Geta Tap dance: colourful entertainment showcasing Japanese craftsmanship through dance

Although they have a 400-year history, only 9 % of the inhabitants of Tochigi Prefecture, 100 km to the North of Tokyo, have heard of Nikko Geta – despite the fact that it is the birthplace of these traditional and innovative shoes, designed to meet the needs of the inhabitants of the mountainous area. While zori shoes – sandals made from rice straw or other plants – are traditionally worn for visits to Shinto or Buddhist temples, they are ill-adapted to the region and its steep, rocky paths which are often covered in snow during the winter months.

Shoes tradition show in Japan

The story holds that Nikko Geta shoes were General Tokugawa’s idea, who suggested placing zori on top of geta shoes. Nikko Geta shoes are “zori” shoes layered on top of “geta” shoes – but not only. In order to improve stability, the sole is carved in the back, enabling wearers to walk around town even when there is snow on the ground without having the snow stick to the sole.

Nikko Geta shoes

Better yet, Nikko Geta shoes are designed to warm the feet during winter and to be breathable in the summer. They can be worn year-round, traditionally with a kimono but also with “Western-style” clothing.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko, located on the shores of Chuzenji lake, is proud to feature local heritage and craftsmanship by putting on a “Geta Tap Dance” show every evening at dinnertime featuring these local sandals.

Geta tap dance show

This cheerful and lively dance not only invites guests to clap their hands to the rhythm – onlookers wear Nikko Geta shoes and must tap their feet as well, echoing the show. Next, after the first dance, the artists explain how they are made and the history of this unique object. This is a fun, pleasant way to discover local craftsmanship.

Exterior onsen in Japan

Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya, a tribute to local culture and to the Nebuta festival

Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya is nestled in a large wooded park. This enchanting environment invites you to take long walks and morning strolls in the open air – a perfect place for joggers and anyone who enjoys simply walking around and breathing pure mountain air. Located in the Aomori région in the north of Japan, which is renowned for its festivals, the hotel is the ideal destination for anyone who would like to attend them.

Nebuta (festivals) attract thousands, perhaps even millions of people to the city of Aomori alone during the first week of August. Aomori, Goshogawara and Hirosaki are the three cities in the prefecture that vibrate to the sound of traditional music, song, dance and parades of colourful floats, which are created anew each year.Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya garden

As the festivities last only one week, Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya has decided to provide its visitors with some of the magic and energy of these colourful festivals. The hotel has created its own decoration and “mini” parade floats to bring a high-quality show to its guests and recreate the feel of these large festivals each evening. The hotel personnel perform on stage, and get swept up in the show. These men and women practice and refine their songs, dances and choreographies week-by-week in order to bring you a professional-quality show every day.

Japanese folklore bar

This show is one of the leading attractions of the hotel. Their enthusiasm is communicative, and many from the audience join the group at the centre of the room to dance alongside them and participate in the regional festivals in their own way. But you must remember to reserve a table to dine in the hotel’s large dining room, arranged like a cabaret for the occasion. A smaller-scale show is also performed on a stage in the centre of the hotel so that everyone can enjoy the party.

Activity for family holidays in Japan

In addition to the show, Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya offers many entertainment options to its guests. The biggest draw to families is without a doubt the daily morning tour of the hotel’s park. You will ride in a small wooden caravan, which contains a surprise: a grill. Adding to the pleasure of the experience, you will grill a mochi, a sticky rice cake that you will then eat with a cup of tea.

Exterior foot bath

Japanese hotel bar

Upon your return to the hotel, you can visit the shop, which contains a wide assortment of souvenirs you can bring home. You will find culinary specialties made from local apples, sake, and various local handicraft objects. Right across the street, you will find a space where you can rent a kimono or yukata to feel perfectly comfortable and like a real Japanese person.

Cap off your morning with a moment of relaxation at the Onsen. Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya’s onsen has the advantage of offering two basins, one indoors, one outdoors, with an incredible view of the mountains and surrounding landscape. Enjoy this unique moment of relaxation.

Best onsens in Japan

A bit later in the day, before or after dinner, take a break at the sake bar and try one of the seven kinds of sake on the menu, all of which are locally-produced. The perfect way to taste this little-known Japanese “wine”. Entertain your children by trying to fish scallops.

Use a fishing rod with a line and hook to bring up as many shells from the bottom of a basin as you can in 5 minutes. Once you bring them up, your scallops will be grilled right away and you can enjoy them in one of the nearby booths.

Hoshino Resorts hotel design

Aomoriya room

You can sample Japanese specialties every evening at dinner at the buffet restaurant and you will soon love them: tempuras, soups, meat grilled in front of you, raw or cooked fish, and a variety of desserts – it will certainly take you more than one meal to try everything.

