Hello girls!! I just came back from a fantastic one month work trip to Japan. But it's not Japan if you cant find a break in between to enjoy the beautiful country, so I went for a few days trip to Karuizawa and stayed at this amazing resort, Hoshinoya. There's no blog posts enough to explain why I love Japan and why you should visit the country, because it's just too amazing to be true. One of the best experiences you can ever do only in Japan is to stay at japanese resort and rejuvenate yourself from the busy life
Hoshinoya, which is under Hoshino Resorts, is the leading luxury resort chain in Japan and their Hoshinoya Karuizawa is the first branch they own. In 2014, they celebrated 100th year anniversary of the opening of their first ryokan in Karuizawa. It used to be a humble ryokan but renovated and levelled up to this point. Being a fan of Hoshinoya, there's no way to miss their best resort
Autumn is declared as one of the best seasons to visit Karuizawa because the autumn leaves are so pretty there. However due to my schedule, I missed the peak of their momiji (end of October)
Hopefully next year I could catch their momiji! But it doesn't make my experience any worse, as there are so many reaasons to stay in this beautiful hotel
Here are Top Reasons Why You Have to Stay at Hoshinoya Karuizawa!
JAPANESE omotenashi with english speaking staffs
When I first came to Japan, one of my main goals was to stay at Japanese Inn / Ryokan, with Japanese Omotenashi, wear Yukata, step on tatami, and enjoy my Japanese breakfast in the comfort of my room. However the turn off point is how difficult it is to reserve as a foreigner, let alone to stay there because mostly the staffs dont speak english. At Hoshinoya Karuizawa (or in fact, at all of Hoshino Resorts), this problem is solved as they have staffs who speak fluent english and can assist my needs. The experience of staying at traditional rooms and especially breath taking bathroom with wooden bath up are truly exceptionals!
90 mins away from tokyo
Considering how easy it is for a weekend trip from Tokyo, it is one of the most visited areas for Tokyo citizens. Mostly popular during summer to escape the heat as Karuizawa is located in the mountain area. You can either rent a car and drive there, or get a Shinkansen to Karuizawa Station. From there, there are 2 options whether you would like to ride Hoshinoya Free Shuttle Ride (It is maybe the most luxurious shuttle bus I have ever had, I rode it on the way back home), or 15 mins taxi ride (which would cost you around 2000 yen). I was strolling around Karuizawa Ginza Dori first hence I had to take taxi on my check in day. Dont forget to check the timetable for the shuttle bus as well, if you have early check in and the bus is not operated, your only choice is taxi!
unbeatable dining experience
At their main dining, Kasuke, which architecture is mindblowing, you can enjoy delightful meals made from high quality local ingredients. Since Karuizawa is a mountain area with sloped land, the design follows the natural shape and it creates some levels at restaurant. You can totally appreciate the way Hoshinoya wants to build the resort without destroying what nature holds, they exist together and create good ambient instead, As for the dining, they're open for breakfast and dinner time. I had the opportunity to try both time. The above picture was their Washoku Set for breakfast and everything's made with so much effort and love. As for the Dinner Course, as expected of Japan and Hoshinoya, they are based on seasonal items with meanings on each food. The Seasonal Course changed regularly so you'll always be surprised on each visit! I truly recommend the dinner course as it's pretty good price with around 10.000 yen per person for high quality experience, even considered cheap if you insist on having the same thing and quality in your own country
ONSEN, DID I NEED TO SAY MORE?
I would say the major winning factor of Hoshinoya Karuizawa compared to the other Hoshinoya branches is their offer of onsen experience. Hoshinoya Karuizawa owns 2 onsen / hot springs and one of it is Hoshino Onsen - Tombo no Yu, which opens for public ith fee but closed for hotel guests only from 8.30 - 10.00 am. It offers experience of indoor and outdoor hot springs with high quality water that will replenish your soul and body. It is 5-10 mins by car from the hotel, and you can use driver and private car shuttle service for return journey. All of the experiences above are complimentary for hotel guests. Another onsen is their Meditation Bath inside the hotel area which is exclusive for hotel guests. You can enjoy Bath of Light, spa, sauna, and unique Bath of Dark where you can get inside one dark room where it's totally pitch black and you can only listen to the voices of water. They believe it can help you meditated and released from the stress!
