25 Aug 2017 in In immersion
Discover a hot springs inn nestled in a small village by a mountain river. What better place to explore Japan’s wilderness and revitalize body and mind?
In winter, you’ll look out onto snow-coated mountains with wisps of steam rising gently from the natural hot spring waters. In summer, you’ll gaze on a mass of verdant forests colonizing the hillside. And in spring and autumn, the changing vegetation provides a riot of colours worthy of any picture postcard. This is a place where you’ll feel in perfect harmony with the seasons.
And if you like the mountains, you’ll love Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji.
On the journey here, you’ll pass through increasingly spectacular scenery of mountain streams, pine forests and, towards the end, glimpses of the 2486-metre high volcano Mount Nantai.
When you arrive at your destination, the staff will guide you through the ryokan’s garden on a stone-paved path, past an old watermill that now houses a small café-bar for guests.
Entering the lobby area, you’ll immediately be drawn to the view through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows: just below, the Ojikagawa river bubbles purposefully down the valley with tree-clad hills towering above it.
You’ll have time to admire this mountain vista over your welcome cup of tea – and at any time during your stay from the library-café, where complimentary coffee and tea are available 24/7.
Reenergize and revitalize
Whether you’re here to relax in the mountain air or explore the great outdoors, you’ll be well served at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji.
One of the best walks from the ryokan is to follow the river downstream on a beautiful trail through forests and deep-cut gorges, criss-crossing over suspension bridges.
If you’d prefer to take it easy, there are plenty of relaxing activities available in and around the ryokan. Just by the entrance, an area is reserved for demonstrations of traditional washi paper making.
Catch a demo and you’ll have a chance to make your own Japanese paper – a great souvenir.
Nearby, you can grind your own kinako or roasted soybean flour using a manual stone grain mill. The protein-rich beans are a local speciality and you can bag up your kinako and take it with you.
But, first, make sure you try a classic Japanese treat: take a marshmallow, toast it over the nearby stove – then dab it in your soybean flour. It’s a surprisingly tasty combination!
Unwind in style
Of course, relaxation is an integral part of your stay.
You’ll find everything you need to unwind in your room – including a traditional yukata you can change into for relaxing around the ryokan. The view from your room (and your terrace) will be either of the river or of mountains overlooking the village of Kawaji-Onsen.
Traditional tatami flooring offers an authentic ryokan feel and, best of all, many rooms have that most Japanese of inventions: the kotatsu or heated table. There are few things more comforting in life than sitting around the kotatsu with a blanket wrapped around your waist and your legs warming snuggly underneath.
Looking for more ways to relax?
Then head to the ryokan’s hot spring baths. After a day of exploration, you’ll deserve a soak in the warm waters of the outdoor rock pond or the large indoor baths.
Here, you’ll feel at one with nature, with the only audible sounds the trickling of water down the rocks and the faint bubble of the Kinugawa river in the distance.
Hearty mountain food
When it comes to dinner, you’re in for a treat. The restaurant serves a multi-course kaiseki menu with plenty of regional delicacies, including Nikko salmon and soybeans.
One signature dish involves wrapping beef and vegetables in bamboo and steaming them in a pot filled with salt and ten varieties of soybeans. Another classic is a mountain hotpot of vegetables and wild boar.
If you’re visiting in winter or spring, don’t be surprised to be served seasonal strawberries as a desert. Yes, in Japan, strawberries are a winter fruit! And Tochigi Prefecture is known across the country for its sweet tochiotome strawberries. You can even pick your own nearby.
So, how about getting away from it all at a rural Japanese inn?
Between hot spring baths, hiking and haute cuisine, you’ll find a combination that suits you – and makes your stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji a truly memorable mountain experience.