Discover 3 dream beaches in Japan!

Japan is an archipelago made up of 6,582 islands of over 100 Km². The small island of Taketomi situated in the South, in the Okinawa prefecture, is particularly noteworthy and unique. This patch of land, which is barely 6 km², is only accessible by boat from the port of Ishigaki and looks like heaven on earth. Taketomi is known for its traditional houses with red roofs, its white stone walls and its sandy streets. Taketomi has everything to please you, so why don’t you come and explore it for yourself?

Beach restaurant in Japan

Despite its size, this island with its dream setting boasts 3 beaches which all have a certain charm, inviting you to totally relax and drift off into daydreams and idleness:

Taketomi island Kondoi beach

Kondoi beach is located in the south-west of the island and with its picture postcard setting, is perfect for swimming with its clear waters and weak currents. While you are stretched out and relaxing on the white sand, you can see Iriomote island on the horizon, considered to be the “Galapagos” of the East. And to expand on the idea of luxury a bit further for you, the beach even has a shower and a bath tub.

Hoshino Resorts Hoshinoya Okinawa

You can find Aiyar beach on the eastern side of the island, 5 minutes’ walk from HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, a superb holiday village made up of traditional bungalows with all the modern comforts. This is the perfect spot for sunbathing waiting to be discovered by you; however, you cannot swim here since the currents are too strong. On the other hand, you have time to admire the blue sea and cruise ships whose silhouettes you can see on the distant horizon.

Japanese Fish in blue sea

Finally, to the south of Kondoi beach, there is Kaiji beach. The perfect spot for you to enjoy the sunset and one of the rare places in the world – also one of the most famous – where you can find “star” sand. This rare and very particular sand is a “calcarinadae”, or mineral shell which protects some animals such as molluscs – the shell of the sea urchin is one. And although these stars are microscopic, you can still talk enthusiastically about having visited this unique and extraordinary place in the world.

The spring Joppari festival: a magical tribute to the apple blossom

Japanese are very sensitive to the seasons, attached to traditions, and very in tune with nature. That’s why besides the 4 seasons that are particularly outstanding in the country, there are many more which occur as the months go by, perhaps introduced by the arrival of a bird, or a gust of a new wind, or the blooming of a tree, always promising enchanting moments just waiting to be discovered by you.

Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya

Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya is organising the first Joppari festival dedicated to apple blossom. From 8 April to 30 June 2016, you can explore an unusual scene. Jawamegu square, in the centre of the resort, is completely decorated with lanterns for the occasion, each one reproducing the likeness of the apple blossom to allow you to relive the magic of this moment when the flowers open.

Japanese Joppari festival lanterns

Did you know that during these celebrations, the Japanese flock around a stand set up in the centre of the square to pull out their “omikuji”, a small strip of paper with a prediction? Whatever the subject (love, health, work, etc.), everyone is curious to find out what the future holds for them. Once these have been read, there are two possible solutions: keep the paper if the prediction is good or tie it to a tree if it is not so good. Why not discover what the future holds for you in this enchanting scene?

Traditional lantern and umbrella in Japan

During these joyous and festive evenings, you can experience magical moments, admiring the lanterns to the sound of music, and walking along a path of parasols. These delicate Japanese umbrellas, decorated with flowers using a waxing technique that is used in Aomori festivals, are lit up fantastically. At night, head out to the park and enjoy this Japanese-style light spectacle that can only be experienced during spring.

Drink Japanese cocktails of fruits

You can only experience these enchanting and timeless moments in Japan, where people respect traditions and never cease to admire nature, creating those magical moments that you are invited to share. So, when are you coming?

No journey in Japan is complete without bento!

Bento, or more accurately eki-bento means “take-away from the train station”. Are you aware that Ekiben – the  contracted word most commonly used nowadays – is an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle? You will understand when you arrive in Japan, on exploring the kiosks in all the railway stations, which the Japanese throng around expectantly at lunch time in order to take their meal away with them.

Bento food in an onsen

Did you know that the first ekiben was sold in 1888 in the Utsunomiya train station in Tochigi – the station where you get off to stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa, KAI Nikko or KAI Kawaji – when the Japanese railways were established between Ueno and Utsunomiya. At the time, the railway company asked a local inn to provide passengers making the journey with something to eat. And this is how the first bento, originally made from onigiri or rice balls, came into being.

