Even for a ryokan, Hinanoza, in Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, is in a tranquil, secluded place. Set on Lake Akan, deep in the old-growth forest of Eastern Hokkaido, the ryokan is within range of no less than four national parks — known for natural features from volcanoes to rugged coasts and wildlife from grizzly bears to Japanese red-crowned cranes. You could spend a very long time wandering through all the landscapes and gawking at the animals, but at Hinanoza nature is close enough at hand that you could just as easily stick around long enough to watch the seasons change from the comfort of your private suite.
And there’s no shortage of comfort in those suites, nor of calm. Each one has a tatami mat room, a living room, bathroom and best of all a private open-air bath. Woodcarving is a specialty of the local area, and there’s so much natural wood in the furnishings that you can literally smell it. There are five types of suites, distinguished by subtle differences in the views and layout. The Ama no Za suites have excellent views of the lake from the tatami mat room, living room and open-air bath, where you can hear waves lapping onto shore. The Umi no Za suites have more of an open layout with the rooms all flowing into one another and leading the eye to the lake outside, while the Mori no Za suites have views of the surrounding mountains.
As at any good ryokan, meals are a treat. They are, of course, served kaiseki-style in private tatami rooms, and feature regional ingredients and locally brewed sake. One can draw the sake-sipping out even further with a visit to the ryokan’s impressive bar, constructed from a thirty-foot tree trunk. The ryokan’s museum is well worth a visit, too. It features the work of the master wood carver Takeki Fujito, among others.
Hinanoza’s name means a comfortable, relaxing place that’s far from the city, and that it is. But one of the wonderful things about many Japanese ryokans is that, even when you feel like you’re a million miles from civilization, it’s rarely much of a schlep to get there. Even this far-flung ryokan is just three hours by plane and car from Tokyo. And this is not a difficult place to get over what little jet lag such a journey might cause.
Text Courtesy of Tablet Hotels
Hinanoza on Lake Akan, Japan