October 21, 2019
KAI Sengokuhara is located in the Hakone region, just inland from the Pacific Coast of Japan – an area of densely forested mountains, fast-running rivers and waterfalls galore.
We took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Oduwara Station, then a 30-minute taxi ride, all pre-booked for us by InsideJapan Tours. The ticket-checking staff at stations are hugely helpful and all seem to speak English/will point you to the right platform.
We arrived to steady drizzle and the autumn colours just starting to appear amidst the many types of tree and the low, misty clouds.
After our welcome hot drink on arrival (mulled wine with spices – delicious and just the reviver needed after the many winding roads to reach the hotel!), we took a look around with the charming manager, Minami Tashima.
This is an art-focused hotel – original paintings adorn the walls, produced by a team of artists who stayed at KAI Sengokuhara for a week or more before the hotel formally opened a year ago. Their work – one-off original pieces, displayed in the public areas and the 16 suites – was inspired by the area and their feelings for the natural surroundings of the hotel.
Minami-san showed us the onsen (hot spring baths), in a separate annexe but, in this delightful and stylish hotel, each of the sixteen suites has huge balconies with forest views and a private onsen tub on the deck. What luxury to step out of bed (comfortable futons – and comfortable green unisex pyjamas, too, which many wore around the hotel) into a shower and then to relax in the warmth of your own private onsen tub before breakfast!
In the afternoon we enjoyed the art workshop, held in the library, which was a vibrant showcase of colours galore – it proved extremely relaxing and absorbing, to our surprise. We were presented with our “art” at dinner, to take home with us.
A stylish shop is part of the large reception area, which boasts an indoor water feature – a pine-bark clad lantern set above small rocks, moss and trickling water in a marble surround.
The dining room is a series of semi-private “rooms” – while you can hear and see other diners, it’s a clever design that delivers a feeling of intimacy without feeling cut off from what’s going on around you.
Dinner was a stylish extravaganza of tastes and colours, artfully arranged in a huge number of different dishes that displayed each morsel to best effect. Just two chefs work in the kitchen; we passed on our huge congratulations to them and their team for a fabulous dinner.
Written by: Sue Ockwell