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Best Retreats in Japan

Article | July 18th, 2021 | Lukas Leiffer
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Home to the beautiful Japanese Alps and other natural wonders, Japan is a must-go destination if you are a travel enthusiast. But all the travelling and moving around can get quite tiresome. Worry not; the Land of the Rising Sun has got you covered with its retreats and resorts.

When you think of a resort in Japan, what comes to your mind first? Is it Sakura Trees? Japanese hot springs? Herbal facials and sushi? If you have said yes to at least one of the three, or maybe all of them, congratulations! But you are still missing out on a lot of what Japan has to offer.

In this blog about the best retreats in Japan, we will delve into these top-tier retreats:

1. Nemunosato Hotel and Resort
2. Holistic Retreat Hotaka Yojoen
3. Wayn-Zen
4. Hotel KurBio
5. Takefue
6. Yasuraginosato
7. Chikusenso
8. Gajoen
9. River Retreat Garaku
10. Yugawara Retreat

Let’s get started; we hope you’ll find one to your liking!


1. NEMUNOSATO HOTEL AND RESORT

The Nemunosato Hotel and Resort is a “glamping-style” resort located off the coast of Ago Bay in Mie Prefecture. Glamping is short for “glamour camping” – a way for people to experience the thrill and relaxation of the great outdoors while not sacrificing the comfort and top-tier amenities of a luxury hotel. This description fits Nemunosato perfectly, with rooms designed in an open fashion that lets you breathe in the surrounding atmosphere, which is meticulously maintained to Japanese standards of landscape design.

Nemunosato is the ideal place to delight in the joy of nature, with various activities available to restore the body and mind. We recommend a regenerating soak in the resort hot spring – a spring of purification and healing shaped like a pearl, where guests can wash away years-worth of stress. Then step out to the idyllic scenery of Mie, where you can take a stand-up paddle boat out to the bay, stay up late at night to see the brilliant stars, even enjoy a round of golf.

Enjoy dining in one of the resort’s gorgeous restaurants, each with a unique appeal that connects you with the local landscape. Restaurant Satoumi is the best place for taking in the gorgeous surroundings while enjoying a delightfully authentic taste of local culture. In keeping with nearby Ise Grand Shrine, the décor is tastefully simple: part bamboo and part hinoki cypress – the perfect background for the healthy Japanese cuisine.

There are Japanese style tatami rooms as well as more Western-style Deluxe Twin rooms, and booking this superior resort can start from 22,300 yen. They also offer accommodation plans for guests who wish to become members of their resort club.


2. HOLISTIC RETREAT HOTAKA YOJOEN

The Holistic Retreat Hotaka Yojoen, or Hotaka Nursery Park, is a thirty-year-old retreat in the forest of Azumino, Shinshu, situated at the base of the Northern Japanese Alps. Hotaka is committed to enhancing its visitors’ innate “natural healing prowess” with the following three approaches: meals that are body-friendly; yoga, walking, and other moderate level exercises; and relaxation of the mind and body.

Hotaka Yojoen is your perfect getaway from everyday life with hours oversaturated with technology. A visit here is good for your mind and body; when your soul is left to nature’s devices, you heal. Much like the three approaches, we can sum one’s time at Hotaka Yojoen up in a similar, threefold way.

Like the macrobiotics-based food at Tenma Yume, Hotaka Yojoen gives you a daily menu of vegetables and brown rice. The practice of using whole vegetables from a self-grown natural vegetable garden is effective in cleaning the body from the inside and enhancing one’s natural healing capabilities. Along with the food are the Yojoen’s yoga and forest walk programs. With a map, you are made part of a group that sets out early in the morning for a stroll through the Nursery’s forestry. The third layer of this nutshell is the concept of forest bathing that is relatively new to even the most well-known resorts and competitors. Drawn from the Nakabusa Valley, on the hills of the neighboring Northern Alps, the hot springs are made right in the heart of the surrounding forest, giving you a feeling of bathing in nature.