Traditionnal bento food with rice and vegetables

There are more than 2000 varieties of Ekiben which reflect not only the season, but also the local cuisine! Each take-away is based on the regional produce of where it is made. Eating an ekiben is more than just a pleasant way to enjoy the journey you know, it is also a savoury and sensory journey through Japan, a way of discovering the different culinary traditions of the regions you visit.

Luxury bento wood box

And the contents vary, as do the bentos. You can find standard rectangular ekibens through to hexagonal ones, like those in Aomori, with 14 compartments each containing a different flavour from the region. Tōge no Kamameshi, is sold in ceramic pots (so it can be reusable) – Mashikoyaki – in Yokokawa station in Gunma prefecture and filled with 11 ingredients. The Joshu D-51 bento is inspired by the eponymous steam train, which is rare but still in service, and serves Takasaki station to the north-west of Tokyo.

Relax with a bento on a terrace

So, are you ready to step on-board and travel like the Japanese do?

Enjoy an unusual experience with your family in the treetops!

No doubt, you are familiar with the smell of the camphor tree. The essential oil extracted from its leaves, whose powerful smell tickles our nostrils, is famous for its antiviral, immunostimulatory and anti-depressive properties. But do you know what the tree looks like? The camphor tree bears beautiful oval, tough, evergreen leaves which are deep green and it can grow up to 25 metres high. It mainly grows in China and Taiwan, but it is in Japan, another place where it flourishes, where it has taken on a new and unexpected use.

Sport in the trees in Japan

Located in the Shizuoka prefecture in the West of the island, less than 200 km from Tokyo, the Kusukusu  forest is becoming a destination for fun, novel, and exotic holidays. What would you say to spending a day  in the treetops with your family? Camphor trees, which are over 300 years old, have been fitted out with bridges and large platforms to give you an extraordinary holiday! What child hasn’t dreamt of building a treehouse and imagined living in the heart of the forest. So, why don’t you make this dream a reality and give your family this unique experience, where perched in the trees, but sitting very comfortably we hasten to add, you will feel that you are floating above the forest.

Holidays in the Japanese forest

Coffee brunch in nature

The first thing : do nothing and relax. Why not enjoy a cold drink or a tasty coffee while sitting comfortably writing a postcard? For those active souls who feel the need to move, you can also opt for a family walk in the forest. At midday, why not organise a picnic, before the kids go off to enjoy themselves on the rope course designed with them – but also the whole family – in mind.

Activities with kids in nature

Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Atami is the perfect destination to enjoy this novel holiday which will appeal to all the family, with everyone being able to find something to do at any time in the day. You have the bonus that you can take a break as a couple, or on the other hand organise activities with the whole family.

Sakura, the magic of a moment

Sakura is becoming one of the most familiar words to people all over the world.
Look down the street and you can see a number of restaurants whose name alludes to the cherry blossom.

Road in Japan with Sakura trees

The word Sakura specifies both the tree and flowers. There are two stages : the opening of the first blossoms “kaika” and full bloom “mankai” which is eagerly anticipated by the Japanese. The Japanese are very sensitive to the seasons, and are even more so during this brief time of the year, which depending on the weather only lasts for a few weeks. The first trees in bloom can be admired in the south of the archipelago in March, in the Okinawa islands where the climate is milder, and the last blooms can be enjoyed in the North up to the start of May, on the island of Hokkaido where the weather is cooler. So, why not come in spring and experience the beauty of cherry blossom in Japan?

Sakura cherry's boat trip in Japan

The blossoming of the cherry trees is a magical moment waiting to be discovered by you and with hundreds of varieties of tree throughout the country there are shades to suit everyone from white to pale pink to very intense pink. The most popular variety is somei yoshino whose flowers are adorned with five subtly shaded white petals tinged with pale pink. Kikuzakura is a variety whose flowers can have up to 100 petals. However, regardless of the colour or number of petals, the magic is still there, and no one can remain insensitive to the spectacle of these thousands of flowers provided by nature. Hoshino Resorts KAI Tsugaru, in the Aomori Prefecture is just the right place for admiring the cherry blossom.

luxury hotel onsen in Japan

To capture the moment, the Japanese meet in parks to admire the flowers, take photos of them, and picnic with family and friends. This is certainly the best way of enjoying sakura, the tradition of contemplating the cherry blossom, which is considered as a metaphor for life by the Japanese, beautiful and radiant, but also fleeting, hence symbolising our time on earth. Why not come and learn for yourself?