You can also eat breakfast in this restaurant, or you can try breakfast at the tea house on the shores of the lake, where in addition to tradition, you will enjoy the beautiful setting to start your day already immersed in Japanese culture.

To take a break, the lounge decorated in a modern and streamlined style offers hot drinks and refreshments. Another advantage of this hotel is that you can choose which kind of room you will stay in – choose the authenticity of Japanese homes with rooms typically found in ryokans, or choose a more modern, spacious room with your own private hot bath with an incredible view of the park and the mountains. A difficult decision!

A tradition of craftsmanship continues on Taketomi island in Japan

Taketomi Island in the South of Japan, in Okinawa Prefecture, is renowned for its craftsmanship and for the quality work and skill for traditional basket making. Many of them are featured in the village museum, which presents and sells a selection of crafted pieces as a point of pride for locals. It should be said that the local flora is generous here, providing them with everything they need – such as the abundance of pandanus trees growing along the coastline, producing leaves used in these basket making.

Shosuke Matsutake

Shosuke Matsutake is one of these artists-craftsmen who sustain the island’s traditional know-how. He is one of the oldest and most popular specialists. He harvests ramie, shell ginger, formosa palm, and chinese windmill palm leaves himself, along with a few other varieties of leaves that he dries himself before creating strips which will be used to create baskets and other wickerwork creations.

DIY activity Japan

Japanese Bag

Plan time to meet Shosuke Matsutake during your stay at HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island and learn about his art. Enjoy a private lesson in the lounge and build your own basket. You will learn how to do each step, from structuring to weaving. And once you have mastered the basic steps, you will find that there is nothing easier than crossing, mixing and adjusting fibres until you have created the desired shape. If you have any doubts or make a mistake, do not worry, the master is by your side, attentively watching you work and willing to help out. The best reward comes at the end – the incomparable satisfaction of having produced this object yourself, which will be the most wonderful souvenir to bring home with you.

HOSHINOYA Taketomijima

Chopsticks, an invaluable tool to eat in Japan

It is said that chopsticks have been used in eastern Asia for 6000 years. The Chinese have been wielding chopsticks since at least 1200 B.C., and by A.D. 500 the slender batons had swept the Asian continent from Vietnam to Japan. They were first used as a cooking utensil rather than as tableware, to mix or to grab ingredients. As food gradually began to be cut into smaller pieces for easier preservation and faster cooking, people found it easier to handle these small food chunks with two rather than one, and they only began to be used at the table in the 14th century.

Chopsticks craftmanship

Chopsticks are traditionally made from bamboo, though they can also be made of plastic, wood (e.g. cypress, pine, plum, maple, etc.) or stainless steel. Some are even works of art – made of mother-of-pearl, porcelain, jade, or ivory, decorated with patterns, painted, varnished, inlaid with stones or lacquered in the Japanese tradition. These special chopsticks are collectable items.

Kaiseki japanese food

In Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone’s shop, you can purchase a few unique pieces created by a local craftsman (Mr. Tsuyuki), practicing the art of inlay like his forefathers for the past 4 generations. He crafts chopsticks from beautiful local wood, inlaying small cubes of colourful carved wood in the upper section, producing superb results.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone

If you have never used chopsticks, you should practice before your stay – this can only improve your skills. While it is not very difficult, it still requires a bit of dexterity. The key to mastering the technique is the following: put one of the chopsticks at the base of your thumb and hold it in place with your ring finger. This chopstick will remain stationary. Hold the second one between your thumb and index finger – this is the one you will use to pinch and grab your food. You will see, once you get used to it, you will not want to stop!

KAI Hakone hotel room

The fascinating powers of Japanese moss

The Japanese admire moss in a way, and seem captivated by its very existence. They are fascinated by this green plant which blankets the roots of trees and covers rocks in the woods. The country’s humid climate provides optimal conditions for it to flourish. You will find that 2,500 of the 12,000 species of moss in the world grow in Japan! They almost believe that without it, nature could not exist in their country, which was born of volcanic activity. In fact, moss contribute to fix, protect or create soils, and organic life. This could be one of the reason why the Japanese love and respect moss.

Moss observation kit

But this enthusiasm has increased in recent years alongside the growing popularity of mountain hiking and due to some popular publications such as Hisako Fujii’s book, “Mosses, my dear friends,” which sold 40,000 copies. Moss observation workshops were designed after its publication. Small groups, mainly of women, banded together to observe moss. Participants are fascinated by this relaxing vegetal texture – some even wish to plant some on the rooftops of their houses!

