tenryu-ji temple with its sprawling gardens. Or wandering through the towering stalks of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

Tenryu

Arashiyama


Michelin approved

Every year since opening, HOSHINOYA Kyoto has been rated as one of the most exemplary ryokans in the local edition of the Michelin Guide.

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The property has consistently been awarded the “5 Pavilions” rating, the highest level available.


Morning meditation with a Buddhist priest

Here’s an experience that will stay with you for a very long time. Seize the moment by rising at the break of dawn and joining a small group at a nearby Buddhist temple for early morning meditation.

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Exclusively available to guests, the experience involves energetic chanting followed by calming, silent contemplation. After the ceremony, you’ll sip green tea with the priest and congregation.


Chef Kubota’s cuisine

Award-winning chef Ichiro Kubota is famed for his multi-course kaiseki cuisine.

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_0037_HOSHINOYA Kyoto Executive chef (Mr. Kubota) 1

Embracing Kyoto’s history as a culinary melting pot, he fuses distinctly Japanese tastes and ingredients with Western techniques learned during his time at Michelin-star restaurants in France and Britain.

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The result is a creative twist on Kyoto cuisine that celebrates the changing seasons.


Unique architecture

Built on the site of a 17th-century tycoon’s mansion, HOSHINOYA Kyoto has been designed to reflect the sophistication of its past while embracing contemporary comfort.

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Guest pavilions feature restored century-old wood, gold-patterned karakami wallpaper and shoji-paper sliding doors.

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All with river views and access through the carefully-landscaped Japanese garden.


Admire the seasons from a boat

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, HOSHINOYA Kyoto has built a traditional houseboat from cedar and bamboo. Guests can board the boat for a cruise following the meanders of the Oi river into the Hozugawa Canyon – whose tree-lined hills are a showcase for the changing seasons.

boat

Hozugawa-canyon

In spring, the slopes are thick with seasonal sakura. In autumn, they’re a festival of maple reds. The boat even has a glass roof so you can take it all in.


Private whisky bar

Japan is now widely regarded as one of the world’s leading producers of quality whisky. The ryokan’s Salon & Bar Kura, open exclusively to guests, is stocked with an astounding range of whiskies, including rare single malts of various ages.

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Enjoy a glass over a board game or with a selection of gourmet finger food.


Chat with apprentice geisha

Every year, HOSHINOYA Kyoto organizes a Maiko Salon (Feb 4-March 4, 2020) where women guests have a chance to talk face-to-face with apprentice geisha (maiko).

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Kyoto’s famous hanamachi (geisha districts) are largely reserved for male clients – so this is a rare opportunity for women to watch a traditional geisha dance and then chat to the performers. Feel free to ask them any question about geisha culture.


Zen retreat

Relax your mind and revitalize your body with a spa treatment. How about a tailored Shiatsu-style massage from a licenced therapist? Or a deep Japanese-style bath in your room, enhanced by floating lemons?

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You can even opt for a smartphone-free Digital Detox stay or a 2-day Waterside Relaxation program that promotes wellbeing through spiritual activities, spa treatments and specially-prepared meals.

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3 new destinations in Okinawa

Okinawa is unlike anywhere else in Japan. The country’s southernmost Prefecture is a collection of small islands with picture-perfect beaches, and a warm, subtropical climate all year round. And every island offers a different experience.

How about a luxury beachside villa surrounded by a coral reef on the main island? A stay in the heart of mangrove jungle populated by an endangered species? Or getting away from it all on a small island where giant manta rays swim in the cobalt-blue sea?

_0017_Hoshino Resorts Iriomote Hotel Dynamic adventure

From spring 2020, you’ll be able to experience all this and more thanks to 3 new properties from Hoshino Resorts. And that’s not to mention the existing HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, where guests are immersed in the culture of a tiny coral landmass in the Yaeyama islands.

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The jungle of Iriomote Island

Opened on October 1, 2019, Hoshino Resorts Iriomote Hotel is situated in the heart of the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park.