Sakura cherry's blossom in Japan

To enjoy this experience, why not have this once in a lifetime opportunity in Japan, and share the magic of the moment with your partner or your family? Get involved in a people’s passion for one of their oldest traditions. Get into it, follow the developments in blossom on the “sakura Zensen” weather reports, and be there at the right time to leave with a stunning photo which will forever ingrain the beauty of your visit on your mind. Better still take part in the Hirosaki cherry blossom festival, which has plenty of entertainment throughout the entire blooming period.

Onsen, the Japanese way of life

Onsens go back to the dawn of time, and in Japan are synonymous with both relaxation and friendliness. A place where you can totally relax for a period of time.

onsen-japan

Onsen refers to the hot baths that Japan has lots of, since the archipelago is a volcanic land teeming with a lot of hot springs, which feed these places frequented by people of all ages from all walks of life.

Everyone : both men and women, children as well as  adults, goes to the Onsen for the well-being that these hot baths provide for the mind and body.

ourdoor-bath

Whether indoors or outdoors, onsens all work on the same principle : a mineralized volcanic spring feeding one or several baths at a temperature between 41 and 42°.

These hot springs, rich in sulphur, sodium chloride, hydrogen carbonate, and iron, are considered therapeutic and many Japanese people go there to treat ailments and chill out in the soothing atmosphere.

Fun alternative to sauna in Japan

However above all, the onsen represents a pleasant interlude from an often hectic and pressurised daily life. Time spent in the hot bath is a real break, deep relaxation coupled with the sense that you are zoned out, nothing exists around you and that you have left your cares and troubles far behind.

bath-relaxation

The use of onsens is very ritualised for the Japanese, and it is important for us Europeans to discover these rules before visiting them for the first time.

Onsen in Japan - Hoshino Resorts Kai

The key to solving the mystery begins on entering the onsen; firstly you must remove your shoes and put them in the compartment provided before heading to the changing rooms.

Here, more becomes apparent : for you must undress fully – nudity is compulsory – and leaving your things in the compartment take the small towel with you. The next step is the shower area near the baths, so as to be completely clean before finally entering the water. This should be done cautiously, since the temperature exceeds 40°; hence care must be taken to avoid thermal shock.

outdoor-bath

Once in the water, relax and do not think about anything except the benefits provided by the heat, while ensuring that you hydrate yourself regularly. Very often, you can also enjoy the sauna integrated with the onsen.

The last recommendation during your first visit, is do not stay in the water or the sauna too long, unless you cool off regularly with a shower. And do not rinse before leaving, so as to enjoy the water’s benefits for longer.

infused-tea-bath

At the end of your visit, you will understand why the Japanese like onsens so much and why it is an integral part of their lifestyle. Not only is time spent pleasantly, but the benefits are felt for a long time afterwards.

It is above all this relaxation and intense feeling of well-being which will encourage you to frequent these famous thermal baths again.

hoshino-resorts-kai-atami

And while these baths are often public, you can enjoy exceptional baths in the surroundings of a luxury hotel.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Atami has an outstanding onsen with a sea view. So, you can relax in your bath and admire the sunset on the horizon at the same time. Doesn’t that sound like a dream holiday taking shape?

The secrets of the famous Japanese tea

Mankind has known about tea for 3,500 years and nowadays it is the most consumed drink in the world after water and ahead of coffee. Did you know that although all teas come from one and the same plant “Camelia sinensis”, it is the timing of the harvest and how it is processed which defines them – white, blue, green, red or black.

