Nature is the main draw at the Hoshinoya Karuizawa. Hidden in the ancient forest at the foot of Mount Azuma, not a single rock or tree was disturbed in the making of this property. Guest rooms are in villas dotted along the banks of the Yukawa River. Natural geothermal waters provide underfloor heating, as well as rejuvenating hot spring baths.
The rooms are Japanese-style, but not stiflingly so. The futon beds are on raised platforms and are not put away during the day – far more comfortable for international guests than your usual ryokan traditions. There are no TVs, and each room has a bathtub made from sweet-scented hinoki cypress.
There are communal baths too. The tombo-no-yu “dragonfly” bathhouse has indoor and outdoor hot spring baths as well as a sauna. A meditation bath entirely in the dark heightens the senses. Zen-inspired spa treatments are also available.
Executive chef Eiji Inake creates alpine kaiseki in the Hoshinoya’s dining room. Japanese haute cuisine uses local seasonal ingredients in dozens of tiny, exquisite dishes: expect ayu river fish, mountain vegetables and mouth-watering beef plus an extensive sake selection. In-room dining can be arranged on request.
Karuizawa is known for its diverse birdlife and guests can take an eco-tour of the area. With a bit of luck, you may also spot the elusive Japanese flying squirrel. Horse riding is another way to explore the foothills of Mount Asama.