Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu: a stay in Japan’s green tea heartland

27 Sep 2017 in In immersion

From tea workshops to tea-infused hot spring baths, discover the secrets of Japanese green tea in this luxury ryokan on the shores of Lake Hamana.

tea-tasting

Through the expansive picture windows of the Travel Library at Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu, the view of Lake Hamana is superb.

Tea tasting room

Peninsulas of heavily forested hills jut into the water, boats meander peacefully in the bay, and a cable car intermittently journeys up to the summit of Mount Okusa opposite.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu

There’s a similar view from every room of this high-quality ryokan, set on an inlet of the lake’s eastern shore in the Hamamatsu region of Shizuoka Prefecture.

The area is known as Japan’s green tea capital, with the Prefecture the country’s biggest tea producer. You’ll find green tea to be a central part of your stay here.

Green tea experience

When you arrive at the ryokan, you’ll enter the intimately-lit lobby and be invited to sit at a low chair for green tea with namagashi.

Green tea cups

You can also choose to take an introductory workshop on green tea in the relaxation area next door. This short session varies with the seasons, but your host is likely to teach you the perfect way to make green tea, by transferring boiling water from cup to cup until it reaches 70°C.

Tea ceremony

You’ll probably get to try your hand at whisking matcha, and you may even be invited to eat used sencha tea leaves with sweet soy sauce – a surprisingly tasty treat! In the summer, the workshop is held outdoors and the theme turns to cold green tea – a classic estival drink in Japan.

Different types of Japanese tea

At any time during your stay, you are welcome to choose from one of the dozen green teas in the relaxation area and infuse yourself a cup.

Onsen infusion

Green tea is also an important ingredient in the ryokan’s hot spring baths. And not just because you get to enjoy a fresh cup of sencha once you’ve finished bathing. You’ll actually be soaking your body in tea-infused water!

Infused green tea

Japanese hot bath

One of the onsen’s indoor tubs features wicker baskets of green tea leaves floating on the surface. Vitamins and antioxidants from the leaves are released into the water, helping to rejuvenate and soften the skin. In spring, the onsen’s other indoor tub is filled with flowers.

Unusual onsen

Alternatively, you can relax in the hot waters outside to enjoy views of the ryokan’s traditional Japanese garden.

Onsen

Once you’ve finished, head to the newly-renovated onsen lounge, all stylish minimalism, for a calming cup of tea or sake.

Unique cotton decor

Throughout the resort, you’ll notice elegant touches of cotton decor bringing unique character to the inn’s classic ryokan design.

Japanese hotel design

The Enshu region was historically one of Japan’s major cotton producers, with its moderate climate perfectly suited for producing high-quality light cotton. As a nod to this local tradition, Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu has integrated traditionally-woven cotton in subtle but eye-catching fashion.

Hotel room

Known as “Enshu Men Tsumugi”, the cotton fabric can be found in your ryokan slippers, on lampshades in your room, on the shoji window coverings – and it’s the fabric used to create your haori, the kimono-like jacket you can wear around the ryokan.

Eels from the lake

For dinner, you can look forward to a classic multi-course kaiseki meal, with eel as the traditional centrepiece.

Unagi dish

As a prelude to the main course, you’ll savour an assortment of appetizers, a soup, an extravagantly-presented array of sashimi, tempura and a steamed dish.

Dish from Japanese sea

While you’ll probably get a choice for the main course, eel from Lake Hamana is the recommended local delicacy.

Japanese traditional menu

Thanks to a temperate climate and the purity of its water, the lake is prized by eel farmers nationwide.

The result is a tender, succulent eel, usually prepared in a sweet soy sauce. It’s followed by green tea – both in a cup and, more likely than not, as an ingredient in the dessert.

The restaurant’s signature dessert is green tea jelly with a selection of fruit, but you can also opt for the green tea crème brûlée, an original take on the French classic.

Family fun

The area around the ryokan is little-known to most Westerners, but, there’s plenty to explore.

Lake Hamana in Shizuoka prefecture

The Hamamatsu Flower Park is a must-see in spring, with row upon row of cherry blossom, while the variety of flowers elsewhere make the short trip worthwhile any time of year.

Hamamatsu Flower Park

If you’re visiting with children, there’s an excellent zoo and the Hamanako Pal Pal amusement park is just a few minutes’ walk from the ryokan.

Tea ceremony in Japan

So, how about a trip to the heartland of Japan’s tea culture for a stay of relaxation and exploration? The setting is stunning, the local specialities are a delicacy – and the tea is truly first class!

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