Age old ryokan tradition wrapped in contemporary luxury
Natural world | Relaxation
As one of Hokkaido’s caldera craters, Lake Akan has become something of a pristine retreat for Japan’s urban population. And with good reason. Its national park shores look out over glassy waters to Mt. Oakan, a conical volcano painted all in green. It’s a postcard-perfect backdrop to walking trails past bubbling bokke mud pools and hot spring resorts that make the most of the thermal energy. You can even hike up the surrounding volcanoes including the still active Mt. Meakan, which intermittently belches out sulphuric fumes – be sure to check ahead. Sitting on the lake’s southern shores and surrounded by old-growth forest, Akan Tsuruga Bessou enjoys the best of it all.
This traditional ryokan housed in an understated contemporary shell features just 25 luxury suites each individually designed. However, they all come with timber decks and private open-air baths fed by Lake Akan’s hot springs. Perfect for relaxing to the sound of gentle waves lapping at the shore. Uncluttered interiors are equally tranquil with soft, natural colour schemes augmented by timber sliding doors, tatami mats and dark wood Japanese furnishings. Choose between those that look back over Lake Akan’s mountain ring or out over the lake as open plan living rooms take full advantage of picture windows.
The paper screens and private, sunken horigotatsu mat rooms of the ryokan’s teahouse-inspired restaurant, Hina, are an ideal setting to enjoy a traditional kaiseki meals. Don’t worry, Western seating is also available. Using only the freshest, seasonal ingredients sourced from Eastern Hokkaido, chefs prepare multi-course feasts that are designed to complement taste, texture and aesthetic at every turn. Hokkaido, being Japan’s northernmost main island, is regarded for its excellent seafood and shellfish, including immaculately seared scallops, salmon roe and freshly caught crabs. You’ll also find a cellar well stocked with a wide range of international wines along with locally brewed craft sake.
In addition to your private baths, you’ll be treated to two communal hot springs. Both are partially open, meaning stunning views and a cooling lake breeze to complement soaring temperatures. For more considered relaxation, book into a treatment in the spa where hot stone massages are a particular speciality. Elsewhere you’ll find an art gallery and library while the atmospheric bar is the perfect place to enjoy a post-soak drink. A giant wooden counter – constructed out of a single trunk and inlaid with contrasting patterns – looks out through a window wall into the ancient forest beyond.
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