26 Jul 2017 in In immersion
Explore the spectacular coastline of the Izu peninsula. Then unwind in the hot waters of one of Japan’s best-known onsen resorts.
After a day exploring the rugged beauty of the Izu peninsula, you lie back in an outdoor hot spring bath, steam rising gently from the surface and warm water trickling soothingly down the rockface opposite.
You’re cocooned by trees stretching their branches overhead and immersed in a pool of rocks so smooth they feel shaped to the form of your body. The natural warmth massaging your muscles is the perfect way to end a day of discovery.
This is Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito, an oceanside ryokan in a town known throughout Japan for the quality of its natural hot springs. Situated on the spectacular mountainous peninsula of Izu in Shizuoka prefecture, Ito lays claim to being one of the three great hot spring resorts in the country.
And it makes a great base for exploring this exceptional coastal region just a short distance south-west of Tokyo.
Many visitors to Japan have never even heard of the Izu peninsula. Yet there’s so much to discover.
How about walking the spectacular cliffs of the Jogasaki coast? Riding a cable car up Omuroyama volcano? Or taking to the water for surfing and scuba diving? And if relaxation is your priority, you’ve come to the right place.
At Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito, the hot spring facilities entice you in with their large indoor tub in traditional hinoki wood and outdoor bathing pond in natural rock.
There’s also a sauna and a cold bath to jump into between “hot cycles”.
And this ryokan is one of the few to offer a private onsen area: just ask when you arrive and you’ll be allocated a 40-minute slot exclusively for you and your travel companions.
To ensure the baths maintain a perfect temperature of around 41 degrees, four separate springs are combined at Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito.
The natural water source is so plentiful that it produces 600 litres per minute, allowing the ryokan to fill an entire 20-metre outdoor pool for guests to use at their leisure. And because of the particular combination of minerals in the water, the hot springs in Ito are known for what the Japanese call bihada or beautiful skin.
Chill in the garden
While Ito is already a laid-back fishing port, Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito is a haven of calm within the town.
The sizeable garden is the centrepiece of the resort, complete with a carp-filled pond, a small bridge over a stream, and an amanatsu tree bearing bright orange fruit.
It’s here that you can settle into your ryokan experience. Every afternoon, tatami picnic mats and cushions are laid down on the lawn and you can enjoy tea or a cup of hot honey and yuzu (a local citrus fruit) with karinto, a favourite Japanese sweet snack made from deep-fried flour, yeast and sugar.
In the evenings, a trip to the garden is an excuse to soak your feet in the hot spring foot bath while gazing at the stars.
You may well have a garden view from your room – and you’ll certainly have everything you need to relax in classic Japanese style.
All the floors are lined with delicate tatami mats, and many rooms feature sliding shoji screens. There’s no bed? Don’t worry, in traditional ryokan-style, the staff will lay down your futon and make your bed for you while you’re at dinner.
If you’d like extra space, Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito has two signature rooms. Each has a corner dedicated to hand-crafted dolls known as Hina No Tsurushi Kazari, and the shoji screens are decorated with kirie paper cuttings featuring the recurring motif of the camellia – Ito’s local flower and an emblem of the city.
To celebrate the region’s ties with the camellia, Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito offers a workshop where you can use dye from the local flower to colour a silk handkerchief or make camellia oil from the seed.
You’ll also find complimentary camellia oil in your room, which is reputed to work wonders on the skin.
Fully relaxed? Then it’s time to head to dinner. At Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito, the multi-course kaiseki menu centres on two Izu specialities: meaty fish and tea leaves naturally enriched by the warm climate.
How about treating your palate to splendid alfonsino fish steamed in guricha green tea? Or spiny lobster served with local citrus fruits? And to round off your meal: a camellia-inspired desert washed down with flavourful local tea.
Discovery, exploration and relaxation will be the hallmarks of your stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Ito.
So, dive in and uncover the treasures of this beautiful coastal region – and then unwind in hot waters that are famed throughout Japan for their powers to rejuvenate and revitalize your body.