Nikko park in Japan: an ideal spot for stargazing

Nikkō National Park located on Japan’s main island – Honshū – is considered to be one of the most beautiful parks in the country. It is also the only one to span over more than 3 prefectures: Tochigi, Gunma and Fukushima. The Oku-nikko region is renowned for being the best spot for observing the sky.

Mountain and lake view in Japan

It is a marvellous place for all stargazers and starlovers, because the site is equipped here with telescopes that can be connected to your smartphone. Therefore, this technology will allow you to record these moments forever in your photo library.

Luxury hotel room with panoramic view in Japan

However, the Nikkō region has other advantages! It is a place to focus on during the summer for those looking for moderate temperatures. The altitude – 1300 metres – provides some freshness and ensures the body  does not overheat when the mercury rises above 30°. Lake Chūzenji is nearby and also an area to visit during the summer. Situated at the foot of Mount Nantai, it is popular with the Japanese, because it is one of the few natural lakes at this altitude and it has a direct view of the mountains.

Beach summer in Japan

Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikkō is a perfect place to enjoy this sublime region. This cosy resort with only 33 rooms has a breathtaking view of the lake and Mount Nantai, and allows guests to take full advantage of the bountiful nature, inviting you to go on long walks conducive to calm and chilling out. The absolute must and very fashionable thing to do when on the premises: indulge in a foot bath on returning from your walk, facing the lake, while enjoying the delicious crushed lemon or raspberry-flavoured ices – produced in the region – which the Japanese delight in during the summer.

Japanse traditional Ice cream

Indigo, a cherished blue hue in the Japanese way of life

Indigo, a colour which was first discovered in India and China, arrived in Japan in the Asuka era. It is believed that since Sengoku and Edo periods, Tokushima prefecture became the major place for indigo plantations. This was a time of unrelenting conflict between feudal lords, which led to a strong demand as indigo was prized by warriors, not as a doping substance, but for its antiseptic properties. Clothing worn under their armour was dyed with aizome in order to prevent infections if they got wounded.

Indeed, indigo has many qualities in addition to the aesthetic beauty of its readily recognisable deep blue colour. Its antiseptic properties enable it to cleanse wounds and promote healing; its fragrance is a natural repellent to insects and some wild animals, and it also functions as a fabric softener, especially for cotton. This was seen as an additional advantage, especially for martial arts practitioners whose clothing, called hakama, are dyed with aizome.

Even though the white-and-red flowers of true indigo produce very pretty clusters, the leaves are the part harvested by dyers. After crushing the leaves with a mallet and drying them in large bags to start the decomposition process, they placed them in a tub to ferment until they produced a tinctorial material, sukumo. They then added soda ash (aku) and lime (sekkai) in order to produce microorganisms called kankin which give the leaves their dyeing properties.

Once the proper colour has been obtained, the fibres can be plunged in the dyeing baths. Darker colours are produced by repeating this operation. While aizome is mainly used for kitchen clothing and linens, it is also used to dye fabrics. It has been used in the bedrooms as bed linens at the Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa. The Kurobane region’s products are especially renowned. Experience life in blue by treating yourself to this magnificent fabric you can bring home in your suitcase!

Watch the Magical and Ephemeral Dance of Japanese Fireflies!

The Japanese eagerly await the month of June every year. They crowd along riverbanks, lakes or nearby water zones in hopes of seeing a show only Mother Nature knows how to put on – a poetic moment that draws people of all ages and only plays in the evening when all the conditions are in place.

Fireflies habitat in Japan

With summer comes a natural phenomenon which announces the arrival of the new season to the Japanese. Rain is usually dreaded in this season, but it becomes an advantage, perhaps even the necessary ingredient to the magic. After a downpour, when the air is still balmy and humid, smalllights appear by the hundreds, sometimes even by the thousands, like tiny lanterns floating in the heavens – fireflies.

Season of Japanese fireflies

Try to picture the wonder in your children’s eyes as this unrivaled show unfolds! A unique and ephemeral moment in time – fireflies only live for 7 to 10 days, and that only occurs during mating season. The only way to catch a glimpse of this phenomenon – which is actually the fireflies’ intimate “conversation” – is to be discreet. This experience is a singular one because it can only live on in your memory… It is not possible to capture it on camera, at least not without using the flash, which would most likely disturb the luminescent dance.

The shining signals are how fireflies communicate with one another. They occur thanks to a chemical reaction in their lower abdomen that causes this exceptional phenomenon, called bioluminescence.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo by night

During your stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo, in Shimane Prefecture, take a look around you as night falls for a chance to admire the show. Finding the fireflies is as easy as identifying humid or wooded areas, ideally clean ones near a river since fireflies are picky. And to be certain not to miss the moment, keep an eye on the weather and check the websites dedicated to this happening called “hotaru matsuri”.

firefly-hotaru-matsuri-ceremony

The spring Joppari festival: a magical tribute to the apple blossom

Japanese are very sensitive to the seasons, attached to traditions, and very in tune with nature. That’s why besides the 4 seasons that are particularly outstanding in the country, there are many more which occur as the months go by, perhaps introduced by the arrival of a bird, or a gust of a new wind, or the blooming of a tree, always promising enchanting moments just waiting to be discovered by you.

Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya

Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya is organising the first Joppari festival dedicated to apple blossom. From 8 April to 30 June 2016, you can explore an unusual scene. Jawamegu square, in the centre of the resort, is completely decorated with lanterns for the occasion, each one reproducing the likeness of the apple blossom to allow you to relive the magic of this moment when the flowers open.

Japanese Joppari festival lanterns

Did you know that during these celebrations, the Japanese flock around a stand set up in the centre of the square to pull out their “omikuji”, a small strip of paper with a prediction? Whatever the subject (love, health, work, etc.), everyone is curious to find out what the future holds for them. Once these have been read, there are two possible solutions: keep the paper if the prediction is good or tie it to a tree if it is not so good. Why not discover what the future holds for you in this enchanting scene?

Traditional lantern and umbrella in Japan

During these joyous and festive evenings, you can experience magical moments, admiring the lanterns to the sound of music, and walking along a path of parasols. These delicate Japanese umbrellas, decorated with flowers using a waxing technique that is used in Aomori festivals, are lit up fantastically. At night, head out to the park and enjoy this Japanese-style light spectacle that can only be experienced during spring.

Drink Japanese cocktails of fruits

You can only experience these enchanting and timeless moments in Japan, where people respect traditions and never cease to admire nature, creating those magical moments that you are invited to share. So, when are you coming?

No journey in Japan is complete without bento!

Bento, or more accurately eki-bento means “take-away from the train station”. Are you aware that Ekiben – the  contracted word most commonly used nowadays – is an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle? You will understand when you arrive in Japan, on exploring the kiosks in all the railway stations, which the Japanese throng around expectantly at lunch time in order to take their meal away with them.

Bento food in an onsen

Did you know that the first ekiben was sold in 1888 in the Utsunomiya train station in Tochigi – the station where you get off to stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa, KAI Nikko or KAI Kawaji – when the Japanese railways were established between Ueno and Utsunomiya. At the time, the railway company asked a local inn to provide passengers making the journey with something to eat. And this is how the first bento, originally made from onigiri or rice balls, came into being.

Traditionnal bento food with rice and vegetables

There are more than 2000 varieties of Ekiben which reflect not only the season, but also the local cuisine! Each take-away is based on the regional produce of where it is made. Eating an ekiben is more than just a pleasant way to enjoy the journey you know, it is also a savoury and sensory journey through Japan, a way of discovering the different culinary traditions of the regions you visit.

Luxury bento wood box

And the contents vary, as do the bentos. You can find standard rectangular ekibens through to hexagonal ones, like those in Aomori, with 14 compartments each containing a different flavour from the region. Tōge no Kamameshi, is sold in ceramic pots (so it can be reusable) – Mashikoyaki – in Yokokawa station in Gunma prefecture and filled with 11 ingredients. The Joshu D-51 bento is inspired by the eponymous steam train, which is rare but still in service, and serves Takasaki station to the north-west of Tokyo.

Relax with a bento on a terrace

So, are you ready to step on-board and travel like the Japanese do?

The secrets of the famous Japanese tea

Mankind has known about tea for 3,500 years and nowadays it is the most consumed drink in the world after water and ahead of coffee. Did you know that although all teas come from one and the same plant “Camelia sinensis”, it is the timing of the harvest and how it is processed which defines them – white, blue, green, red or black.

Tea harvest in Japan

Did you know that Japanese tea is a very particular tea? Only “green”, it is characterised by its production processes which are specific for each tea. The most well-known and famous is undeniably matcha tea used in the tea ceremony. Were you aware that to obtain this unique tea, tea plants are covered for at least 20 days before harvesting to filter the sunlight, and the young shoots are then picked by hand one by one as soon as they are of good quality and have the desired firmness. Did you know that to prevent them from fermenting, the leaves are steamed immediately, and then dried and air-sorted, and dried again at 170°. Then, these leaves are ground just before distribution in order to conserve all the flavours. This tea powder is diluted in hot water with a small bamboo whisk resembling a small brush, known as a chasen on serving. Why not come and see for yourself?

Tea ceremony is a precise ritual

Experience the tea ceremony which takes place on the edge of the Oîgaiwa River on the terrace of the HOSHINOYA Kyoto, where this delicate moment takes on another dimension during spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. A little later in May, the hotel is the starting point for excursions to the tea plantations where you can discover this world and meet the producers with the added benefit of a tea-leaf-based lunch.

