Secret Japan

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 36 / April 2019


Spring Greetings to all,

A year or so ago it became very apparent that Japan, with the upcoming Rugby World Cup this autumn and the Olympic Games next summer, would be the “go to” destination in 2019 and 2020.  Enquiries started to come in and I soon realised that my knowledge of Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto was desperately insufficient for the job in hand. To this effect, Jess flew to Japan in February for a 4 week intensive recce trip. Click here to view her entire trip.

Yours laterally,

Japan is an incredibly diverse country, stretching from the ski resorts of Hokkaido in the North all the way to the beaches of Okinawa in the South. It is a fascinating country with a unique culture that you experience in the food, architecture, and engagement with local people. Below I would like to tell you about some of the highlights from my amazing journey through Japan.


Yakushima is an island to the south of Kyushu (the southwesternmost of Japan’s main islands). To get there you can travel by ferry from Kagoshima passing by Sakurajima volcano as the boat departs. It is also possible to fly to Yakushima from limited airports in Japan. Arriving in Yakushima you will notice a change in temperature with a hot and humid subtropical climate. Despite its small size the island is incredibly diverse with ancient cedar groves, waterfalls, gorges, onsens (Japanese hot spring) and beautiful coastal vistas. Yakushima is also home to the Sankara Hotel & Spa, a wonderful property located on a hill overlooking the sea.  The hotel boasts a gorgeous pool, relaxing spa and delicious food in two restaurants.

Flugel Kuju

Flugel Kuju is a hotel located on the island of Kyushu, known for its active volcanoes and onsens. Located at the foot of the Kuju mountain range,  Flugel Kuju embraces the essence of Kyushu, being located close to Mt Aso and having private open-air and indoor onsen baths in each of the ten detached cottages. It is a tranquil, rural environment that can be visited in any season. Places of interest in the area are Takachiho Gorge, and the onsens town of Beppu and Yufuin. It is also located only one hour from Oita where several matches for the Rugby World Cup are being played.


Best known as a cycling mecca Onomichi is the start or end point of the Shimanami Kaido a network of cycle paths crossing six islands along the Seto Inland Sea to get from Honshu (Japan’s main island) to Shikoku (the smallest of the four main islands). However, there is far more to do here than just cycling. The Bella Vista Spa & Marina hotel located just outside of Onomichi is a tranquil, wellness hotel with wonderful views of the Seto Inland Sea, especially from the semi open-air onsen. You may even see their sister hotel, Guntu docked in the marina. Guntu is a spectacular nineteen-room floating hotel that travels throughout the Seto Inland Sea as far as Miyajima in the west and Naoshima in the east. This would be a truly exceptional journey through Japan unlike any other.

Sasayuri Ann Rice Terrace Villa

Located just 1 hour from Osaka a stay at Sasayuri Ann is like stepping back in time to a traditional Japanese mountain village. There are two villas, Zao and Ozunu. Zao is a totally restored 200 year-old house with a thatched roof. Ozunu is a newly built thatched roof house but with traditional features and also has a 100 year old Japanese tearoom located in the garden surrounding the property. The Villa owner and his wife are passionate about keeping the traditions of Japan alive and allowing visitors to experience these unique aspects of Japanese culture. Included as part of all stays is an early morning hike to the Akame 48 Waterfalls. Accompanied by the Villa owner, who is also a mountain monk, hike to these beautiful waterfalls – a great way to start your day. Other activities include a bamboo flutist performance, live ninja show, tea ceremony, noh dance performance, cycling and helicopter flights.


Known for its temples and gardens Kyoto is a must visit on most peoples list of places to visit in Japan. It has a more traditional feel to it, compared to the major cities of Tokyo and Osaka, and it is not uncommon to see geishas on their way to work. It is also a good place to do a day-trip to the ancient capital of Nara to see the giant bronze buddha and Nara park with the freely roaming deer. A great place to stay when visiting Kyoto is the Hotel Kanra, embracing traditional Japanese furnishings blended with modern touches.

Hoshinoya Fuji

Located 100 meters up the slope of a mountain on the North Shore of Lake Kawaguchiko, Hoshinoya Fuji has a direct view of Mt Fuji. It is a glamping resort, but there is no camping involved. The property is surrounded by nature and consists of minimalist cabins overlooking the lake and Mt Fuji as well as a series of wooden platforms connected by stairs leading to dining and relaxation areas. Meals can also be served on your private balcony, so you can continue to enjoy the view whilst seated at a kotasu (a low wooden table covered by a heavy blanket with a heat source underneath to stay warm). Activities on offer include canoeing, horse riding, trekking and a food smoking workshop.

Hoshinoya Taketomi Island

Part of the Yaeyama islands in south western Okinawa, Taketomi is a small island just off the coast of Ishigaki and is a step back in time. Spend time exploring traditional villages by bicycle or water-buffalo cart, in addition to glorious beaches and snorkelling. Like all traditional housing on the island, Hoshinoya Taketomi Island features red-tiled roof houses with shisa lion figurines to ward off evil spirits, surrounded by stone walls. The islanders will tell you that the real Taketomi only shows itself in the morning and evening, and it is true. Before the day-trippers arrive and after they leave, the island’s pristine white beaches are splendidly empty, and the only sound is the crashing waves. Hoshinoya Taketomi Island has an open-air swimming pool, spa and daily activities. They provide complimentary bicycles which provide easy access to the rest of the island.


Tokashiki Island is part of the Kerama Islands and is 35 minutes by fast ferry from the main island of Okinawa. It is a beautiful island with rugged landscape in the interior and beautiful beaches along the coast. In particular Aharen Beach is large crescent shaped beach with pure white sand and sparkling turquoise water. To add to the attraction, it is also refreshingly less touristy than other beaches and islands in Okinawa. Just minutes from Aharen Beach is the Kerama Terrace hotel, the best place to stay on the island.

Up Periscope: Uxua, Trancoso, Brazil

Nick and Helen have just returned from a massive recce trip around the Brazilian Amazon, Salvador and finally Trancoso Bahia. They spent a blissful week at Uxua – and it’s gone straight into Nick’s top 3 favourite hotels in the world!


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