KAI Kinugawa is a modern hot spring ryokan where traditional Japanese hospitality meets contemporary luxury. Situated 2 hours by train from Tokyo, this gem in the Tochigi prefecture provides the perfect get-away for those seeking a break from the fast-paced atmosphere in Tokyo. We had the pleasure of speaking with KAI Kinugawa to learn more about this cozy retreat.
Hi KAI Kinugawa team, thank you so much for sitting down with us, we really appreciate it. Could you please start by introducing yourself and KAI Kinugawa?
KAI Kinugawa is one of “KAI” Hoshino Resort’s hot spring ryokan brand. It stands on a small hill facing the Kinugawa mountain stream. Tochigi’s traditional crafts “Mashiko pottery ware”, “Kurobane indigo dyeing”, and “Oya stone” are used everywhere in the hotel, and we are particular about hospitality unique to the area with deep ties to folk art. Surrounded by trees, from the guest rooms and open-air baths that surround the courtyard, you can see the beautiful scenery of the four seasons, such as cherry blossoms, fresh greenery, autumn leaves, and snowscapes, and you can enjoy the changing seasons throughout the year.
KAI Kinugawa is quite new, built in 2015, but utilizes a lot of decorations which showcase Tochigis’ traditional craftsmanship. How did this idea come about?
Hoshino Resorts’ hot spring ryokan brand “KAI” is based on the theme of “Japanese Auberge in classic hot spring region”. We are particular and propose trips unique to the land. By traveling around the world, you can rediscover the charm of the region.
In Tochigi Prefecture, there are folk crafts such as Mashiko ware that have been nurtured and loved in daily life since ancient times. Therefore, we made the concept of the facility a hospitality that arranged Tochigi’s folk art in a modern way.
Which of your unique decorations are you most excited to share with visitors?
A courtyard located in the center of the inn. The 36,000m2 site along the Kinugawa mountain stream is surrounded by lush green forests, and the lodging towers stand as if to blend in with nature. In the center of the facility, there is a courtyard designed using natural trees, where you can spend a relaxing time while enjoying the scenery of the four seasons, including fresh greenery and autumn leaves.
You feature natural hot spring baths at your ryokan, where guests can enjoy Tochigi’s beautiful nature while relaxing in a comforting bath. Which season do you think is the best to visit KAI Kinugawa?
Recommended all year round, but especially in spring. From the open-air bath, you can see the beautiful scenery of the four seasons, such as cherry blossoms, fresh greenery, autumn leaves, and snowscapes, and you can enjoy the changing seasons throughout the year.
You also offer free activities for guests who wish to learn more about Japan’s regional culture, please tell us more about that?
Tochigi’s traditional crafts “Mashiko pottery ware”. Local comfort events “Mashiko ware night” held every night, “Mashiko Ware Meister” introduces the characteristics, history, culture, and how to enjoy Tochigi’s traditional crafts “Mashiko pottery ware” in a fun way.
At KAI Kinugawa you serve carefully prepared washoku (Japanese cuisine) for guests to enjoy. What has been your favorite dish and why?
Ryujin-nabe and Ryujin-mushi are the main dishes of the special kaiseki meal. In connection with the legend of the dragon god of Ryuokyo, the main dish expresses the dynamism of the raging dragon god. In the spring and summer, we pour hot water over hot stones and use the steam to steam the ingredients, called “Ryujin-mushi”. You can also enjoy local ingredients such as dried gourd and makiyuba.
Thank you so much for giving us all these wonderful insights about KAI Kinugawa! Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Kinugawa Onsen is one of Japan’s famous hot springs. Alkaline simple hot springs are gentle on the body, and you won’t get tired even if you take a long bath, so you can enjoy the hot springs many times.
KAI is Japan’s first hot spring inn brand operated by Hoshino Resorts. Currently, there are 21 locations nationwide, and over the next few years, we aim to expand to about 30 locations in Japan’s leading hot spring areas and become a base for traveling in Japan. With the theme of “Japanese Auberge in classic hot spring region”, in a comfortable space with a focus on Japanese comfort, the staff overflowing with hospitality offer suggestions for trips unique to the region, focusing on the real pleasures of traveling, the “region” and “season”. By traveling around the world, you can rediscover the charm of the region. In Tochigi Prefecture, in addition to KAI Kinugawa, there are KAI Kawaji and KAI Nikko, and many guests stay there for several nights.
Follow KAI Kinugawa on:
All images provided by KAI Kinugawa