Tea harvest in Japan

Did you know that Japanese tea is a very particular tea? Only “green”, it is characterised by its production processes which are specific for each tea. The most well-known and famous is undeniably matcha tea used in the tea ceremony. Were you aware that to obtain this unique tea, tea plants are covered for at least 20 days before harvesting to filter the sunlight, and the young shoots are then picked by hand one by one as soon as they are of good quality and have the desired firmness. Did you know that to prevent them from fermenting, the leaves are steamed immediately, and then dried and air-sorted, and dried again at 170°. Then, these leaves are ground just before distribution in order to conserve all the flavours. This tea powder is diluted in hot water with a small bamboo whisk resembling a small brush, known as a chasen on serving. Why not come and see for yourself?

Tea ceremony is a precise ritual

Experience the tea ceremony which takes place on the edge of the Oîgaiwa River on the terrace of the HOSHINOYA Kyoto, where this delicate moment takes on another dimension during spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. A little later in May, the hotel is the starting point for excursions to the tea plantations where you can discover this world and meet the producers with the added benefit of a tea-leaf-based lunch.

The tea ceremony , zen moment of relaxation

The second most famous tea in Japan is Sencha, which is the ultimate Japanese green tea. Did you know that the leaves are picked and immediately steamed to prevent any oxidation of the leaves and then processed on a heated work surface to a temperature of 40-50° until they are completely dry? The operation may take 4-7 hours. Only about 100 grams of tea is obtained at the most. Consequently, you will better understand the sales price of this green gold.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu hotel

Sencha tea represents 80 % of tea drunk in Japan. You can enjoy this tea during a break in your stay at the Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu  in the Shizuoka Prefecture, a tea-growing region bordering the Pacific Ocean not far from Mount Fuji. To really appreciate the tea you infuse it in water at 80°, since above this temperature, it would take on bitter and tannic notes in the mouth. This fresh and delicate tea is a marvel for whoever appreciates it, but nevertheless does not attract all palates with its admittedly somewhat particular green notes. Take time to taste this pure and delicate drink, which has played a part in the Japanese lifestyle for centuries.

3 must-do trails in Japan

Discover an unspoilt and authentic Japan

Nature and fresh air are on the itinerary for 3 trails in the Mount Bandaï region in the centre of Japan. Why not find out for yourself?

Mount Bandai area for trail in Japan

Spring is the ideal season for enjoying a stay in natural surroundings in the Mount Bandaï region. The Hoshino Resorts Bandaisan Onsen Hotel offers a wonderful view of the mountain and Lake Inawashiro, but is also the ideal starting point for discovering unspoilt and real nature. So why don’t you come and visit?

Forest and woodland in Mount Bandai

3 trails are provided, all tailored to everyone’s tastes and physical fitness, so whether your requirements are sporty or family-orientated, you can find one tailored to your needs. Each route leads you into the heart of unspoilt and unimagined nature, you walk through winding trails which interweave between mountains and villages; a full immersion in this region abundant in 300 lakes and marshes which appeared after the eruption of the volcano on Mount Bandai in 1888. The bountiful nature conceals many sources of high purity mineral water, suitable for rice cultivation, but also for making the excellent sakes produced in the region.

Luxury Hoshino Resorts hotel veranda panorama

Mount Bandai hotel room

The first route is rather quiet and family-orientated, a path in a lush forest, whose colours in spring change from day to day: magic happens and the scenery changes completely. For lunch, you can taste one of the local specialities, Aizu sauce, which accompanies delicious breaded pork cutlets.

The second route for the more sporty is about 10 kilometres and beckons you to discover Tsurugajo castle, surrounded by a beautiful golf course, and then you can continue with a visit to some historic temples and shrines before finishing at local handicraft workshops and tasting the famous “Dengaku miso” (aubergines in miso) at one of the stands.

The last trail, which is 15 km long, leads you along paths traced by climbers 1,500 years ago between the cities of Aizu and Kitakata, a hike in the fresh air marked by a visit to Buddhist temples and shrines, but also soy sauce factories and sake breweries. And for lunch, why not try a bowl of Kitakata Ramen, one of the most famous dishes in Japan, made here with a mild soy sauce broth, flavoured with a mixture of pork, chicken, and fish.

This stopping point in the centre of the island allows you to discover nature shaped by the mountainous landscape, and is a fantastic way for you to explore a fascinating and authentic Japan for healthy, calm holidays completely away from it all.