Avail yourself of the amenities at this nursery retreat for 2 nights with 4 meals (in your very own room) for only 37,000 yen. If you want to spend more time, discounts kick in from the third night.


3. WAYN-ZEN

With a full name like “Spiritual Health Resort Wayn-Zen”, you know that staying here is synonymous with personal healing and regeneration. Located in breathtaking Okinawa, the name takes the English “way” and adds the “N” of nature. This revitalizing resort focuses on opening their guests up to their spiritual connection with nature, using traditional Zen ideals to release that energy of personal health and love for life that they feel all people should have.

This is accomplished through meditation and purification programs rooted in Zen philosophy, including an interconnected set of therapies, such as “Source Field Therapy”, “Energy Therapy”, and “Qi Therapy”, as well as therapies set to regulate diet and employ herbal medicines. These programs are designed not only to take away stress, but to spiritually heal and relax you to your core. There are single and multi-day programs that can include lessons in Zen meditation in the resort dojo, breathing exercises, fasting or dietary programs, or even participation in a homegrown Zen tea ceremony.

Prices vary depending on the length and type of program you want, but if you’re looking for unparalleled holistic treatment and relaxation, Wayn-Zen is the perfect resort.


4. HOTEL KURBIO

A compound word of the German Kur, meaning healing, and the Greek Bios, meaning life, Hotel KurBio really lives up to its name. It was built with the idea that visiting guests should feel at ease both physically and mentally. A perfect hotel for the health and beauty conscious, KurBio is best known for its famous Kusatsu Spa hot springs and macrobiotic food menu.

A visit to KurBio is guaranteed to be an enjoyable experience. Nowadays, people encounter a wide array of personal and professional challenges. They are made to live in complex and stressful environments. On top of this, when trying to eat and live healthily, there is an information overload. Much of the information is incomplete with claims such as “this will help in losing weight,” or “this will help with your ailment.” In the end, you may not know what to do.

KurBio takes special note of all this, providing you with the ultimate mind and body experience.

The cuisine at KurBio is French-inspired, full of macrobiotic food choices. The term the hotel uses for their food is Revivre, which means food that revives the body. Fresh carrot juice at breakfast, specialized items during lunch and dinner, KurBio has it all to make your stay feel special.

Feel the harmony at KurBio with the Kusatsu Onsen, make yourself at home with KurBio’s home atmosphere, delve into a world of tasty delights with the Hotel’s all-inclusive food, and enjoy all four seasons at KurBio with their attractive, beautiful scenery.


5. TAKEFUE

Takefue is a resort spa in the traditional Japanese Ryokan-style hidden away in the forested mountains of Kumamoto prefecture, in Kyushu. The resort consists of twelve mountain lodges tucked away in a thick bamboo grove that helps you truly feel like you’re cut off from the daily stresses of life, stepping back in time to find a simpler, less complicated way of living. This nature retreat is coupled with the traditional Japanese “omotenashi”, or homegrown hospitality that Japan has long perfected, along with exquisitely arranged amenities that truly immerse you in this old-fashioned relaxation experience.

The amenities feel like what you’d find at a classical Japanese mountain inn, yet each is constructed with especial care, and a mindfulness towards elegance. You can wear elegantly woven yukata, relax in your open-air stone bath, and drink tea from your room’s exquisite tea set, as the air is lightened with fragrance from your all-natural aroma diffuser. Moreover, each room is individually designed with a different feel, so can have a slightly different stay each time you go. Some lodges even have indoor and private outdoor baths, so you never feel cut off from enjoying the splendid natural surroundings. This resort is an excellent location for a small family retreat, as some of the lodges can comfortable house up to 6 people.

