Exploring Japan from a Luxury Base
As Japan continues to experience a recovery in domestic tourism, a number of new luxury hotels across the country are eagerly anticipating the return of individual travelers from overseas. Many will be encouraging prospective visitors to book longer stays so that they can take the time to explore local areas and their attractions in greater depth. In this newsletter we'd like to introduce some unique examples of these.
The Hotel VMG Resort Kyoto is not a hotel in the traditional sense; it comprises a number of historical buildings scattered across the Kiyamachi, Higashiyama and Okazaki areas of eastern Kyoto. These include long-established ryokans - Japanese-style inns, all of which have been renovated to offer modern levels of comfort in traditional surroundings.
After checking in at a reception building, guests head to their private residence, perhaps a block or two away. The accommodations are spacious, with an average area of 60 sq meters and all featuring private Japanese-style baths. They are tastefully decorated in colors and shades evoking the ambience of the city's past.
Dinner is served in a historical five-story wooden inn overlooking the Kamo River; to reach it guests can take a scenic wander through cobblestone streets past some of Kyoto's famous landmarks, including Kodaiji Temple, first built in 1606. Breakfast is served in the grounds of the famous Heian-jingu Shrine, built in 1895 to mark Kyoto's 1,100th anniversary.
The town of Nikko lies 150kms north of Tokyo, around 1.5 hours by express train, and among its attractions are Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Japan's most lavishly decorated Shinto shrine, which contains the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The expansive Nikko National Park is famous for its autumnal colors and is popular with hikers and nature lovers. It contains the scenic Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon Falls, one of Japan's tallest waterfalls.
Although it is within easy reach of Tokyo, the area around Nikko feels like a different world. In addition to trekking or cycling, visitors can try their hand at rafting across Lake Chuzenji or canyoning through Urami Falls.
Within walking distance of the Nikko Toshogu shrine, the FUFU Nikko offers travelers an elegant retreat in a beautiful green oasis. All 24 individually designed guest suites at the hotel overlook the surrounding forests and come with their own private indoor or outdoor hot spring bath; there is additionally a large communal bath.
Guests can enjoy a lavish afternoon tea in the hotel's Fufu Lounge. Nearby attractions within leisurely strolling distance include the Nikko Botanical Gardens and the Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park.
Bordered by the main islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, the Seto Inland Sea has always been an important waterway through which people, goods and culture flowed back and forth across the centuries. The settlement of Setoda sits on the western coast of Ikuchi, one of a cluster of islands in the central part of the waterway.
The Azumi Setoda hotel is part of 140-year-old estate that originally belonged to a wealthy family active in the salt trade in the 17th century. To symbolize their power and influence, the family built a compound employing the best craftsmen from around the country, including leading carpenters from Kyoto, whose contributions included astonishingly thin shoji screens. It is a testament to their skill that, 140 years after its construction, the estate was in good enough condition to be restored rather than rebuilt.
There are four room types in the two-story guest pavilion, which is built around a courtyard. Every guest room has its own small outdoor area - either a private garden, generous balcony, or combination of both. Each room also has a cypress bathtub. Their furnishings incorporate cedar, cypress, washi Japanese paper, and granite.
Guests have an array of external activities to choose from; the sheer number of islands in the Seto Inland Sea means that visitors can easily hop across a number of them in a single day. Many of the islands are famous for their art festivals, and visitors can cycle around them exploring historical, artistic and cultural sites; they can also venture out to sea for a sunset cruise or some fishing.
Luxury accommodations like these are opening in increasing numbers across Japan, and all are looking forward to providing future visitors more fulfilling travel experiences than ever before!
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