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Known as Japan’s “last unexplored region”, the island is 90% jungle and boasts a unique ecosystem populated by crested serpent eagles, yellow-margined box turtles and the endangered Iriomote cat.

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It is also the only place to house all seven species of mangrove native to Japan.

The newly-opened hotel is set along a white-sand beach at the edge of the jungle and makes an ideal base for exploring the extraordinary local flora and fauna. Rooms are spacious with terraces and luxurious daybed couches.

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The restaurant serves creative local food such as wild boar brown sugar sukiyaki and Japanese blue crab. And the pool and spa are ideal for relaxing post-exploration.

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Best of all, you have a bountiful wilderness on your doorstep. How about snorkelling among turtles and clownfish in one of the world’s largest coral reefs?

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Taking a tour to observe the legendary power-puff flowers that bloom at night and wither the next morning?

Barringtonia Racemosa

Heading into a forest illuminated by fireflies? Or watching the sun set as your kayak past mangroves? Equipment is provided by the hotel.

All your need is an adventurous spirit.

Oceanside Okinawa

HOSHINOYA Okinawa offers waterfront views and access to a pristine beach from every room.

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_0007_HOSHINOYA Okinawa Guest room

Located on Okinawa Island, the Prefecture’s biggest, the resort is surrounded by a stylish wall, a modernist take of the gusuku walls typical of the region. Its grand opening is scheduled for May 20, 2020.

The setting is a natural coastline virtually untouched by man with a shallow sea surrounded by a coral reef. Within the resort’s large complex, fields are filled with fruit trees bearing acerola and papaya, as well as tropical flowers and plants. This is quintessential Okinawa.

_0005_HOSHINOYA Okinawa ocean view

All rooms feature balconies and terraces opening onto the sea, plus an indoor patio with a long table where you can hold a private dinner party prepared by the resort’s chef.

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The most luxurious villas even have a 20-metre private pool. And everyone has access to a generous infinity pool overlooking the ocean.

During your stay, you’ll get to sample the exemplary cuisine of chef Tomoko Matsunashi, who fuses Okinawan ingredients with Sicilian traditions.

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_0015_HOSHINOYA Okinawa cuisine

The rest of the time you can choose between relaxing on the beach and at the spa – or experiencing authentic Okinawan activities such as martial arts in the resort’s dojo.

Coral reef retreat

Located in the Yaeyama Islands, Kohamajima is a short boat ride from Ishigaki airport – and a world apart in terms of atmosphere. This small island is a beach-lover’s paradise, set among the largest coral reef in the northern hemisphere.

Okinawa Kohama Island Beach_

From April 20, 2020, Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Kohamajima will open here, built around a pristine lagoon just a stone’s throw from expansive sand beaches.

Rooms are modern and spacious, with many overlooking the water. If you want to treat yourself, opt for the Royal Suite with your own private pool and jacuzzi on the terrace.

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_0002_Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Kohamajima SPA

Alternatively, you can swim in the large public pool.

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A short path leads from the resort to the beach, one of the largest in Okinawa. Lined with blooming bougainvillea and allamanda, the sandy shoreline includes a space where hammocks hang from trees – ideal for reading a book in the day or star-gazing by night.

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_0006_Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Kohamajima beach 2

And if you’re looking for adventure, you can snorkel or dive with the local manta rays. Alternatively, how about a short cruise to the ephemeral Mythical Island (Hamajima), which only appears at low tide? There’s even a golf course on the resort.

And, this being Okinawa, you can make the most of the ocean and the outdoors all year round under reliably warm skies.

5 unusual experiences in Japan’s snow country

In many parts of Japan, snow falls deep and temperatures remain well below zero throughout the winter. The famed powder snow attracts skiers and snowboarders in their millions – but there are also a host of other ways to experience Japan’s snow country.

How about taking a sake-themed train trip through the snowy wilderness of northern Aomori? Cocktails in an igloo?