The tea ceremony , zen moment of relaxation

The second most famous tea in Japan is Sencha, which is the ultimate Japanese green tea. Did you know that the leaves are picked and immediately steamed to prevent any oxidation of the leaves and then processed on a heated work surface to a temperature of 40-50° until they are completely dry? The operation may take 4-7 hours. Only about 100 grams of tea is obtained at the most. Consequently, you will better understand the sales price of this green gold.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu hotel

Sencha tea represents 80 % of tea drunk in Japan. You can enjoy this tea during a break in your stay at the Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu  in the Shizuoka Prefecture, a tea-growing region bordering the Pacific Ocean not far from Mount Fuji. To really appreciate the tea you infuse it in water at 80°, since above this temperature, it would take on bitter and tannic notes in the mouth. This fresh and delicate tea is a marvel for whoever appreciates it, but nevertheless does not attract all palates with its admittedly somewhat particular green notes. Take time to taste this pure and delicate drink, which has played a part in the Japanese lifestyle for centuries.

Japanese wine, a treasure to be discovered

You may not believe it, but Japan is a wine-producing country. 370,000 hectolitres are produced annually over a total surface area of 30,000 hectares of vineyards, the majority of which however is earmarked for growing table grapes.

Vines from Mie Ikeno japanese domain

The Yatsugatake region, located between the Nangano prefecture in the North and the Yamanashi prefecture in the South, boasts land suitable for wine production. The vines are planted in a mountainous area, and benefit from ideal sunshine and temperatures, which are both cool in the morning and hot during the day; the perfect conditions for the vines to flourish. Did you know that the most cultivated variety is koshu, a berry with white flesh and thick pink skin that has good resistance to occasional very humid weather conditions during the ripening period?

Wine production has developed so much that even the French are interested in it! Denis Dubourdieu, a wine grower, professor of oenology, and a renowned consultant has produced a vintage called Shizen in the Yamanashi region, which will enchant all you wine-lovers with its clear colour and its aromas of flowers and white fruits. And although wine tasting is fun, its production is just as interesting. How about learning more and discovering this fascinating world, as Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake offers you the opportunity to meet a producer and a cellar master in the heart of the vineyard.

Only half an hour away from the hotel, you can experience a unique moment with these professionals who will share their expertise and knowledge with you. They will explain the effects of the wind, the surrounding mountains, and the richness of the soil, so that finally the wine that you are drinking is no longer a mystery to you.

Japanese wine tasting and Japanese gastronomy

Wine cellar of a luxury hotel in Japan

So that you can explore this further, Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake provides a tasting room exclusively for you to enjoy the wine in the best possible conditions; going so far as to offer you different glasses, including one created by the designer Mie Ikeno. All you have to do is to simply choose the one which suits you the best!

The Japanese chef has designed a local menu to taste wine and vegetables

And for you to savour this moment of pleasure, the chef has designed a menu for wine pairings entirely made up of vegetables all from the local area, so as to be consistent with nature and the environment. The dishes pair with delicate white wines with good acidity and rather floral notes. To prolong this unique experience up to the end, you can get some recommendations from the hotel shop to slip into your luggage as a souvenir. The question is: are you ready for the discovery?

Did you know that Japan is a golfers’ paradise ?

In half a century, golf has experienced a meteoric rise. Although the first golf course was founded at Kobe in 1903 for the enjoyment of English expatriates, the craze really took off in 1957 following the victory of two Japanese in the Canada Cup, the world championship by team.

Perfect Island for golf

Golf has become the most popular sport in Japan with around 20 million players nowadays. Therefore, it is the perfect destination for any golfer who will find a course suited to their level and expectations, and moreover will be able to favour the North or the South of the island depending on the season to be sure of finding the best conditions. Japan is even in the forefront of the technology used in manufacturing equipment in terms of both clubs and balls.

Kohama Island in the Indian Ocean

In a dream spot, Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Kohamajima is located in an excellent position. Situated on the island of Kohama, which belongs to the Yaeyama archipelago, located 400 km South-East in the Okinawa prefecture, golfers will find the ideal conditions for practising their favourite sport. Firstly, the climate: the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold – between 16° minimum and 32° maximum throughout the year – the course then sometimes takes on the air of paradise on earth.

Hotel with golf courses in Japan

An 18-hole course overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean, adorned here and there with Bengal figs, which are impressive in size, and hibiscus and allamanda – large climbing shrubs with yellow flowers. Depending on your position, you will even be able to see the corals which are reflected in the clear waters surrounding the archipelago. And the icing on the cake, the long daylight hours allow you to play from 7.30 to 19.00 hrs.

Spa after golf session in Japan

An idyllic setting, a pleasant climate whatever the time of year, long hours of daylight which are perfect for taking full advantage of the course, and the opportunity to enjoy quality dining at the Country House, and even a spa for you to relax in after your round. Do you still need a reason to come and play golf in Japan?