If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you should take some time to relax and enjoy some traditional Japanese hospitality. If the idea of soaking in steaming water piped from natural hot springs while staring out into gorgeous foliage sounds like something you’d enjoy, then keep reading. The Hotel Shikisai in Nikko doesn’t just have hot springs, however. You can also sample traditional cuisine, lounge around in your yukata (traditional Japanese casual clothing), and enjoy a luxury stay with a traditional feel.
Step off the train into sleepy, beautiful Nikko
The Hotel Shikisai is located near Lake Chuzenji, just outside of Nikko. The town of Nikko is easily accessible from Tokyo by both Tobu Railways and Japan Railways. The trip will take about two hours, and cost about 1360 JPY (or about 11.60 USD) each way. On the way, you’ll see some lovely countryside as you head towards the mountains. Compared to Tokyo, Nikko feels like a sleepy mountain town. It can be a fair bit colder than Tokyo in the fall or winter, so come prepared. If you’ve reserved a room at Hotel Shikisai, they’ll arrange to have a shuttle to meet you at the station when you arrive. The shuttle will take a winding path up the mountain that offers amazing views. During spring, the mountain will be colored by cherry blossoms, and during the fall, you’ll get to see some of the best fall colors Japan has to offer.
Be greeted by traditional Japanese charm
Nikko may be a bit busy with tourists, but you can relish the quiet once you arrive at Hotel Shikisai. The staff will invite you to a cup of green tea and a traditional Kinchaku (drawstring bag) in a pattern of your choice. Once you check into your room, the relaxation can begin in earnest. The staff will provide you with a comfortable cotton Yukata and slippers to wear throughout the hotel. As someone who is quite tall and with unusually large feet, I am happy to report they were able to accommodate me with no trouble. You’ll also find ready-to-make teas and a homemade sweet waiting for you. The rooms feel spacious and open, with large windows to let in light and beautiful views from every side. Most of the rooms will feature traditional Japanese futons. If you’re imagining a thin mat on the floor, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The futons are soft, warm, and very cozy. If you’re willing to spend a bit extra, your room may feature a private open air bath on the balcony, overlooking the beautiful wilderness.
Prepare to relax
One of the biggest draws of Hotel Shikisai, and the area near Lake Chuzenji, is the chance to bathe in the waters of the natural hot spring. The Hotel Shikisai features open air baths with water flowing from the Yumoto onsen (hot springs). The water in the open air baths smells a bit sulfuric, and is supposed to be very good for the skin. The hotel has four such baths; two each for men and women. The baths themselves overlook the mountainside and are quiet and comfortable. If you’re looking for a unique experience, sitting in steaming hot water in the cool mountain air is one you won’t soon forget. These baths are communal, so you may want to do a little research on Japanese onsen etiquette before you arrive, but the hotel has some helpful signs posted if you need help.
Experience the traditional tastes of Japan
The Hotel Shikisai doesn’t stop at relaxing its guests, it also provides a traditional Japanese dining experience. As a guest of the hotel, you’ll be treated to Kaiseki each night. Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course dinner. The meal will feature only fresh and seasonal foods and will consist a number of small courses arriving in several courses. If you’re interested in trying a variety of Japanese dishes, it’s a wonderful way to try a lot of things. Guests are also treated to an elaborate and traditional Japanese breakfast. This may include fish, soup, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The hotel is able to provide a complete listing of the dishes in English as well, which is a nice touch.
A traditional and luxurious experience
The Hotel Shikisai is a pleasure to visit. The rooms are comfortable and clean, and all feature wonderful views. The open air baths are a truly unique experience, and deeply relaxing. The staff is friendly and helpful, and some of them speak English in case you don’t speak Japanese. The meals are expansive and unique. If you’re looking to experience luxury and hospitality on your trip to Japan, the Hotel Shikisai will deliver. Take some time out from the bustle of Tokyo and Kyoto and spend an evening relaxing in a quaint mountainside resort; you won’t regret it.
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