Enjoying a Luxury Ryokan Experience at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa Onsen

Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa Onsen

Our eyes lit up with delight when we arrived at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa, our destination Kinugawa Onsen ryokan.  After walking from Kinugawa Onsen Station, we were met with a modest and very discreet gravel driveway – but when we turned the corner our family was amazed to be welcomed into a small building with its own small monorail train to travel up the hill! 

The journey up the hill was very fun and unique, and after we arrived at the top we then entered KAI Kinugawa to see a gorgeous modern resort centred on a lovely natural courtyard.  We knew then that we were staying in a very special place and looked forward to exploring further.  Note that our stay at KAI Kinugawa was sponsored by Hoshino Resorts.

KAI Kinugawa Monorail Entry
KAI Kinugawa Monorail Entry

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What is a Hoshino Resort?

We first discovered Hoshino Resorts by accident, when my husband was researching tattoo friendly onsens.  He reached out to Hoshino Resorts to request further information on whether they were tattoo friendly, which subsequently led to us being invited to stay during our recent visit to Japan in four different Hoshino Resorts out of their 15 luxury ryokans which are located across Japan.  We stayed in KAI Hakone, KAI Kinugawa, KAI Nikko and KAI Matsumoto.

Overall we really enjoyed our Hoshino Resort visits, and each resort was distinctly different in character, food and activities on offer.  What was common was that each was a true luxury ryokan onsen experience.  We felt very relaxed when we enjoyed their kaiseki menus which each featured regional food specialities, some taking us out of our Western palate comfort zones, with most being delicious!  We were also pleased to discover that they also offered children’s menus which are simpler in flavour – our youngest son really enjoyed his meals, such that our older son requested to shift from the adult to the children’s menu for his dinners.

Each resort had a different style of onsen, which included indoor, outdoor, as well as many different onsen types to experience.  Men and women bathed separately, and in some of the resorts they alternated the men’s and women’s areas at different times of the day to enable visitors to the resort to visit both bathing areas.  Usually they were quite different so this way you could have the full experience!

Each Hoshino Resort also had a different set of activities based on local customs and history.  Activities we participated in ranged from learning about local pottery, local wine tastings, musical performances, making local crafts such as drink coasters and much more!  In each of our articles about the specific resorts we will detail our experiences.

Where is Kinugawa Onsen Nikko?

Kinugawa Onsen is located in the township of Kinugawa Onsen, which is located 160 km north of Tokyo and is part of the Nikko region. Nikko Kinugawa is easily accessible by train, and there are options to either travel direct from Shinjuku Station using Japan Rail, or to travel in multiple trains from Ueno Station.  Check out the Google Map below to see the options.

If you have an active Japan Rail Pass you can travel from Shinjuku Station direct to Kinugawa Onsen several times per day, at other times there are options which require you to change trains.  Alternatively you can purchase an All Nikko Area Pass through Klook for a 4 day period which includes your transportation from Tokyo to Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko and Lake Chuzenji.  From Kinugawa Onsen Station you can easily catch a taxi to KAI Kinugawa, or stretch your legs and walk through town like we did – we enjoyed the walk after travelling for most of the day.

KAI Kinugawa Resort Overview

KAI Kinugawa is situated beside the river within the township of Kinugawa Onsen.  The KAI Kinugawa onsen hotel is in a very private location, nestled amongst the trees without being able to see any neighbours.  Of note is that you cannot see the river from KAI Kinugawa, even through it is located on the western side of the Kinugawa River. 

Kinugawa Onsen River
Kinugawa Onsen River

KAI Kinugawa is a very modern Hoshino Resort facility, and was constructed new only three years ago. KAI Kinugawa is a very contemporary Nikko onsen ryokan which has been constructed around the wonderful central garden courtyard.  The ryokan rooms all have outwards facing views of the lovely forest and grounds, with the walkways forming a square around the central garden.  It is a very easy resort to explore with all amenities close by.

KAI Kinugawa Entry
KAI Kinugawa Entry
KAI Kinugawa Entrance
KAI Kinugawa Entrance
KAI Kinugawa Entrance
KAI Kinugawa Entrance
KAI Kinugawa Hammocks and Garden Courtyard
KAI Kinugawa Hammocks and Garden Courtyard

KAI Kinugawa also has lovely common areas for guests located beside the reception desk.  In this area you can sit and relax, read some books and access the self service tea and coffee station.  You can also browse the KAI Kinugawa shop which has great local craft, food and drink options.

