Lonely Planet Writer

A new Japanese ryokan fuses art with hot springs

A new Japanese ryokan is being billed as the first “art-oriented hot spring ryokan”, where guests can celebrate creativity along with tradition.

A guest room that features a hot spring. Image by KAI Sengokuhara

Ryokans, or a traditional Japanese inns, are found around the country, offering a relaxing place to stay, often in scenic areas with access to hot springs. The new spot, KAI Sengokuhara is set to open on 27 July in the Hakone area, about 120 minutes from Tokyo later this month.

When the new ryokan opens, twelve artists-in-residence will be brought in from around the world to create works that will be displayed in the rooms. It will combine an art gallery and studio along with the hot springs that Japan is known for. There will also be activities that help guests explore their own creative side, including a variety of materials in the common rooms for artists, guests and staff to use for painting, illustrating and more, as well as the studio for guided art experiences.

The guest room with a hot spring. Image by KAI Sengokuhara

Even if you’re not an artist, the setting of the ryokan might also inspire you, as it is located among mountains in Sengokuhara, which is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Not only is the area known for its hot springs, but there are plenty of art galleries and museums around, like the Pola Museum of Art, the Okada Museum of Art, the Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Hakone Museum of Photography.

Each room has a private terrace with outdoor natural hot springs, and there are two shared bath halls, which each have two indoor and one outdoor bath offering forest and water garden views. The baths are fed by springs from the Owakudani volcanic valley, which is heated by the Earth’s magma. The bath halls are also connected by lounges where guests can relax after their trip to the springs with a drink.

The standard meal at the new ryokan. Image by KAI Sengokuhara

With such a strong focus on art, the meals at the ryokan are also presented as beautifully as possible. The meals include local vegetables and seafood, like the local Jinenjo yam for breakfast and local delicacies such as wagyu beef and abalone, or marine snail, grilled on stones for supper.

KAI Sengokuhara can be reached in approximately two hours by car, bus or train from Tokyo. The initial prices for a stay at KAI Sengokuhara will begin at £509 (€574) per room, per night on a half-board basis.