BEST OF 

2019

It's official! Beyond X Boundaries is recognized by our peers worldwide as the undisputed bespoke experts of Japan. We will gladly let others speak for us. In so many ways, the Land of the Rising Sun holds a special place in our hearts - the food, the rich culture & heritage, the landscapes, the hot springs, the spirit of "Omotenashi". We present to you our favorite abodes of Zen that will take your breath away!

Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture

Why We Love It:

With just 8 exquisitely and traditional rooms, a time-warped setting, exceptional cuisine and an unrivaled hospitality spirit, Ryokan Kurashiki is our undoubted and undisputed favorite Japanese inn of all time. Kurashiki is no hot spring destination, but its atmosphere and aesthetics takes you to a Japan that still retains its ancient vibe and at the centerpiece of the canal town dubbed the "Venice of Japan", Ryokan Kurashiki best represents it with its in-your-face "kura" warehouse style architecture in all its elegant grace. 

Best Time To Visit:

Kurashiki is a destination for festivals. Spring (Late March) holds much of its special charm with cherry blossoms decorating the town in splendor accompanied by the Haruyoi Akari festival illuminating the town with Japanese umbrellas and candles in the evening. Autumn (mid-November) provides the striking contrasts of red maple and yellow gingko leaves against the white kura warehouses creating a most photographic and lasting memory that will take your breath away. 

Best Combined with:

Accessible from almost all directions, Kurashiki is easily accessed from Osaka from the east or Hiroshima from the west. The art and gastronomy islands of the Seto Inland Sea are not far away where access can be made via a pleasant ferry away to islands such as Shodoshima, Teshima or Naoshima. Those looking to journey deep into the Iya Valley of Shikoku or the glorious autumn foliage of the Mimasaka area are guaranteed a journey of utter accomplishment teasing all the senses. 

Aqua Ignis Ryokan, Kataoka Onsen, Mie Prefecture

Why We Love It:

Sandwiched in the boundaries of northern Mie Prefecture and the ancient ninja domains of Shiga Prefecture lies the modernist Aqua Ignis Ryokan - assembled as a modern interpretation of the quintessential Japanese inn. Food and healing are the reasons why you come here with the perfect marriage of Japanese and Italian cuisine and rooms that are superbly-appointed with elements of minimalism. The therapeutic natural hot springs are housed in settings that purifies the senses and soothes the spirit. What else can we ask for? 

Best Time To Visit:

Mie Prefecture is a year-round destination. Winter (Dec - Feb) lends a sheet of white decorating the surroundings while soaking in the warm healing hot springs. Autumn (Oct - Nov) is a celebration of exciting bounties, from the land and the nearby Ise Bay as well as the annual Suzuka Formula One Japanese Grand Prix. Spring (late March - early April) is the most visually spectacular time of the year with cherry blossoms lining every possible area from the close by Lake Biwa. 

Best Combined with:

No limits as to how creative a journey can be combined with the Aqua Ignis Ryokan. West of it is the shimmering Lake Biwa and its legacies of the "Saba Kaido" mackerel route. Towards the south lies the domains of the Ise Grand Shrine - one of the most sacred temple grounds of Japan where more than 1,500 rituals are conducted here yearly to pray for the prosperity of the Imperial family, the peace of the world, and the huge harvest. Accessed easily from Nagoya or Kyoto, Aqua Ignis Ryokan is simply a destination that allows you complete relaxation, away from the maddening crowds. 

Takefue, Minamioguni, Kumamoto Prefecture

Why We Love It:

Simply and almost in a class of its own, Takefue thrills with probably the most magical and surreal of hot spring settings in a sound-proofed bamboo forest, away from all the hustle and bustles of city life. The setting just draws you in effortlessly. Each of the 12 rooms are designed differently, each providing a different aesthetic and if tranquility is what you seek, Takefue is the perfect hot spring ryokan to fulfill all your sensory needs.

Best Time To Visit:

Every season is a winner here. We're talking about a destination that thrills in all conceivable condition whether it's snowing, in the summer where the bamboo forests offers perfect shelter from, the dazzling kaleidoscope of colors in autumn or the inviting hues of spring. There are few ryokans in Japan with such a blessed setting that it is the actual destination in itself. 

Best Combined with:

When you're here at Takefue, it does not really matter anymore where or what you combine with. But its perfect location provides easy access to the nearby Kurokawa Onsen - one of the most incredibly beautiful hot spring towns in all of Japan, the volcanic landscapes and farmlands surrounding Mount Aso while close enough to have a double hot spring treat combining with Yufuin Onsen in Oita Prefecture. 

