Japan: the first hotel for bird lovers

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Nestled on the mountainside in Nagano Prefecture, the ryokan HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is a paradise for birds and travelers. The hotel is bordered by the Karuizawa National Wild Bird Sanctuary forest established in 1974; a project born of a collaboration between Godo Nakanishi (founder of the Wild Bird Society of Japan and researcher of local species) and Kasuke Hoshino (grandfather of the founder of Hoshino Resorts, Yoshiharu Hoshino) who ran the former thermal inn on the premises. Located in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park and Asama Protected Reserve, guests can observe more than 80 species of birds and 40 local mammals in their natural habitat each year.


The landscaper Hiroki Hasegawa imagined a perfect match between the 4-hectare environment and the needs of the ryokan, preserving the shape of the valley and its natural river, as well as the many hundred-year-old trees in the area. Named a prefectural monument, the hotel was designed in the heart of the forest where flying squirrels and honeysuckles find rest. The vegetation of HOSHINOYA Karuizawa comes from a flora planted by the inhabitants, from the seeds collected from the local flowers. This natural landscape is complemented by terraced cultivation, as well as criss-crossing paths and bridges under the canopies of trees.


The 22 individual houses of the ryokan were designed by the Japanese architect Rie Azuma in order to blend into their natural surroundings, connecting indoor and outdoor spaces. The terraces jut out over the river, thus reconciling traditional aesthetics and contemporary comfort. Rooms also incorporate Japanese architectural elements, such as hand-woven washi wallpaper. Rie Azuma imagined several paths between the houses in order to give HOSHINOYA Karuizawa the appearance of an authentic village, with a unique and intimate atmosphere.


The natural hot springs of the places were developed more than a century ago by Kunitsugu Hoshino. They offer ultimate relaxation in which diners can observe the seasonal colors of Karuizawa, such as cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, or snow-capped mountain scenery. The indoor baths are lined with cedar and floor-to-ceiling windows offering a panoramic view of the surrounding nature. The outdoor baths are surrounded by rocks to recreate a naturalistic setting.

The soothing waters serve as therapy for the hosts, famous for their restorative properties and skin benefits. The traditional baths at HOSHINOYA Karuizawa are constantly replenished with mineral-rich waters for total body relaxation. The hotel also offers its guests an exclusive meditation space sheltered from the lights, equipped with hot springs at 40 degrees, ideal for long immersions and moments of absolute relaxation.


Restaurant Kasuke headed by chief Eiji Inake, offers Japanese cuisine in the kaiseki style, a traditional form of meal consisting of several small dishes. The ingredients are carefully selected according to the seasons, and thus prepared with local culinary techniques. For example, a spring dish might call for the use of magnolia syrup, Japanese pepper and kerria flowers. As for the architecture of the place, it has been designed to be as close as possible to nature, by integrating granite elements as well as large bay windows offering a magnificent panorama of the surrounding hills and rice fields.

Guests also have the option of dining at Short Jacket Yukawatan, French cuisine borrows from a Japanese sensibility in these dishes. The hotel also offers a more relaxed gastronomic space in the Sonmin Shokudo, where diners are served soba noodles and a variety of exquisite small dishes. Finally, a few steps from the bedrooms is the Harunire Terracean open-air mall housing a bakery (Sawamura), an Italian restaurant (II Sogno), a café and other establishments, all bordered by a wooden terrace.


Even in its early days, the Japanese inn used hydroelectricity, a practice that has not ceased to this day. In 1992, Yoshiharu Hoshino presents clear objectives for the future of the brand: the use of environmentally friendly practices through ecotourism, clean energy consumption based on the Energy My In Yard (EIMY) system but also a zero emissions policy .

To this day, the river that crosses HOSHINOYA Karuizawa and the geothermal energy of the premises provide the hydroelectricity necessary for the property to feed itself. This system was developed based on the following concept: using energy without damaging the richness offered by the surrounding nature. The guest accommodations have also been designed to be as eco-responsible as possible, thanks to the natural ventilation of the roof windows.

All Hoshino Resorts establishments and in particular HOSHINOYA Karuizawa are dedicated to creating a zero-emission environment by creating 28 different categories of waste, in order to recycle them as precisely as possible. Local farmers work hand in hand with hotel staff who provide food compost for the farms.


Catherine Mills Avatar