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A night sleeping on a bed of ice? A nocturnal tour of frozen waterfalls? Or an urban ski adventure with a focus on après-ski entertainment?

We take a look at 5 experiences you can enjoy this winter in Japan’s snow country.


Urban skiing

Asahikawa is the second city of Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido – and it’s a lively place during the long ski season! Stay at Hoshino Resorts OMO7 Asahikawa and you’ll make the most of both the excellent local skiing and the exuberant nightlife.

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This stylish urban hotel provides free shuttle and pick-up services to Daisetsuzan Asahidake, the highest peak in Hokkaido (2291m) and 3 other resorts in Japan’s “powder belt”: Kamui Ski Links, known for challenging tree runs; Hoshino Resorts Tomamu Ski Area, packed with slopes of varying difficulties; and Furano Ski Area, the biggest in Hokkaido.

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Every morning, you can choose the resort with the best conditions. And then apply any of 30 different waxes to your skis or snowboard at the hotel’s Wax Bar.

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When you’re ready to party, the hotel’s local guides, known as OMO Rangers, will take you to the bars best-loved by local skiers and snowboarders in the city.

omo ranger

The perfect way to unwind while swapping notes on which ski resort to visit next.


Ride the sake train

Prefer to experience snow country from the comfort of a train? Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya is offering a private railway trip through the snow-strewn coastal landscapes of Aomori Prefecture.

train

Journeying from Misawa station to Aomori City, capital of the Prefecture, you’ll be able to admire spectacular swathes of snow-covered countryside and windswept coastlines, including Mutsu Bay where stormy waves crash up against Honshu’s northern shores.

The journey lasts a little under two hours – during which, you’ll be served different types of sake from local breweries, accompanied by classic Aomori delicacies such as octopus and scallops.

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Onboard entertainment is provided by musicians playing songs from the region’s famed summer festivals.


Visit an igloo

For the full winter experience, stay at a traditional ryokan with open-air hot spring baths – and an igloo! Two Hoshino Resorts ryokans have built their own kamakura (Japanese igloo) on site exclusively for guests’ use.

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At Hoshino Resorts KAI Tsugaru, the kamakura is lit up at night by lanterns decorated in diamond-shaped kogin patterns typical of the region. Inside, you’ll be served hot cocktails made with apples, a speciality of Aomori Prefecture.

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At Hoshino Resorts KAI Alps, near the Olympic ski station of Hakuba, you can visit the kamakura dressed in traditional snow country clothing (a mino straw cape and hanten coat).

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Then head to the vast open hearth irori to warm yourself up and sample mountain food like shiruko (sweet red bean porridge).

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Sleep in an ice palace

Every winter, an elaborate ice village is sculpted on the site of Tomamu ski station in Hokkaido.

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Chill at the Ice Bakery and Café, warm yourself up from the inside at the Ice Bar, or admire the stunning glacial architecture of the Ice Chapel.

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You can even spend the night sleeping on a bed of ice. Simply book yourself into the Ice Hotel, whose domed ceiling and walls are made from a single sheet of ice, with bed, chairs and desk also crafted in solid ice.

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And don’t worry – the bed covers are fully adapted to the extreme conditions, so you’ll be warm all night. What’s more, you’ll have exclusive use of the Arctic Bath, a hot spring bath in the white birch forest near the hotel.

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A great place to recharge while admiring the starry sky at night.


Frozen waterfalls by night

The Oirase Gorge in Aomori Prefecture is celebrated for its numerous waterfalls. In winter, the water freezes over at night, often thawing again the next day.

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This winter, Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel is organizing an evening tour of the frozen falls in a bus equipped with a powerful spotlight.

Oirase-Keiryu-Hotel

Some of the falls measure up to 16 metres and the nightly tours are a unique way to admire this winter wonderland.

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Back at the hotel, head to the Frozen Waterfall Onsen, where you can relax your body in the open-air hot spring overlooking the Oirase stream – with views on yet another frozen waterfall.