Japanese green moss

This activity is especially present in the Aomori region. Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel, nestled in the forest of this luxurious region, nearby the Oirase Gorge, offers a moss-themed holiday package. You are immediately plunged into the experience in your bedroom, entirely decorated in shades of green. Every aspect of the decoration is designed to evoke moss: the fabric used for the comforter on the bed, for the cushions, and even the kind of leather used: they all echo the forest plant, Conocephalum conicum, the great scented liverwort that flourishes in humid areas. Even the bath products are moss-coloured – from the soaps, to the bathrobe and towels… Everything is green.

Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel room

This nature-inspired environment is an invitation to complete relaxation. Once you have rested, explore the nature all around you. In just a few minutes’ walk, you will reach your first landmark, where you can use your kit with your magnifying glass and vaporizer to investigate the moss, or rather the mosses, and to discover aspects of nature you never suspected.

Foam drink

Playfully vaporize dull-looking moss and watch as it springs back to life. This family-friendly activity will capture the interest of both adults and children. You won’t stop talking about the memories you made together!

When a Japanese chef interprets French cuisine

If French chefs are attracted by Japanese cuisine, as much for its technique as its spirit, the opposite is also true. Many Japanese chefs have boundless admiration for French cuisine, and for dishes which are endorsed as culinary “classics” from the country. After a stay in France, in the Marseille region and then in Burgundy, Shigeru Konno, the chef at the Villa Del Sol – the Hoshino Resorts KAI Atami restaurant – is pleased to offer French cuisine made with great skill and based 100% on local ingredients.

Japanese chef in french restaurant

Gastronomic hotel in Japan

Located between the sea and the mountains, Hoshino Resorts KAI Atami enjoys an optimal location to benefit from the best agricultural and marine products. It is with these top-quality ingredients that the chef at the Villa Del Sol prepares dishes uncanny in their authenticity. In particular the bouillabaisse, which is made solely with local fish, transports you with its flavours directly to the old port of Marseille.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Atami restaurant

French restaurant in Japan

The dinner takes on an even more unique aspect in a “renaissance” style setting with a direct ocean view. The chef offers a menu made up of French specialities,  such as lobster flambéed in calvados – a stop in Normandy, a shellfish casserole with parsley butter on passing through Burgundy. A fish precisely cooked, served with crispy skin and scales, and finally, in keeping with a crème brûlée, a black truffle gratin which brings a touch of originality here that marvellously punctuates the dinner.

A unique French culinary experience waiting to be discovered in Japan in a surprising and unforgettable setting.

Wagasa, the poetic and practical Japanese umbrella

130 million umbrellas are sold each year in Japan, or more than one per person. They are made out of fabric or clear plastic or with printed patterns, and they protect from the rain but also the sun. Japanese women, who take good care of their skin, use them as soon as there is any sun out to protect and maintain the whiteness of their skin.

Wasaga umbrella

But although the modern umbrella is above all useful, its ancestor the Japanese umbrella, which appeared at the end of the 8th century, is now a particularly aesthetic object. Still used in several occasion such as weddings, during the tea ceremony or in Kabuki plays, the “wagasa” – the Japanese umbrella – remains a powerful image of Japan. Admired for its beauty and fine workmanship, the wagasa is made out of bamboo and washi paper – the equally famous Japanese paper.

Exterior umbrella design

Although the object retains a practical aspect, it is also, and has been for a long time, used as a fashion accessory. The wagasa protects from the sunshine, but can also be a stunningly decorative object. Decorated with traditional patterns, the Japanese umbrella can also even be placed on the ground as an ornamental item, as Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya has done in its gardens.

Japanese umbrella

With the arrival of summer, the gardens bordering the teahouse in the hotel’s grounds are adorned with coloured umbrellas, lit up at nightfall by lanterns placed just beneath them.

Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya

The result is the most beautiful effect and provides a certain magic which compels you to prolong your evening stroll along the ground’s paths. A special moment, marked by romance and poetry.

Hiba, a precious variety of wood with many properties

Hiba is a tree in the cypress family and is deemed as one of the three most beautiful forests in Japan. It is endemic to the four main islands of Japan, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, from north to south. Its wood is considered precious due to its many properties. The Hiba tree is unique for its lifespan – it lives 300 years on average – and especially for its resistance to the rough climatic conditions of mountainous areas, as well as for its natural antimicrobial and germicidal properties.