Discovering Karuizawa’s wildlife and plants

Spring is an ideal time to observe nature, and Karuizawa forest to the North of Tokyo, in the Nagano Prefecture, is the perfect place to explore this unspoilt wilderness, where between 60 and 80 species of birds nest. Why not come and find out for yourself?

Karuizawa's forest blue flower

Spring is the migration season and then Karuizawa forest teems with a host of multi-coloured birds which enchant as much with their vivid colours, as with their melodic “tweet tweet”. The Narcissus Flycatcher and the Blue-and-white Flycatcher are the most popular at this time of year, which is all the more suitable for bird watching as the trees are only covered by a few leaves. Spring is also the breeding season, when the males initially adopt their best singing voice to indicate their presence, but also to seduce the female who will also respond with her most beautiful song.

Calm and luxury hotel in Karuizawa's nature

So why don’t you use a guide to understand this unspoilt wilderness and grasp its subtleties? Picchio will be your guide! For 22 years now, he has been introducing nature lovers and the inquisitive to all the secrets that the forest can reveal. Better still, your guide shares the intimate life of the chicks and their mother with you. In fact, this nature and wildlife lover had the idea of installing a camera in one of the nests for you to share the first moments of the young chicks’ life. A unique experience which blends fun and education!!

However, the 100-hectare Karuizawa forest is not only reserved for birds, it is also a place where all sorts of flowers bloom, whose range of colours and scents awaken the senses. Look down at your feet, admire the primroses, anemones, and chrysosplenium – a perennial, creeping plant with yellow flowers without petals – lift your head up and look at the crowns of the chestnuts, Mongolian oaks, and larches. You might even be surprised by seeing an Asian black bear or a white Japanese serow during your walk; a prospect which should appeal to your children.

Hoshino Resorts Karuizawa HOSHINOYA hotel's guestroom

So after a surprising and rewarding family outing, why not choose to recover in your nest. Choose an extraordinary hotel located on the edge of the forest. HOSHINOYA Karuizawa beckons you into its luxurious settings to benefit from the tranquillity at the heart of the lush forest to enjoy a well-earned rest.

Restaurant in Japanese Alps in Karuizawa's forest

Japanese wine, a treasure to be discovered

You may not believe it, but Japan is a wine-producing country. 370,000 hectolitres are produced annually over a total surface area of 30,000 hectares of vineyards, the majority of which however is earmarked for growing table grapes.

Vines from Mie Ikeno japanese domain

The Yatsugatake region, located between the Nangano prefecture in the North and the Yamanashi prefecture in the South, boasts land suitable for wine production. The vines are planted in a mountainous area, and benefit from ideal sunshine and temperatures, which are both cool in the morning and hot during the day; the perfect conditions for the vines to flourish. Did you know that the most cultivated variety is koshu, a berry with white flesh and thick pink skin that has good resistance to occasional very humid weather conditions during the ripening period?

Wine production has developed so much that even the French are interested in it! Denis Dubourdieu, a wine grower, professor of oenology, and a renowned consultant has produced a vintage called Shizen in the Yamanashi region, which will enchant all you wine-lovers with its clear colour and its aromas of flowers and white fruits. And although wine tasting is fun, its production is just as interesting. How about learning more and discovering this fascinating world, as Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake offers you the opportunity to meet a producer and a cellar master in the heart of the vineyard.

Only half an hour away from the hotel, you can experience a unique moment with these professionals who will share their expertise and knowledge with you. They will explain the effects of the wind, the surrounding mountains, and the richness of the soil, so that finally the wine that you are drinking is no longer a mystery to you.

Japanese wine tasting and Japanese gastronomy

Wine cellar of a luxury hotel in Japan

So that you can explore this further, Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake provides a tasting room exclusively for you to enjoy the wine in the best possible conditions; going so far as to offer you different glasses, including one created by the designer Mie Ikeno. All you have to do is to simply choose the one which suits you the best!

The Japanese chef has designed a local menu to taste wine and vegetables

And for you to savour this moment of pleasure, the chef has designed a menu for wine pairings entirely made up of vegetables all from the local area, so as to be consistent with nature and the environment. The dishes pair with delicate white wines with good acidity and rather floral notes. To prolong this unique experience up to the end, you can get some recommendations from the hotel shop to slip into your luggage as a souvenir. The question is: are you ready for the discovery?