There are no words to fully describe the beauty and magic of the Takefue Ryokan. It is by far the most amazing place we have slept. It is located up an isolated mountain, in Kyushu, just outside the amazing town of Kurokawa Onsen, deep in a bamboo forest.
The hospitality is beyond anything expected – even in Japan. A member of the staff is allocated as your sole contact throughout your stay. They gently guide you, from choosing a yukata and coat, to designing and scheduling menus, to assisting your reservation of baths. Without out going into overt detail; it is beyond anything we’ve experienced -anywhere in the world. The combination of service and planning creates the feeling that you are the only guest at the hotel.
Each room has a private onsen (hot spring bath). There are several other larger baths that one can reserve. Each of the magnificent shared baths have a changing room complete with hot and cold drinks (including sake and beer) as well as an oven with warm towels. As one wanders the grounds, keep an eye out for random snacks, free of charge, placed throughout the hotel paths: sodas, water, tea, even freezer with the most delicious ice-cream pops !
When it is time to eat, be prepared for a most exquisite and elaborate meals. The cuisine is similar to other ryokan; with a large breakfast and a lovely Kaiseki dinner included. Here it is the overall quality in preparation, presentation and flavour.
We have 3 small pieces of advice for booking:
1. Try to stay at least 2 nights – with the check in/out times, there is really not enough time to really feel the entirety of Takefue Ryokan otherwise.
2. Have Takefue be your last Onsen stay while in Kyushu.
3. If you are in Japan and traveling – GO to Kyushu – it is pure Japan!
A successful blend between hippy, eco-chic, and family friendly, Ahau Tulum is a comfortable hotel with the friendliest staff. Nothing is a problem here, the atmosphere is is like you have always been a part of the family.
The beach day beds are comfortable and spaced well apart. Simple, ample food and tasty juices are on call from the open air restaurant. For the area, Ahau’s menu has a good range between comfort and healthy food, and is moderately priced. Above the restaurant there is a large mezzanine, bathed in beautiful filtered natural light, where the yoga classes are held.
The Hotel’s lobby, next to the restaurant is a social hub in Tulum, a mix of residents, expats, guests from other hotels – all charging their mobile devices, surfing the web and picking up conversation.
They also offer – and I took – kite surfing classes. Difficult, but rewarding! Mauricio is a great teacher and a real good guy.
We won’t delve into their penitent for towel sculpture – just enjoy!
Close to Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, one finds Washoku Nada, a gem of a neighborhood restaurant. Yoko Araki opened Washoku Nada in 2009 after training at the Honke-Owariya soba restaurant in Kyoto, along with her brother, chef Tetsuya Araki (who also trained in Kyoto).
Washoku is the term for traditional Japanese Food and is recognized by UNESCO as an “intangible way of life” that helps define the island population. The 4 key elements present are:
1. Ingredients: rice, vegetables, mushrooms, fish, sea dwellers and seaweed
2. Culinary approach: raw, steaming, boiling or stewing
3. Nutritional content: balanced nutrients seen in the many dishes being offered
4. Hospitality: in the full sense of the experience and how it effects your life
The Hospitality above is a much more total concept then what may come to a typical western thought on the subject. One should include Yoko Araki’s background, as it is present in every detail. From the artfully displayed dishes to the carefully paired ceramics and cloths that accompany each dish. Each dish that is made lovingly and with a wholesome deliciousness that you feel in your soul.
If you are fan of over-the top Japan; then The Robot restaurant is a MUST!
“Restaurant” is a bit of a misnomer; more like “Sensory Overload Sensation that also serves beer and popcorn and sushi”
Going to let the visuals do the talking here, because no words can really do justice to this palace of pop.
Itinerary: Meet up at the Golden Gai bar neighborhood to get a little buzz; you’re nerves will thank you for a bit of haze! There are 3 functions daily in the underground theater. If you buy tickets online you get a bit of a deal. Also, arrive a bit early so you can enjoy the lounge
Go and enjoy! The Robot restaurant is one of those things that make Japan, Japan!
One can count the space age the black star temple of Reiyukai Shakaden Temple among the many places in Tokyo that seem straight out of a Science Fiction movie!
Completed in 1975, this red and black granite complex sheathed in electrochemically coloured black-steel shingles, is home to the Buddhist sect Reiyūkai (霊友会Spiritual-Friendship). Reiyūkai emerged as an offshoot of Buddhism in 1925 by Kakutarō Kubo and Kimi Kotani, focusing on ancestral worship without a priesthood.
The temple is open to explore and consists of: the Main Hall, the Plaza, the Kotani Hall, various conference rooms, a cafeteria, a child care room, and a nurse’s office.
In Japanese, “Shakaden” means the “House of Shakyamuni.” It is a place where anyone can seek to further practice the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra.
Interestingly, as Reiyūkai Buddhism has at its roots in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, the temple houses a reservoir with 400 tonnes of drinking water for use in the event that Tokyo is struck by another major disaster.
Note: As this is an active Temple, no photo are allowed in the expansive interior.