17 Apr 2019 in In immersion
Mesmerizing sakura sightseeing combines with high-class Japanese hospitality at HOSHINOYA.
Picture yourself at a top-end ryokan. Soaking your muscles in a steaming hot spring bath, treating your senses to the seasonal cuisine of an award-winning chef, or contemplating a panoramic lakeside view from your room. Outside the ryokan, Japan is in its most celebrated season, a festival of burgeoning blossoms in assorted shades of pink and white.
This is spring at its most immersive, a quintessentially Japanese experience where wellbeing and nature co-exist in splendid harmony. And this is precisely what you can expect at HOSHINOYA hotels.
If you’re looking for inspiration for a cherry blossom vacation, take your pick from any of Honshu’s 4 HOSHINOYA destinations.
Tokyo: floating in blossom
The most urban of the 4 resorts is HOSHINOYA Tokyo, where luxury and restfulness inside the ryokan blend with city-centre activity and discovery just outside your door.
The hotel is just a 5-minute walk from one of Tokyo’s most iconic sites, the Imperial Palace.
And, in early April, the city’s must-see sight is the mass of cherry trees huddled over the palace moat, forming thickets of pink petals stretching down to the water.
The best place to appreciate this seasonal show of majestic colour?
From the moat itself. Small row boats are available for hire on the north-east edge of the palace grounds. Known as the Chidorigafuchi moat, this is reputed as Tokyo’s most romantic hanami (flower viewing) spot. For the locals, it’s a hotspot for marriage proposals.
It’s certainly a memorable experience as you row under low-hanging Yoshino trees and find yourself beneath a blanket of blossom. The effect is even more spectacular when the water is filled with pink petals.
Make sure you get to the rental place early – preferably well before it opens at 9.30am, as queues can get very lengthy. While you’re in Tokyo, don’t miss out on the festive atmosphere of its parks during sakura season, including the partygoers’ favourite, Ueno Park!
Karuizawa: sakura and samurai
Nestled at the foothills of the Japanese Alps, HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is famed for its hot spring baths. Japanese-style serenity reigns supreme at this resort, where private villas are dotted around a large terraced park composed of rivulets, bridges and colourful trees.
The area’s must-see sight of the spring?
The Ueda Castle Senbon Sakura (1000 Cherry Trees) Festival. In and around the grounds of the castle, swathes of sakura form a tapestry of luminescent colour. Wander around the castle park and you’ll encounter cherry blossom of all descriptions, from the wild varieties Yamazakura and Edohigan to the remarkable weeping cherry trees Shidarezakura and Higanzakura.
The castle itself was the 16th-century stronghold of the powerful Sanada clan, with Sanada Yukimura celebrated as one of Japan’s great samurai leaders. The festival’s program includes samurai dances, concerts, and a chance to try on the clan’s distinctive red armour for yourself.
Fuji: iconic photo opportunities
If you’re looking for the ultimate springtime room with a view, head to HOSHINOYA Fuji. From your private glamping cabin, you’re guaranteed a picture-postcard view of Mt. Fuji reflected in Lake Kawaguchi – and, with a little luck, framed by the blossoms of cherry trees growing in the resort’s grounds.
The resort is set on a forested hillside and offers up unique outdoor experiences like smoking your own food or roasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire. But walk just a few minutes downhill and you’ll arrive at the promenade along the lake’s northern shore – the setting for the Fuji Kawaguchiko Cherry Blossom Festival.
For around a kilometre, the banks of Lake Kawaguchi are lined with some 300 Yoshino cherry trees, providing opportunities aplenty to snap shots of Fuji-san framed by the heavily-laden branches of blossoming cherry trees. During the festival, stalls offer up local food, drink and handicraft items. At sunset, the cherry trees are lit up to spectacular effect.
Kyoto: remote river trip
The final luxury destination for your springtime vacation?
Riverside HOSHINOYA Kyoto, where a private house-boat will take you through bucolic hillsides thick with seasonal sakura. This is just one of a number of memorable seasonal experiences you’ll be able to discover in and around the resort.
And, if you’ve missed the boat this spring, it’s never too early to start planning for next year!