Winter food & drink

If you’re heading to Japan this winter, prepare your palate for some memorable epicurean moments. Seafood is a seasonal speciality, with the arrival of fatty fish and the highly-anticipated snow crab.

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In sub-tropical Okinawa, you’ll be treated to winter fare of a different variety: sweet kuruma prawns, succulent sweet potatoes and nuchigusa herbs.

Or how about a seasonal fish hotpot accompanied by traditional sake?

This winter, a number of Hoshino Resorts properties are offering gourmet experiences around seasonal dishes – from a 9-course Okinawan feast to a creative snow crab set menu. And the colder temperatures are also a chance to warm yourself up with sake at a special 2-day tasting and discovery program at HOSHINOYA Tokyo.

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Celebrating the snow crab

One of winter’s choice treats in Japan is the zuwaigani snow crab, which can only be fished between November and March. Known for its slim shape, long legs and succulent flavour, it inhabits the coldest reaches of the Sea of Japan.

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This winter, you can sample the zuwaigani prepared in 8 different ways at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga and Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo – both located in prime snow crab territory on the north coast of Honshu. Each ryokan has its own take on the snow crab, combining the chef’s creativity with local culinary traditions.

At Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga, the centrepiece is the shimenawa-mushi, snow crab steamed in a saltwater-soaked rope to make it plumper, juicier and more concentrated in umami.

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To whet your appetite before the main dish, you‘ll be served crab in a variety of styles, including charcoal-grilled, fried, and as raw sashimi. And the snow crab hotpot is the ultimate winter warmer: dunk crab’s legs in a kombu broth laden with hearty winter vegetables.

Hotpot

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Little wonder that the resort’s crab cuisine has been featured in the local edition of the Michelin guide.

Located near the famed Izumo Taisha shrine, Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo serves only the local Matsuba variety of crabs, reputed for their strong flavour, elegant sweetness and soft texture.

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matsuba

The signature dish is crab steamed in Japanese paper to maintain the juices and then placed between cedar boards to infuse the crab with a woody fragrance. The grandiose presentation resembles an offering to the Gods, a nod to the celebrated shrine.

Sub-tropical island treat

Looking to escape the winter cold?

HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island is located some 1200 miles south-west of Tokyo in the East China Sea – and enjoys an average winter temperature of 18°C.

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From December to March, the resort is offering a special “Island Terroir” dinner, celebrating the seasonal fare produced by its unique climate, soil and terrain.

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Despite its tiny 6-mile perimeter, the island has a terroir all of its own. The entire landmass is formed by a coral reef rising above the waterline and, while the soil is not fit for all crops, it receives plenty of sun and is well-suited to grains and sweet potatoes. In winter, herbs, okra and the cucumber-like hechima thrive here while mainland farmers have to wait until spring.

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Furthermore, the pristine emerald-green sea is awash with excellent-quality seaweed, sea lettuce, and octopus.

At HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, you can opt for the 9-course winter dining menu inspired by local crops and culinary traditions. Expect an aperitif of Okinawan Seaweed Biscuits and Gazam Crab with Island Tofu, followed by kuruma shrimp steamed over hot coral in front of you, and 3 different arrangements of akane sweet potato.

Akane Sweet Potato

Winter food never tasted so estival!

Warming sake workshop

At HOSHINOYA Tokyo, winter is all about warming yourself from the inside – with a sake-themed stay. This luxury ryokan, situated just minutes by foot from the Imperial Palace, is offering a 2-day program for you to learn about, taste, and even bathe in the famous rice wine.

All sake in the program is provided by the Toshimaya Corporation, a 400-year-old brewery in Tokyo’s Kanda district.

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In the evening, you’ll be served seasonal vegetables and anglerfish in a sake soup stock, while breakfast includes sweet and savoury dishes flavoured with sake lees.

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Other original experiences include a tasting session with a prize-winning sake sommelier and a chance to warm your body in a sake bath. Proof, if any was needed, that there are multiple ways to appreciate Japanese gastronomy in the winter months!