amazing view day & night
No it is not New Zealand, neither it is Swiss or Iceland. It is Karuizawa. Hoshinoya is always located a little bit far from the city center because they want you to enjoy the nature at its best, without any car's sound or loud human voices. At night it was just so quiet and all I could hear was the river flows and ducks' quack. Since it's far from manmade lights, stars are so easy to be seen by naked eyes (depends on the weather on that day as well though) that creates magical picturesque scenery. Waking up in the morning is always a blissful experience since you can get the view like this along with sunshine right from your balcony
village life with modern technology
I always adore how Hoshinoya can transport their guests back to nature and enjoy it to the fullest without leaving the convenience of modern days. There's no TV so you won't be disturbed by news and such, however WiFi is pretty fast! Since they have their own onsen, they make the road and the villas all self heated thanks to the onsen water. Their self-generated water system power is just so good so your feet wont feel cold (which was a problem back then). During winter since the road is self heated down there, the snow will melts and so it won't be slippery when you walk. During summer, the circulation is mostly from windows on the top area and terrace, so guests can just open them up and let the air circulated with nice breeze of wind. Their energy is 70% self generated from the river, the water, and the onsen geothermal
There's no escalator in the resort area and but the hurdle is not that high. This is to let you experience the true back in nature, when back then you had to hunt and walk across mountains to find foods etc. Once you've reached the main dining or other places, you'll be presented with amazing views or meals in the end, and they believe it will make everything much worth it. However for far away places or if you want to enjoy car drive, just call the front desk to get your private car and chauffeur to drive you there
list of activities to keep you preoccupied
Staying in Hoshinoya means that you wont run out of things to do even if you stay for months. Though by relaxing at your room is already a bliss, there are tons of interesting activities to keep you active! Guests can also visit some places such as Kogen Church, Stone Church, Hoshino Onsen, etc by private car which is 10-15 mins away from the resort. Some activities are complimentary while some have to come with additional fees. Since there are so many interesting activities in the resort, I decided to make a separate post for it which you can read HERE.
feel like at home, without any pressure
Hoshinoya Karuizawa is a perfect escape place to not worry about superficial things and enjoy what nature truly holds. So, they prepare your outfits to be worn both indoor and outdoor. They give you room wear, and also a kind of top and pants made by comfortable fabric that you can wear to visit their areas (the outfit is the traditional outfit that you tie down instead of buttons), yukata (requested), and also coat, bag, socks, and geta (japanese traditional shoes). We're tired of impressing people in the city and we have to think each day what to wear. In here you just need to wear what's provided as comfortable as possible, without any prejudice. The coat is also really warm and I am so thankful for the bag as it can hold almost EVERY things that I need to bring and it's so light. It makes you feel at home and there's no need to compete with other guests about who dress up better, what bag she wears, which brand of shoes she owns, it is just about comfort! (I dress up sometimes only because I want to take pictures)
There's also option to have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner at your room if youre too lazy to go out and have human's interactions. Simply call the restaurant and they will bring the foods to you. I had my in room breakfast with fantastic view, and also had the best Oden I have ever had! The chef came to my room and cook it for me. The menus changed seasonally but the one that I had was Jibie Oden which is a local winter food from Nagano Prefecture. It comes with dashi of deer's meat and consists of different types of local vegetables and local animals' meat such as Inoshizi (mountain pork), Usagi (Rabbit), Kiji, Uzura, and Horohorodori (types of chicken). It is a culture in here to eat rabbit and to get rid of the smell, the chef used Gobo. It comes with tons of seasonings as well such as Negi Tare, Japanese Mustard, Kanzuri, Sansho, etc. The best of the best you can ever find and leave you feeling satisfied and full!
As expected I have become such a big loyal fan of Hoshinoya but Karuizawa's branch is so special and rich in history and culture. If you're interested, you can visit their websites for more informations about it. Price stated is price per room, no matter whether you stay alone or with others. The biggest room can hold up to 4 people and if you divide the cost of room, I think it becomes so affordable! It looks beautiful on all seasons but I guess I would love to come back again during summer (simply because I heard nothing but good thing regarding summer in Karuizawa) and autumn (to catch the best fall foliage)