Takefue prides itself in a creative menu, which creates healthy vegetarian and seafood dishes in traditional Japanese kaiseki style using locally sourced ingredients. Each month they have a slightly different variation on their menu, depending on what is in season, so meals become a bounty of seasonal delights. In addition, your meal is served in your lodge, contributing to Takefue’s atmosphere of comfort.


6. YASURAGINOSATO

Yasuraginosato is a restorative retreat located on the breathtaking Izu Peninsula, in Shizuoka prefecture. Meaning “Village of Tranquility”, Yasuraginosato is a clean and safe space designed to revitalize you within the captivating beauty of Izu, one of the most gorgeous locations in Japan.

The central location of the retreat is the Yoseikan, or “Curing Hall”, which offers deeply immersive curing techniques designed to renew both body and mind. Beyond simple rest and exercise within the lush landscape, the Yoseikan provides fasting and detox programs, with curative meals to help purify the body. This curing hall is recommended for people who are looking to relieve stress in the healthiest way, for people with poor metabolism looking to refresh their muscles, or even for people looking for better exercising and dietary habits.

The rooms create a simple, stress-free atmosphere, devoid of excess and clutter in the native Japanese spirit of simplicity. As for additional healing facilities, Yasuraginosato boasts a reenergizing local cuisine, massage and meditation areas, and a regenerative onsen to help remove weariness and reenergize the body.


7. CHIKUSENSO

Chikusenso Onsen is a resort and spa facility at the foot of Mount Zao, a mountain in Miyagi prefecture covered in lush greenery in spring and summer and soft powdered snow in winter. Mount Zao is especially famed for its rejuvenating hot springs, as well as its collection of Snow Monsters: trees covered in snow and frozen into interesting shapes. Surrounded by natural beauty, Chikusenso is a relaxing place to visit no matter the season.

Chikusenso is a facility that promotes itself as “traditional yet modern”, offering a blend of stylish luxury with homegrown Japanese hospitality and rooms that reflect this design philosophy. The architecture, interior craftsmanship, and artistic touches create a classical Japanese atmosphere, yet it also feels polished with a sleek contemporary finish. Naturally, this resort is one of the best places to visit to relax and revitalize your body in a luxurious hot spring. There are, of course, separate indoor and outdoor hot springs for men and women, as well as a private outdoor onsen guests can reserve in advance. The health benefits for the hot spring include various minor skin conditions, as well as being good for muscle aches and joint pain. The waters reputedly speed the body’s general recovery and promote overall wellness.

You’ll feast in traditional Japanese luxury with multi-course kaiseki dining – a classical Japanese-style haute cuisine that utilizes fresh local seafood and vegetables to create healthful, invigorating meals. As for ways to spend your time in addition to the pure relaxation of the hot spring or the tranquil beauty of the landscape, you can exercise at the gym or unwind in the lounge. There are even rooms for business meetings and events.


8. GAJOEN

Gajoen is a hot spring retreat in Kirishima City, in Kagoshima Prefecture. This resort hotel, built in the Ryokan style, prides itself on having a traditional Japanese air breathing through every corner of the facility. The architecture of this classical Japanese inn features the simple elegance of stone and wood construction topped with thatch roofing. It’s a style that blends seamlessly with the surrounding forest and makes you feel as though you have wandered your way into a scene from the Edo period, rich with old-fashioned Japanese hospitality.

Rooms breathe with a time-honored Japanese aesthetic sense – tatami flooring and sliding wood and paper screens welcome guests to cast aside stress and worry to contemplate natural beauty and tranquility, enhanced by the sound of the nearby Amori River. Other types of rooms have private outdoor or enclosed indoor open-air onsen, so you can take a nice refreshing bath in a soothing Japanese hot spring whenever you feel like it. The rough and rustic feel of these stone-hewn baths serve to maintain guests’ peaceful, unencumbered mindset.

Meals at Gajoen involve organically grown vegetables and free-range poultry raised on the property, for an added touch of local Satsuma flavor. The meals are healthy arrangements of fish, chicken, tofu, pickled vegetables, hearty miso soup, and other Japanese traditional dainties, cooked in the regional style. Naturally, there is also delicious tea and sake available to enjoy.