Miyakowasure, Natsuse Onsen, Akita Prefecture

Why We Love It:

The experience starts with the driving into some of the most incredible off-grid forests, meandering river systems that provokes a sense of mystical imagination. When you eventually arrive at Miyakowasure, this completely away-from-it-all ryokan is seemingly in another realm. Rooms and private rotenburo hot spring facing to the natural river with some deers foraging for greens - how else can you describe?

Best Time To Visit:

Perfect for all seasons but visually - autumn and winter takes the prize for providing an almost ethereal setting that even discerning onsen travelers will melt immediately. Summer is the least-visited time of the year but a great time to be here in the cooling environments of nature where the ryokan blends in perfect harmony. 

Best Combined with:

Wonderfully combined with the charming and pretty samurai town of Kakunodate, the jaw-dropping gorges of Dakigaeri, the caldera lake of Tazawa-ko and the spectacular mountain range of the Hachimantai where you will witness one of the most unbelievable autumn foliage of Japan. Further north, a combination of northern Akita and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shirakami Sanchi in Aomori Prefecture provides a wondrous sojourn for nature lovers. 

Ryokan Zaborin, Hanazono, Hokkaido Prefecture

Why We Love It:

Away from the maddening crowds of Niseko lies the idyllic township of Hanazono where the alluring Ryokan Zaborin is located. Tucked in an environment encompassing Hokkaido's beautiful nature and views of Mount Yotei, Zaborin incorporates Zen elements with contemporary design that is a winner for any onsen lover. Each of the 15 villas provides its own private rotenburo hot spring onsen with views that just mesmerizes. 

Best Time To Visit:

Summer (June - August) is the quietest time in this area of Hokkaido dominated by winter's buzz (December - early April) where temperature are mild in comparison with many other parts of Japan. Autumn is perfect for the endless horizons of autumn foliage while winter just screams total relaxation in a tranquil environment away from the crowded ski atmosphere of Niseko. 

Best Combined with:

In truth, no combination necessary for such a magnificent retreat but Zaborin's wonderful location provides endless opportunities in all directions. To the north lies the Shakotan Peninsula with its spectacular landscapes and sea urchin season in summer and nearby Yoichi for its incredible whisky as well as the charm of Otaru. To the south lies the beautiful Lake Toya and its rich farmlands and finally to the east, Lake Shikotsu, Jozankei Onsen, Sapporo and Ishikari is the ultimate autumn sojourn every traveler screams for in slow-life Hokkaido. 

Mari Ryokan, Shodoshima, Kagawa Prefecture

Why We Love It:

Ever since the Beyond X Boundaries team went in 2017 to experience the hospitality of the Mari Ryokan, we fell in love straight away with it with its intimate atmosphere, a passionate owner who is also the head chef of the ryokan, visiting the local fish market daily picking the freshest ingredients personally. Located in a traditional neighborhood of shoyu-producing breweries, the Mari Ryokan is a destination stay of Shodoshima at its best. 

Best Time To Visit:

Summer (June - August) is the season with the richest harvest of incredible seafood from the Seto Inland Sea while Autumn (mid-November) tantalizes with foliage colors and the mild cool temperature allows for a comfortable enjoyment of hot spring relaxation and active pursuits (hiking, biking).

Best Combined with:

Perfect with a Seto Inland sea art islands journey combining with the likes of Teshima and Naoshima as well as the port city of Takamatsu with its impressive gardens and art installations, the beautiful canal town of Kurashiki, the pottery gem of Bizen. Shodoshima is a food paradise and the journey can only be enhanced with a gastronomy angle of civilizations of the Seto. 

Satoyama Jujo, Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture

Why We Love It:

The Satoyama Jujo is more a mountain retreat than a ryokan. Located in the Minamiuonuma area set in tranquil beech forests and close to the surreal rice padi terraces of Tokamachi, this healing retreat is where you want to be if relaxation in therapeutic hot springs, savoring mountain cuisine and indulging in exquisite sake is your thing. The snowy landscapes and stunning reflection of empty rice terraces in season adds to the complete allure of the destination. 

Best Time To Visit:

Early April is the undoubted time to be here where you will witness the settled snow, cherry blossoms and spring festivals all at the same time. Autumn (October - early November) signals the start of dazzling array of colors everywhere in this mountainous region and the colder climate allows the first procession of sake-production. 

