THE PER­FECT PAIR

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION JAPAN -

SERYO, OHARA: An hour’s drive north of Ky­oto, but still within city lim­its, Ohara is home to Sanzen-in Tem­ple, where beams of sun­shine fil­ter­ing through maple and cedar trees high­light a stun­ning moss gar­den. Next to the draw­card tem­ple is Seryo, a cosy ryokan with ac­com­mo­da­tion in Ja­panese, Western or a fu­sion style with beds and tatami floors. Sev­eral gue­strooms fea­ture an open-air tub; the ryokan also has two ope­nair baths for all guests (the women’s side looks out on the more im­pres­sive gar­den). First-timers will find eti­quette tips taped to the on­sen doors ( kakeyu, or pour­ing hot water on your body be­fore en­ter­ing the bath, is a great pre-soak). It’s said Seryo’s wa­ters are good for the skin, mus­cle and joint pain, cir­cu­la­tion and fa­tigue. The kaiseki din­ner show­cases sea­sonal fare, in­clud­ing veg­eta­bles from the ryokan gar­den. My win­ter’s feast in­cludes tem­pura crab leg, pump­kin and per­illa leaf, while break­fast, star­ring Ky­oto’s famed boiled tofu, is a notch above. More: seryo.co.jp.

KA­T­RINA LOBLEY TAKEFUE, KYUSHU: This re­treat in the moun­tains of cen­tral Kyushu, Ja­pan’s south­ern­most is­land, is on­sen par­adise. Twelve cab­ins, styled to look like rus­tic huts from the out­side and to­tally lux­u­ri­ous within, are hid­den amid a bam­boo for­est and tall maples. I stay in one of the small­est, with a din­ing room and tatami-mat bed­room, shower, mini­bar, sound sys­tem and my own big, con­stantly brim­ming tub of spring water in a stone-clad room, lit by glow­ing onyx cubes and open at one end to rain drip­ping through bam­boo. A kaiseki meal is cooked for me by an at­ten­dant who as­sures I can or­der a bot­tle of sake wine. “No wor­ries,” he smiles, which is a give­away about where he’s pol­ished his English-lan­guage skills. It is so peace­ful that when check­ing out, I am sur­prised to re­alise there have been other guests. More: takefue.com; ryokan­col­lec­tion.com.

ROBIN POW­ELL Za­borin Ryokan, Hokkaido; Amanemu, Ise-Shima Na­tional Park; Gora Kadan, Hakone; Gora Hanaougi, Hakone; Roten-no-Yu Kinkaku, Ishikawa.

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