This wood is the perfect material for building in humid or tropical climates, as it is naturally resistant to rot and mold. It is notably the wood used to build temples and sanctuaries. The Shinto religion almost considers it to be the perfect tree, as cleanliness and purification are important parts of religious rituals. The wood’s many properties are due to one of its compounds, hinokitiol.

hoshino-resorts-oirase-keiryu2

Hiba is antifungal, meaning that it is protected from wood-decomposing fungi (which feed on wood). It is also an insecticide and keeps termites and mites at bay. Even spiders stay away! It is even believed that houses built from Hiba wood keep mosquitoes away for three years.

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Oil with a delicate aroma can also be extracted from its bark. This oil is used in aromatherapy and in incense with deodorizing properties. Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel has chosen to use Hiba woods in some places of the resort for these qualities, and is proud to honor this exceptional tree.

Private exterior hotel bath

It has been used to build “private” hot baths in some of the rooms, where you can enjoy the region’s thermal source water in an intimate setting. This “auto-resistant” wood also has a pleasant fragrance that is quite distinctive and which will soon feel familiar to you during your stay in Japan.

Maneki-Neko, the Japanese cat that brings good luck

Maneki-Neko is one of the symbols of Japan. You have certainly seen it before in the doorway or the window of a Japanese restaurant or an Asian shop, greeting you with its left paw raised – some mechanical cats even wave at you. While this friendly animal may seem contemporary, its history goes all the way back to the end of the Edo period.

Maneki Neko symbol

Legends hold that the Gotokuji temple in the western neighborhoods of Tokyo was once a shabby, humble hut in which a monk lived with his cat. Despite his poverty, the man of faith shared his home and meals with his cat that he cared for as if it were his own child. Weary of his poor conditions, the man one day asked his cat “If you are grateful to me, bring some fortune to the temple.

Buy Maneki Neko in shop

Several months went by until one summer afternoon, when the monk heard a sound at his door. He stepped out, and to his surprise, he saw six samurai warriors heading towards him.

The monk asked them the reason for their visit, and they replied that as they were passing by the temple, they spotted the cat lying on the road and that it began waving at them.

Maneki Neko legend

The six warriors were intrigued by this situation and decided to stop and request a place to rest. The monk provided hospitality and enjoined them to rest. Curiously, shortly after their arrival, the sky darkened, heavy rains began to fall, and thunder struck.

While the samurai waited for the end of the rain and thunderstorm, the monk prayed. Enchanted by these prayers which they perceived as a “sign”, they converted to Buddhism and decided to thank the monk by giving him huge rice fields and cultivated lands.

HOSHINOYA Tokyo booking

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To commemorate this event, a statue of the cat was made so that visitors could honor him and pray for him. During your stay at HOSHINOYA Tokyo, plan on a visit to the cat temple, where you will enjoy a moment of peace and serenity in an enchanting setting that few tourists experience.

Participate in the ritual, purchase a statue, which you can set it in the sanctuary or pack in your bags as a souvenir you can place in the doorway of your home, where it will greet you and your guests.

3 reasons to stay at HOSHINOYA Tokyo, the capital’s first luxury Japanese-inn

The brand-new ryokan, HOSHINOYA Tokyo, has welcomed its first guests from 20 July 2016. Built in the purest ryokan tradition, this 17-storey tower with an ultra-modern design is a building that is surprising to say the least.

Here are three good reasons to stay there:

1 – Enjoy the authenticity of a ryokan in the heart of Tokyo
Experience rooms with tatami-covered floors, raised futon beds, and hot spring baths. It is the experience that the guests of this exceptional ryokan are looking for, without having to leave the bustle of the city.

HOSHINOYA Tokyo entrance

Built in the Otemachi district, within walking distance of Tokyo Station, the Imperial Palace and its beautiful park, HOSHINOYA Tokyo manages to combine the modernity, comfort, and design of a contemporary hotel and the very essence of Japanese tradition. Designed by the famous architect, Rie Azuma, the building’s interior beckons you to rest and relax. Everything here is designed so that you feel at home.

Hotel in Tokyo

2 – Come and live like the Japanese, put on a kimono and make it your everyday outfit. All of them have been especially thought up and designed for HOSHINOYA Tokyo by the great designer, Jotaro Saito, and you can wear a unique “sportswear” kimono made of the finest fabrics, playing with nuances and sophistication between tradition and modern lifestyle.

Japanese kimono

3 – Indulge in the luxury of a private cruise on the Nihonbashi River departing near hotel to discover the city from the water. A river journey will allow you, through the guide’s explanations, to discover Japan’s history through its bridges and to notice the contrast between the Edo era and the Tokyo of today; a fun, enjoyable, and rewarding cruise.

Nihonbashi River cruise

So, why not come and discover Hoshino Resorts’ new masterpiece in Tokyo?