Combine Japanese style with Western comfort in this contemporary ryokan
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History & culture | Off the beaten track | Relaxation
Quiet Kotohira – well off the beaten track – is an ideal opportunity to experience a slower, more rural way of Japanese life. It’s a world away from main island Honshu’s big cities. However, thanks to its ancient shrine – Kompirasan – being ranked as among the country’s most important, it attracts a large number of domestic pilgrims. Join the dedicated in walking up the 1,368 stone steps – their start is just a few minutes from the Grand Hotel – to be greeted by spectacular vistas, treasure halls and multiple picturesque, wooden shrines. The hotel is also sited next door to the Konpira Grand Theatre, the oldest kabuki playhouse in Japan, where you can watch extravagant dance-drama performances.
Between spacious, traditional offerings and comfortable Western options, rooms certainly live up to the hotel’s illustrious moniker. The Japanese, ryokan-style accommodation is particularly delightful with open air baths that look back out to mountain greenery and massage chairs – the perfect complement to floor-level furnishings. Sliding paper doors and tatami mats round off the aesthetic. For those looking for more home-comforts, rooms with plush, standard beds and oversize sofas are also available. In all, picture windows look out to spring cherry blossom, summer greenery and autumnal spreads.
Led by Iron Chef Ota Tadamichi, the hotel’s excellent open kitchen uses only seasonal ingredients to prepare indulgent multi-course dinners. Regional specialities – such as the large, flat Sankui udon noodles – feature alongside such Japanese favourites as tempura and teppanyaki. Meals are served either in the restaurant, overlooking the gardens, or – at request – in private dining venues served in accordance with Japanese omotenashi hospitality principles. In the morning, breakfasts are buffet style, sometimes even featuring local crab dishes.
Drawing water from Kotohira’s shared onsen spring, the hotel’s baths are its standout feature. Choose between indoor and outdoor offerings, where secluded gardens look out over the surrounding greenery and traditional tap fed, wooden baths recall the ryokans of old. There’s even a sauna if you haven’t yet felt the work out on your walk up to Kompirasan. For those looking to stay connected there’s WiFi throughout along with televisions in the rooms.
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