When it comes to accommodation in Japan the choice in style is quite stunning. Levels of hospitality are almost overwhelming (in a really good way) and the spaces themselves frequently unique and sometimes surprising…
Please read my story in Escape HERE to find out just some of the options you might have to choose from – setting aside your standard hotel offering – you all know how to find those!.
To provide a little extra colour and movement I’m including some snaps I took whilst staying at a few of the very special places in for the story – I really wanted to share them because there isn’t always a lot on the internet to clearly give you a good idea of the properties or their surroundings (only so much space to play with in any publication).
Of course you’ll have to read the story to discover what and where each place is… I can’t give away their names while the story is so fresh – but I’ve given you hints so you can match up the pics with the story text – look for the initials of the property name above eaach set of images 😉
What I don’t mention in the printed story, due to word limits, are some of the additional facilities available to guests. This place in in fact a gated property so rather exclusive. It’s totally private with no neighbours except trees and local monkeys. There’s a pool and tennis courts for the warmer months and a choice of gorgeous cabins, each with different decor as well as a small number of large suite style rooms in the main building.
From the images below you’ll be able to determine we were visiting in winter but you can imagine how pretty it is in the warmer months – it’s a great area to go for forest walks, picnics or a cycle around the Lake. Well part of it unless you are super fit. There are kilometres of cherry trees around this part of Biwa so an option for seeing the blossoms too. The proprietor is a total foodie and owns another excellent restaurant in a nearby town – so if you stay here for more than a couple of nights ( and you really should) make sure you check it out.
This accommodation property in Nara prefecture is for private use of upto 6 people. As you can see it’s situated high in the mountains over looking ricefields (rather golden in winter but imagine this lushly green and irrigated in the warmer months). This experience is so unique – it’s definitely one for the bucket list – but you’ll have to read the story to find out where it is. If you really want to get away from it all, stay in a traditional space and have the option of immersing yourself in nature or learn about or have a deeper, private experience of Japan’s amazing culture – then this will take your breath away. Since writing the story this property has opened a 2nd house (we got to do a walk through while it was still under construction) and it is utterly gorgeous – go to their website ( in the story) and take a peek!
It’s in Shizuoka prefecture – south-east of Tokyo – just two hours by train. It’s very fancy and has both traditional and modern ryokan style accommodations. If you fancy trying Japanese onsen in private and totally relaxing (and being spoilt) – this place would be an amazing treat. It’s worth staying in this area and checking out the local villages and views from all around this particular peninsula. One side faces the sea and the opposite – Mount Fuji… the spa offers a very zen experience too using locally grown tea.
**But wait there’s more.
Another fantastic place I’ve stayed since writing this article, and one I can happily share the details for is HANASE HIGHLAND INN… A curious name perhaps but when you find out the owners are Scottish and Japanese (via Australia) it should all start to make sense.
If you love Kyoto but would like to see it from a different viewpoint – I can highly recommend this guest house in the mountains north of the city run by a most delightful couple – Simon and Keiko – and their dog Boss.
Again this is a really special experience – staying with locals in your own private, spacious, very comfortable, 2 story, little house adjacent to the main house where you’ll enjoy wonderful meals from morning to night by chef Simon. He does great coffee too and makes everything from scratch including bread, ice cream and chocolates. Don’t go expecting formal Japanese cuisine like that of a Kyoto ryokan – here it’s more casual and western in choice . I’ve only eaten here in cooler weather and can attest to it all being hearty, nutritious and delicious – and just a little bit decadent. OK, a lot.
Hanase Highland Inn is situated on a single road through the mountains, surrounded by forest and therefore really perfect for getting away from everything. The inn only takes one party at a time – with western beds for 2 people (there may be futon for sleeping sleep a 3rd or 4th family member/ close friends if you wish to share… but really it’s meant for a sole person or a couple to really just relax in).
In winter you’ll want to relax by the open fire with a book with Boss for company – or watch Simon baking pastries in the stunning refurbished traditional kitchen – there’s also a lovely garden to look out on – so incredibly beautiful when it snows, a handsome private bathhouse of aromatic cedar with large ceramic bath to soak in and naturally walks, temples and fresher than fresh air. There are several traditional villages worth day-tripping to (crafts people with shops/little museums/galleries etc) and small local festivals and markets. True country style!
Keiko is a wealth of information on all things Japan and the couple could not be more accommodating – they are only to happy to help you make the most of the area or leave you alone in peace. It’s not far from Kyoto city at all yet feels worlds away.