KAI Hakone hotel - Hakone, Japan
On the banks of the Sugomo river, less than 100km from Tokyo, a 1987 ryokan has been given a makeover by the century-old boutique hotel firm, Hoshino Resorts Group. At first glance, the rooms of the hotel appear traditional, with exposed beams, paper screens and tatami bedding, but sleek wooden furnishings and clean-lined grey sofas by local carpentry Gallery Tsuyuki nod to modern design and comfort. Guests can immerse themselves in the therapeutic waters of the in-house hot springs while enjoying views of the verdant Hakone woods, or head to the spa, which features Yon-ka products in scents of cedar, Japanese beech and hinoki cypress.
Every evening, regional teas and cakes are served in the lobby lounge while traditional Kamishibai storytellers narrate folk tales using paper scrolls. The fourth floor restaurant, features a nine-course kaiseki menu that combines fresh Pacific seafood and seasonal produce from nearby Ashigara. The headlining dish is the ‘Meiji nabe’, a pot-au-feu of Ohmi beef and Edo miso originally prepared more than a century ago for Japan’s first foreign visitors. If you deign to leave all this for the day, you can explore the neighbourhood, choosing a guide from their extensive travel library.