KAI Kinugawa Reception Desk
KAI Kinugawa Reception Desk
KAI Kinugawa Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Common Room Tea and Coffee Service
KAI Kinugawa Common Room Tea and Coffee Service
KAI Kinugawa Shop
KAI Kinugawa Shop
KAI Kinugawa Shop
KAI Kinugawa Shop

Each evening in the common area the staff provide a performance highlighting local customs and traditions.  We really enjoyed learning more about the local pottery producers, as well as the musical performance and snacks.  The staff performed in Japanese, however an English translation was provided to us to enable us to follow along. 

KAI Kinugawa Evening Entertainment
KAI Kinugawa Evening Entertainment
KAI Kinugawa Evening Entertainment
KAI Kinugawa Evening Entertainment

The central garden courtyard in KAI Kinugawa is also a wonderful location to relax.  You can either just walk through the garden, or relax in the provided hammock chairs and other seating areas.

KAI Kinugawa Central Garden
KAI Kinugawa Central Garden
KAI Kinugawa Central Garden
KAI Kinugawa Central Garden
Hoshino Resorts KAI Kinugawa Onsen
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Overview of KAI Kinugawa Guest Rooms

There are two different types of guest rooms at KAI Kinugawa as follows:

  • Japanese Style Room for between 1-3 guests
  • Japanese Style Room with Outdoor Bath for between 1-3 guests

The two room types are essentially identical, the only difference is the outdoor bath, which also comes with a shower with an external door to enable easy access to the bath.

The KAI Kinugawa guest rooms are Japanese style which means that you sleep on a futon bed on the floor, however these were the best futon beds that we have ever slept on!  The futon mattress is a very comfortable inner spring mattress which is located on top of an elevated podium.  Of note is that for both room types each bed is a single bed, there are no double beds.

KAI Kinugawa Bedroom
KAI Kinugawa Bedroom
KAI Kinugawa Sitting Room
KAI Kinugawa Sitting Room
KAI Kinugawa Sitting Room 2
KAI Kinugawa Sitting Room
KAI Kinugawa Bathroom
KAI Kinugawa Bathroom

Each room has standard amenities, including yukata robes, Japanese style pajamas and slippers as well as a KAI speciality, a cloth you can fold according to the included instructions to make a bag to carry your personal items while wearing your yukata.  In addition there is a complimentary tea service which includes complimentary local snacks.  There is also a mini bar filled with a selection of local alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks available for purchase. 

KAI Kinugawa Room Matcha Tea and Snacks
KAI Kinugawa Room Matcha Tea and Snacks
KAI Kinugawa Room Tea Service
KAI Kinugawa Room Tea Service

The bathroom has all of the amenities you would expect of a luxury resort, including a hair dryer, shampoo, conditioner, skin lotion and soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and razors.  The room also has a TV, phone, safe box and air purifier with humidifying function.

KAI Kinugawa Bathroom Amenities
KAI Kinugawa Bathroom Amenities

We stayed in a room with the outdoor hot tub, which is a wonderful amenity to enable you to bathe privately.  The tub is of a size to fit one adult comfortably, and it is great to just relax on your balcony and enjoy the peaceful environment.  The balcony also has chairs where you can just sit and relax.

KAI Kinugawa Private Balcony Onsen Bath
KAI Kinugawa Private Balcony Onsen Bath
KAI Kinugawa Balcony
KAI Kinugawa Balcony
KAI Kinugawa Balcony View
KAI Kinugawa Balcony View

Restaurant Kinugawa

Standard room prices at KAI Kinugawa include half board which means that your breakfast is included in your room price.  You can separately book in to experience a KAI Kinugawa style kaiseki multi course meal which features the local cuisine of the Tochigi region.

KAI Kinugawa Restaurant - Bench Seating Area
KAI Kinugawa Restaurant – Bench Seating Area
KAI Kinugawa Restaurant Private Dining Room
KAI Kinugawa Restaurant Private Dining Room

KAI Kinugawa Restaurant Kaiseki Dinner

Our kaiseki dinner at KAI Kinugawa was one of the highlights of our visit!  A kaiseki dinner is a set menu which features the regional cuisine, so expect that you may be challenged with some foods if you have a western palate, but it is a great way to truly experience the Japanese culture.

Below is a photo of our menu for dinner, followed by some photos from each course for your enjoyment!  A real highlight was the Assorted Delicacies and Sashimi course – it was fun trying to work out what each option was, and to then taste and enjoy each item.  We also really enjoyed the Steamed Vegetable and Beef Sirloin dish – the theatre of it being cooked in front of you was great, and it tasted delicious!

KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner Menu
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner Menu
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner - Roast Beef and a Bite Size Cutlet made of Beef Tenderloin
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner – Roast Beef and a Bite Size Cutlet made of Beef Tenderloin
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner - Spring Three Colors Dumpling with Shrimp and Japanese Pepper Leaf
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner – Spring Three Colors Dumpling with Shrimp and Japanese Pepper Leaf
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner - Assorted Delicacies and Sashimi
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner – Assorted Delicacies and Sashimi
KAI Kinugawa Kaiseki Dinner - Chicken Paste in Wafers with Pickles
KAI Kinugawa Kaiseki Dinner – Chicken Paste in Wafers with Pickles
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner - Steamed Sea Bream wrapped with Cherry Blossom Leaf and Wasabi
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner – Steamed Sea Bream wrapped with Cherry Blossom Leaf and Wasabi
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner - Steamed Vegetables with Beef Sirloin Collage
KAI Kinugawa Keiseki Dinner – Steamed Vegetables with Beef Sirloin Collage
KAI Kinugawa's Original _Anmitsu_ Sweet
KAI Kinugawa’s Original Anmitsu Sweet Dessert

Of note if you are travelling with children is that KAI Kinugawa also offers a children’s meal, which is a simpler version of the adult menu.  Our youngest son who is age 10 really enjoyed his children’s meals, and our older son aged 13 asked to change to the children’s menu when he was feeling challenged by the adult menu options.

KAI Kinugawa Childrens Menu Meal
KAI Kinugawa Childrens Menu Meal

Breakfast at KAI Kinugawa

The Japanese style breakfast at KAI Kinugawa is also an experience!  Breakfast is served as a single course, so you can easily have a quick breakfast and then get on with your activities for the day.  Below is the menu for our visit and some photos to enable you to see what is the typical food provided.  There is no option to have a western style breakfast at KAI Kinugawa.

KAI Kinugawa Breakfast Menu
KAI Kinugawa Breakfast Menu
KAI Kinugawa Breakfast
KAI Kinugawa Breakfast
KAI Kinugawa Breakfast
KAI Kinugawa Breakfast

KAI Kinugawa Onsen Experience

As you would expect a visit to KAI Kinugawa is not complete without visiting their onsen baths!  The KAI Kinugawa onsen has a selection of bathing options using the local Kinugawa hot spring waters.  The onsen area starts with a common area, which can be used for guests to meditate or re hydrate.  Complimentary drinks are provided in this area. 

KAI Kinugawa Onsen Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Onsen Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Onsen Common Area
KAI Kinugawa Onsen Common Area

There are then separate male and female bathing areas, the red curtain is for females and the blue curtain is for males. 

KAI Kinugawa Onsen Entry
KAI Kinugawa Onsen Entry

After you enter the male or female onsen area there is a rack where you can remove your yukata and store any personal items before entering the bathing area.  Note that you are not allowed to wear any clothing items in the baths, and tattoos must be covered by adhesive plasters which you can request at the reception desk.  No photos are allowed – note that I took these photos when no other person was using the facilities.  There are showers where you are expected to wash and rinse before you enter the onsen baths.  A selection of shampoo, conditioner and body wash are provided.

KAI Kinugawa Onsen Washing Area
KAI Kinugawa Onsen Washing Area

After you have washed you can then experience the onsen baths.  KAI Kinugawa has both indoor and outdoor onsen baths which are very beautiful and relaxing.  After you ease yourself into the hot waters you can just relax and enjoy the peacefulness.  The outdoor bath was lovely at night time, with cherry blossoms illuminated while you relax if you are there in spring! 

KAI Kinugawa Indoor Onsen Bath
KAI Kinugawa Indoor Onsen Bath
KAI Kinugawa Outdoor Onsen
KAI Kinugawa Outdoor Onsen
KAI Kinugawa Outdoor Onsen
KAI Kinugawa Outdoor Onsen

I usually find that about 10 minutes in an onsen bath is enough.  Pay attention to your body and when you feel like you are getting too hot then it is time to get out.  After you bathe you can then have another shower, have a drink and then decide whether to bathe again!

For more information about onsen etiquette check out the Hoshino Resorts video below.

How to Book Your Visit to KAI Kinugawa Resort

You can either book directly through the KAI Kinugawa Resort website, or check out the options through your preferred accommodation provider through Hotels Combined at this link.

