Travel 2021: Kyushu, Japan’s Hot Springs Offer Socially Distanced Luxury

When the pandemic is ultimately behind us, and the travel restrictions are lifted, major cities will probably be slow to lift the tourism numbers back up to pre-lockdown numbers. After all, will travelers really be ready to traverse busy sidewalks, and be jammed onto crowded public transportation so soon after the most transmittable virus of our lives has just subsided?

Tokyo, of course, is one of the most exciting, but also populace cities in the world. So true lovers of Japan might want to consider a much more serene destination for a post-COVID visit – and the island of Kyushu has three new openings that will definitively make it one of great new “socially distanced” destinations for 2021. Indeed, Hoshino Resorts has a pair of premieres, with KAI Kirishima having opened in January, then KAI Beppu coming in summer. And the historic Hirado Castle will be opening in summer for overnight stays.

Kyushu is the third largest of Japan’s five main islands, and boasts the country’s most active volcano, Mt. Aso, as a major attraction. It’s main city, Fukuoka, has a population of 1.5 million and a cosmopolitan life – and is just a two hour connection from Tokyo. Kyushu is not about the urban offerings, however, but the sublime hot springs a couple of hours away.

To that end, here are the details on all three new properties.

KAI Kirishima

Nestled into the formidable Mt. Takachiho, this gorgeous new Hoshino Resorts property boasts 49 rooms, all with breathtaking vistas over Sakurajima and Kirishima Plateau. And each offers genuine local immersion, with headboards made of Shirasu clay (volcanic white soil), Satsuma washi paper lamps, Satsuma Suzuki tinware objets d’art, and an overall design that reflects the aesthetic qualities of the Kirishima mountain range. Three 70 square meter suites feature open air baths.

The main bathhouse is located off the property, reached quickly by monorail. And though it features two indoor baths with variable temperatures, for those who will be proceeding cautiously post-pandemic, there is an outdoor sulfur mineral springs, which is said to actually have healing qualities for the skin, and can imbue it with a unique radiance. The views are awe-inspiring all the way around.

There’s also a dining area (not really a formal restaurant) which serves Kaiseki, multi-course dinners of what is considered Japan’s haute cuisine – for instance, a shabu shabu hot pot of local pork and dried bonito.

Hirado Castle

Britain and Germany have long and aggressively marketed stays in any of their seemingly hundreds of 14th, 15th, 16th Century castles (and France has done the same with its opulent chateaux). But one doesn’t often think of castle hopping in Japan, do they?

Yet this summer will see the opening of the enchanting Hirado Castle as a new hotel, located in a serene but breathtakingly beautiful corner of Nagasaki prefecture. Surrounded on three sides by Hirado Bay, it dates to the early 18th Century, and was once the seat of the Matsura clan, a long line of Samurai feudal lords. Though not a hot springs destination, the sheer natural beauty of the area is sure to have a similar healing effect on the soul.

No definitive opening date has yet been given.

KAI Beppu

Also slated for a summer debut, Hoshino Resorts KAI Beppu is located in Oita Prefecture, famous for its multitudes of hot springs – in fact, the most of any region in all of Japan. Beppu itself had been a popular resort with the Japanese since the late 19th Century.

The charming but luxurious interior will be devised to resemble a village of sorts, with the entrance preceded by a large open, cobblestone terrace, stunningly overlooking Beppu Bay. Just beyond the lobby and illuminated by paper lanterns, will be shops selling regional specialty products, as well as an arcade where one can partake of traditional Japanese games. A pair of bathhouses will be gender specific.

Every one of the 70 guest chambers will look out onto the ocean, and “picture” windows are designed to frame the views to appear as “paintings.” Rooms are done up in a unique pinkish-brown hue known as Kakishibu (which translates to “bitter persimmon”) and feature Shoji screen doors and Bungo tye-dyed fabrics.

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