Best Combined with:

Wonderfully combined with Sado Island in the Sea of Japan with its incredible seafood, heritage and taiko drums culture, the stunning landscapes it shares with Fukushima Prefecture and the backroads of the Hokuriku region where it's easily accessible to Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures. 

Kaze no Mori, Takeo Onsen, Saga Prefecture

Why We Love It:

The second ryokan in Kyushu featured on this list rightly receives adulation for its stunning design where each of the 7 rooms offers differentiated appeal, atmospheric private rotenburo onsen tucked in an idyllic oasis of peace. Designed impeccably to be "away from it all", you will even need a buggy to get you to main lodge building. Such is the exclusivity. We also can't rave enough of its cuisine blessed by the riches of Saga Prefecture such as the renowned Saga beef, mudskipper of which is such a delicacy of the region. 

Best Time To Visit:

In the volcanic domains of Kyushu blessed with intoxicating onsens, you can enjoy your stay at the Kaze no Mori throughout all seasons but spring and autumn represents the most visually spectacular seasons to be here with the obvious spring blossoms and the dreamy autumn colors. Winter is always a winner in Kyushu with its milder climate. 

Best Combined with:

Endowed with spectacular landscapes, heritage and food as well as its famed ceramics and pottery, Saga Prefecture combines excellently for a journey that starts from Fukuoka and the charm of the northern islands. South of Saga Prefecture lies Nagasaki Prefecture which offers a range of incredible sightseeing opportunities, cuisines and historical importance. 

Beniya Mukayu, Yamashiro Onsen, Ishikawa Prefecture

Why We Love It:

One of our all-time favorites and we are privileged to have stayed here multiple times. Who would have guessed that in the rustic onsen town of Yamashiro Onsen - an hour's drive away from Kanazawa lies a modernist retreat that combines in perfect symphony with the environment. At first glance upon entering the abode of tranquility, it resembles a modern art gallery only to have more surprises with its incredible blend of traditions and contemporary design elements. Dinner starts with a hand-drawn menu describing the proceedings in quirky fashion and some of the finest kaiseki spread in the country. 

Best Time To Visit:

Beniya Mukayu's secret oasis location and setting sets itself up as a winner for all seasons. It's incredible attention to details in its design allows guests to develop an immediate mood for pure relaxation whether you're gazing at cherry blossoms in spring, leafy greens in summer, colorful maples and gingko in autumn or the sensational snowy atmosphere of winter. The architect who designed Beniya Mukayu is a genius. Period!

Best Combined with:

The Kaga onsen area which also includes the nearby Yamanaka Onsen is a clear no-brainer combination of traditions and relaxation. The ancient city of Kanazawa "Kyoto of Ishikawa" is just an hour's drive away. Travelling south, be treated to the wondrous landscapes of Fukui Prefecture, incredible Echizen-gani crabs in season and the historic "Saba Kaido" route towards Lake Biwa and Kyoto. Such is the endless opportunities to include the Beniya Mukayu in a journey, you'll be spoil for choices. 

Sasayuri Ann, Fukano, Nara Prefecture

Why We Love It:

Located in a sleepy village overlooking the Muro-Akame-Aoyama National Park set amidst the border between Nara and Mie Prefectures lies one of our favorite Zen abodes, the Sasayuri Ann. 2 painstakingly restored thatched-roof houses sits on the ground where it was home to ancient ninja training grounds. Good friend of ours and owner of the house is Tetsuji Matsubayashi, a Shugendo monk that takes you on an incredible journey of purification and insight into a deeply unknown culture, heritage and way of life that has been lost on the rest of the world, until now....

Best Time To Visit:

The nearby Akame 48 Waterfalls - home to a stunning array of picturesque waterfalls and natural habitat of rare and endangered Japanese salamanders provides the impetus for a summer visit blessed with cooler micro climate from the primeval forests. Spring (early April) is astonishing for the cherry blossoms and autumn (Mid-November) is just mind-blowing

Best Combined with:

Accessible from almost all directions, the Sasayuri Ann is best incorporated on a journey in Spring with the stunning cherry-blossoms covered Mount Yoshino, the sacred temples of Sakurai and Kashihara, the ancient capital of Nara, the misunderstood ninja heritage in the domains of Iga Ueno, and to the east, the historic grounds of Ise. 

Planning a journey to Japan is unique and for the team at Beyond X Boundaries, no two journeys are the same. Depending on the seasons and many other factors, different combinations can be applied to go together with the above incredible ryokans. CONTACT US for a detailed presentation of a bespoke Japanese experience specially curated for you. 

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