9. RIVER RETREAT GARAKU

River Retreat Garaku is a luxury hotel based on the Jinzu River (also known as the Path of the Gods) found on the hilly outskirts of the Northern Japanese Alps. When people ask about Garaku, they are mostly told that the Retreat is solely for wedding nights and romantic getaways. Not true! People can visit the River Retreat for all intents and purposes.

Made with faultless attention to detail, the rooms at River Retreat Garaku come in suite, deluxe, and standard levels. Each room has its own appeal unique to its location on the premises and the amenities offered. Picking a room based on your type of stay should help you decide which one is right for you.

Much like the rooms, the dining is exquisite as well, filled with nature’s blessings from Toyama. Dinner, Breakfast, and Lunch are served during their dedicated hours. You are to inform the management in advance, though, should you have any food allergies or prefer a specific diet like vegan or vegetarian.

There is plenty to see as well. Walk along the Jinzu Gorge and enjoy looking at some contemporary art by local artists on the Garaku property. Artists include Koichi Uchida, Machiko Ogawa, Tsubusa Kato, Kyubey Kiyomizu, Ryoji Koie, Youji Sasaki, Takuo Nakamura, Yuichi Noda, Kouji Hatakeyama, Takeshi Fuiji, and Bunpeo Matsuda.

Toyama is best known for its medicine, and its tradition lives on through the Garaku Retreat. The Yakutotoryu Spring Day Spa, which is the Retreat’s best feature, has several spa treatments and courses to help you relax to your core. These include the Gakanraku treatment, that uses deep massaging and use of emotion and symptom-centric herbs and techniques to target muscles; and the Shinrinko treatment that is comprised or various massage techniques with use of essential oils, and others like normal facial and body massages, et cetera. The hot spring water of the Kasuga is also worthy of note; adding to the beauty of the experience are the silence of the Jinzu River and an always colorful sky up above.

If you want an expensive retreat, Garaku is your bet.


10. YUGAWARA RETREAT

The Yugawara Retreat, our last on 5 Best Retreats in Japan, is in Yugawara, in Kanagawa Prefecture. A three-star establishment, the Yugawara Retreat is perfect for people wanting a getaway on a budget.

Yugawara’s most unique elements are the lectures and academic events. While on your stay at the retreat, you can opt for these enriching lectures that history experts from all over the country come to deliver. The setting is traditional-style Japanese, with floor cushions to sit on and the lecturer in the centre of the room, mesmerizing all those present with their lecture or academics. Should you choose, you can perform, too, be it poetry or a song. You can even do a reading of anything you have written.

While they offer pretty much everything other more expensive retreats do, like hot springs, Yugawara is also known for a unique twist on spa cuisine that they call “energy cooking.” They opt for the same macrobiotic diet as other spas but with some unique ingredients bound to energize you. Let’s face it; we don’t only go to these retreats to relax and let off steam but also to revitalize and reenergize ourselves. Yugawara’s food helps you do just that. They also have vegan food for those who prefer not to eat animal products and by-products.

Yugawara also has a “stay in the forest” feature that details sophisticated outdoor living. It is perfect for girl and boy scouts to relive the memories of the old days, or for the average adventurer wanting more out of their retreat experience than just calm and quiet. There is also a museum at the Yugawara Retreat that features artwork from various artists.

For a budget-friendly retreat experience, Yugawara should be on top of your list.

CONCLUSION

Having gone through our list of the Best Retreats in Japan, is there a particular one you have in mind? With whatever you pick, make sure you have a friend to tag along with you. Not only is it therapeutic to have a friend with you while wandering a strange new country, but you won’t feel homesick, making it the trip of a lifetime with your loved ones by your side.

Have a happy vacation at a retreat in Japan!


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