Exploring around Kinugawa Onsen

There is a lot to see and do in the area around Kinugawa Onsen, so we would definitely recommend that you plan to stay at KAI Kinugawa for at least two nights to make the most of the options.  The major attractions are detailed below

Nikko Edo Wonderland

Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura is located a short 30 minute bus ride direct from Kinugawa Onsen Station, and is a great option for a half to a full day visit.  Edo Wonderland takes you back in time to the Edo Period, and is a great hands on way to experience the period. 

We definitely recommend that you take the opportunity to dress in periodic dress, and it is great to choose whether you want to be a farmer, samurai, lord and many more options!  As you walk through the village your costume inspires a level of interaction which is lots of fun.

There are many traditional performances to enjoy, including an Oiran courtesan show – it was all in Japanese but we still enjoyed it – it was definitely a comedy act!  You can also try your hand at traditional arts and crafts for small additional fees.  We really enjoyed cooking our a rice cracker on a brazier, creating our own wood block pictures as well as learning how to shoot arrows on horesback (simulated..)!  Those swords were not just for decoration…  We also really enjoyed the ninja show 😊.

You can pre-book your Edo Wonderland entry ticket through Klook at this link.

Edo Wonderland Family in Kimonos
Edo Wonderland Family in Kimonos
Edo Wonderland - Cooking Rice Crackers
Edo Wonderland – Cooking Rice Crackers
Edo Wonderland Horseback Archery Class
Edo Wonderland Horseback Archery Class

Tobu World Square

For something a bit different, you can easily visit Tobu World Square, a theme park which holds over 100 reproductions of famous buildings and World Heritage Sites.  Each model is built on a 1/25th scale.  You can get there by either train or bus from Kinugawa Onsen to Tobu World Square Station, which is half way between Kinugawa Onsen and Edo Wonderland.

Kinugawa River Boat

From mid April to late November each year a great activity is to do a Kinugawa River Boat Cruise along the river in a traditional Japanese boat.  The starting point is a short walk from Kinugawa Onsen Station.  The route is reasonably gentle water for the 40 minute cruise and is great fun!  Your ticket includes a one way shuttle bus to return to the starting point. 

Here is the link with more details of the Kinugawa River Boat Cruise timetable and how to book.  Note that you can also purchase a combination ticket which includes both the Kinugawa River Boat Cruise and the Kinugawa Onsen Ropeway, which includes a free shuttle bus to the ropeway.

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Boat trip with a difference! Throwback to a lovely afternoon activity. . . The Kinugawa Line Kudari river cruise, a ride along the Kinugawa River, in a wooden boat was a delight. The ride’s pretty smooth and we were kept entertained by the boatmen (Japanese only) as we passed through amazing unspoiled stretches etc… . . Being the only foreigner on the tour, one of the boatmen made me seat closer to him and made sure to explain everything to me in a mixture of Japanese/English. I can say that I was definitely entertained during the 40 minutes ride! . . #japanesecountryside #kinugawa #kinugawaonsen #nikko #tochigi #japon #japaneseexperience #jtrip #boattours #touriste #culturetrip #lpfanphoto #wanderlust #lppathfinders #femmetraveler #river #explorejapan #travelguide #voyager #decouverte #relax #femaletravelbloggers #amazingdestinations #secretmoona

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Kinugawa Onsen Ropeway

Kinugawa Onsen Ropeway is located to the northern side of Kinugawa Onsen, and is closest to Kinugawa Onsen Sanjo Station.  The ropeway quickly climbs 300m to the top of the mountain, where you can see the lovely views from the observation deck and a hot spring shrine.  You can regularly see monkeys at the top of the mountain.

Kinugawa Ryuokyo Valley Hiking Trails

The Ryuokyo Valley Hiking Trail is a 6km hike suitable for beginner hikers along the ‘Valley of the Dragon King’ between Kinugawa and Kawaji hot springs.  The hike goes along the river, which depending on the time of year can vary between gentle and raging waters with a wide palette of colours.  There are also alternative shorter hiking routes which end back at Ryuokyo Station.

Get started by catching the train from Kinugawa Onsen Station to Ryuokyo Station and then walk back along the pathway, enjoying the seasonal foliage along the way.

Yunishigawa Onsen

Yunishigawa Onsen is a remote hot spring town which can be accessed by a one hour bus ride from Kinugawa Onsen.  Yunishigawa Onsen is famous for receiving a lot of snow in the winter, and many tourists visit for the annual Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival, held every year from late January to early March.  During the festival hundreds of snow houses are built and illuminated each evening, and many other activities are available for visitors.

Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

 
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