Throughout its 400-year history, this off the beaten track luxury gem has hosted some of Japan’s finest writers
Natural world | Off the beaten track | Relaxation
Well off the normal tourist track, Kotohira is a small town tucked away in northern Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. However, it’s firmly on the pilgrim route, home to Shikoku’s most sacred shrine, Kompirasan. A combination of a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine it sits at the summit of nearly 800 stone steps, looking out over sleepy Kotohira to the mountain-studded plains beyond. You can even hire a palanquin to take you up. And, at its base lies this luxury ryokan, looking back up at Mt. Sanuki-Fuji. When the day-trippers have headed home, it’s an ideal opportunity to experience a slower pace of rural life perhaps at Japan’s oldest surviving kabuki theatre.
Kotohira Kadan offers a broad selection of accommodation; there are 40 traditional and contemporary guest rooms spread over three houses. In ryokan rooms, sliding doors are adorned in intricately detailed golden motifs while tatami mats host low-rise furniture and lattice windows invite garden views in. Whether hosting winter snow, autumn leaves or summer greenery, Kadan’s sculpted lawns and bonsai trees are postcard-perfect. Back inside, traditional lacquerware and hanging scrolls hint at the ryokan’s 400-year-old history. Look for accommodation with open air onsen baths for spectacular mountain views. If you’d prefer, rooms are also available that mix in Western furnishings – think chaise-lounges rubbing shoulders with knee-high dining tables. Others still are entirely contemporary, swapping timber construction for modern mood lighting.
Kagawa Prefecture is famed for its brand of ultra-fresh cuisine. And, with the region ringed by the Setouchi Inland Sea, Kadan’s kitchen dishes up a range of excellent seafood with crab, shrimp and shellfish featuring prominently. A particular favourite is the Sanuki udon – a type of thick, square noodles unique to Shikoku – which can be served with shabu shabu thin slices of marbled beef. What’s more, all ingredients are sourced locally from Kagawa, meaning you’ll enjoy only the crispiest of fried tempura.
Just as rooms might feature chado tea ceremony boxes and shodo calligraphy sets, Kadan’s onsen baths stay equally faithful to the ryokan’s Taisho Era origins. Drawn from an underground source, its hot spring waters are rich in calcium and sodium, said to have a nourishing effect on skin. Either way, its comforting heat is ideal for any sightseeing aches and pains. On the third floor, you’ll also find an equally relaxing jazz lounge, complete with bar, library and views over the gardens.
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