I am back with another place recommendation in Japan and this time it's a Ryokan located in Tochigi Prefecture. The area is called Nikko, and it can be your next destination if you want to go somewhere nearby Tokyo area. It's my first time visiting Nikko that's famous for its beautiful nature and landscapes and I had always wanted to visit it. On second week of March, I went there along with AnakJajan to explore what Nikko offers and we stayed at Ryokan named KAI
KAI is a brand of Ryokan in Japan under Hoshino Resorts, and if you've been following me for a while, you know how much I love Hoshino Resorts due to their high standard of hospitality and amazing hotels. HOSHINOYA is their luxury resort brand and KAI is focused on the onsen and ryokan experience with more affordable price
For my room, I had the best and iconic room among all of them, which had Lake Chuzenji View. Lake Chuzenji is one of the most main attraction in Nikko area and I had never seen a lake that can sparkle under sunlight, it's so breathtaking
These are the views from my room, and I keep saying this is not how I expected Japan would be, it feels like New Zealand or Switzerland or somewhere far from urban life
The room is super spacious with around 60m2 and since it's Ryokan, the whole area from the lift entrance to the alley, and to your room, is all covered with tatami. It's truly a way to experience the real Japan's omotenashi. The bed is however not futon but luxury mattresses laid down
Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko rooms offer either mountain view or lake view. Since I came during the end of winter season, I chose to get the lake view and it's definitely fantastic! When I woke up in the morning and saw this beautiful view, and at night all I saw in the sky was clear stars. Anyway during autumn season, the mountain trees will turn red and I recommend you to try the mountain view instead! There's only 33 rooms in this Ryokan, making it pretty exclusive for people who want to escape the noise and hectic life in city
As expected of Hoshino Resorts, they provide 24 hours lounge where you can enjoy selected teas and coffees while chatting with your friends. On certain time, they have champagne, chocolate, and local coffee as well and it's all complimentary from the ryokan
What I love about staying in Ryokan is no matter where you go, you can just wear your yukata and geta as long as it's still inside Ryokan area. As for the local coffee, it's one of the best coffees I have ever had and we had to grind it by ourselves. There are a lot of books that you can read as well while enjoying your coffee, or you can just simply see the beautiful scenery or mesmerized by the wooden architectures that KAI offers
For Ryokan experience, usually breakfast and dinner are all included in the hotel's fee. Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko unfortunately doesn't provide in room dining as every meals are held inside their restaurant
For menu, they change it everyday so even if you stay more than 1 night, you wont get bored by the food selections. For breakfast it's always a set and what I love from Hoshino Resort is their staffs can speak english perfectly fine, including handling the menu course and explanation of each food in english as you can see from the picture above. Mostly it's all healthy foods with local ingredients, and when I am traveling, my wish is to eat as many local produces as possible to get to know the taste of each place. Upon staying here, I learned that strawberries and Yuba (tofu skin) are what makes Tochigi famous
As for dinner, it's always a course meal and every day the chef changed the theme. On the first night we stayed there, we had Yuba Course, and on the second night I guessed right that the theme was spring since the foods mostly use spring colors (green, yellow, pink)!
Some of the foods from the dinner course, and the quality is beyond supreme. I can totally see the good technique and effort they put on every single dish. Like, the freshness of the raw foods, crystal clear soup that reflects the light but has totally rich flavor, perfection of the tamagoyaki to the point there's no bubble, and about how each food has certain meaning. Even their rice and pickles are so good and I can feel they put their heart when making it. Not just the chef, but also the farmers who grow the rices and vegetables. It's truly a piece of art when dining in Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko
However the best performance is probably the local wagyu beef that's steamed inside Oya Stone. Oya Stone is a natural stone from Tochigi area and it's in fact used to build caves from centuries ago. The outside is cold but the inside is burning hot, and it's original creation of Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko where you can't get it anywhere else. The wagyu is steamed with dashi and left for a few minutes before it's done. It totally removes the meat / blood smell and has unique flavor, but most importantly, it meltssssss inside my mouth
Amazing meals accompanied by awesome friends is a perfection!
Before or after your dinner, you can watch Geta Show that's played once every night while learning about the history behind that. The performers explain it in japanese but for foreigners who don't speak Japanese, they will hand you information paper. But most of the time we're just joining the fun by tapping our feet and clapping hands happily! It's located inside the restaurant and truly a good performance
KAI's main focus is in their onsen, and they offer both indoor and outdoor experience. Usually, one can't take picture inside the onsen area but I get special permission to shoot when onsen's closed for public
Although it's supposed to be the end of winter season, since it's located on the top of mountain where the temperature is still low, behind the fence I could see some snow piled up. The weather was freezing and that's why I love dipping in onsen during this time, it makes my body warm!
I prefer the outdoor onsen and the water totally helps rejuvenates my tired body. Also, it's a great way to bond with your friends and a must-do experience while in Japan!
I was offered 45 mins massage from KAI as well and being a person, who is love an understatement word for the feeling toward massage, I said yes to the offer. Even from the second the therapist pressed my back, I quickly knew that I was at the best hand! The massage is done at the comfort of your room and available until late at night
Before the service, I had to fill forms about my condition to help him know about my concern. And I tell you it's the most WORTH 1 HOUR MASSAGE MONEY you'll ever spend in your entire life because he's just sooooo good! He knew the technique so well and massaged the area so well. It was only 45 mins but he focused on keeping my body relaxed and sore-free, to the point I fell asleep right away
I asked about his skill afterward and he said he went to MASSAGE SCHOOL in Kyushu, for 3 YEARS! And he's been working as therapist for around 7 years if I am not mistaken. Now, now, we're paying for a real professional in Japan, unlike in Indonesia. I totally forgot asking to extend the service to 70 min on my own because I felt soooo good after that. I would love to visit Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko again just to get him fixing my body!
During winter season, there's free shuttle bus complimentary for Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko guests departed from Tokyo Station to the ryokan. However it's only seasonal promo and other way is through train service from Tokyo to Nikko station, followed with bus. With shuttle bus, it took us around 3 hours
For more informations about the room, meals, price, and how to get there, you can visit their website below
Staying in Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko is truly a remarkable experience and I cant believe that this kind of spectacular view exist in Japan, moreover pretty close to Tokyo! Also having a hotel right across the lake and mountain view is totally a memorable memory that you can treasure. Thank you Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko for hosting me!