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Nikko Kanaya Hotel - A Historical Lodging Near Japan's World Heritage Sites

Nikko Kanaya Hotel - A Historical Lodging Near Japan's World Heritage Sites

Tochigi 2019.05.03 Bookmark

The Nikko Kanaya Hotel in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, located close to the world-famous Toshogu Shrine and Shinkyo Bridge, has been serving international visitors for over 140 years. Learn about this hotel, its timeless appeal, and warm hospitality to all guests.

Translated by Greg

Written by chia

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Nikko Kanaya Hotel - Lodging with a Long International History

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Picture courtesy of Nikko Kanaya Hotel

Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, and former American president Dwight Eisenhower--do you know that all three of these historical figures have in common?

Each of them visited Japan's Nikko area, they all stayed at the Nikko Kanaya Hotel.

The Nikko Kanaya Hotel was the first hotel in Japan to be built to cater to international visitors. It is located close to Nikko's famous sightseeing spots, the Shinkyo Bridge, Futarasan Shrine, and UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Toshogu Shrine.

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The story of the Nikko Kanaya Hotel begins in 1870 (Meiji period), with the arrival in Japan of James C. Hepburn. Hepburn, who was a doctor and Christian missionary, developed the Hepburn romanization of the Japanese language.

At the time of Hepburn's arrival, Nikko didn't have any accommodations for international visitors. So Doctor Hepburn went to the home of Zenichiro Kanaya, an imperial court musician at Nikko Toshogu Shrine, and suggested that he open up part of his residence as accommodation for visitors to Japan.

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Picture courtesy of Nikko Kanaya Hotel

In 1873, Zenichiro took Doctor Hepburn's advice and renovated the samurai residence on his property into lodging for visitors to Japan. It was called Kanaya Cottage Inn, which is the present-day Nikko Kanaya Hotel.

In 1893, the Nikko Kanaya Hotel opened its doors for business. For over 140 years, it has been known for its hospitality towards Nikko area visitors. It remains a long-standing hotel popular with all travelers.

The former samurai residence-turned-Kanaya Cottage Inn is Nikko Kanaya Hotel's History House. Here you can learn about the long history of the hotel complex.

Learn what makes Nikko Kanaya Hotel a unique place to stay in this article.

Detailed Carvings Like Nikko Toshogu Shrine!

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Upon first looking at its exterior, Nikko Kanaya Hotel might simply look like traditional western-style hotel. However, when you step inside the building, you'll see some remarkable carvings seen in Japanese architecture.

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Zenichiro Kanaya was also a miyadaiku (*1), or specialized carpenter, who helped restore Nikko Toshogu Shrine.

As a result, the hotel's interior showcases many decorations similar to Nikko Toshogu Shrine. For example, carved elephants and columns detailed with floral patterns, and also a wood carving of a sleeping cat (nemuri neko).

*1 Miyadaiku: a carpenter who specializes in the construction of temples and shrines.

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Of the twelve pillars found at Nikko Toshogu Shrine's Yomeimon Gate, one of them features patterns and designs intentionally placed upside-down.

Superstition at the time led people to believe that anything built to completion and perfection would soon spell its own destruction. So in order to not anger the gods with the presumption of perfection, this good luck pillar (mayoke no sakabashira) was apparently built with the hopes that the shrine would last for many years to come.

In a similar fashion, the ceiling of the restaurant on the hotel's second floor features an incomplete painting. See if you can find this painting when you visit!

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The hotel's interior is modern Japanese and is truly stunning. As a result, the hotel has also been appropriately designated as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property.

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The building's interior has been carefully preserved over the years, allowing guests to feel the rich history of the hotel.

For example, the desk light at the entrance of the second floor restaurant has remained here and used since 1907.

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The bell at the front desk has also been used since 1907.

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Remnants of the hotel's past are carved and inscribed throughout its interior. Hotel guests can go on special tours of the building's premises. While staying at the hotel, take part in the tour and take a journey back in time.

Tours are conducted in Japanese and are held based on the number of guests that sign up, so please consult with the staff about the day you'd like to join. The tours are offered free of charge.

Rooms Made with Guests' Comfort in Mind

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All rooms come equipped with steam radiator heaters, which will keep you warm and toasty during the cold winter months.

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Some rooms have clawfoot bathtubs. The bathtub may remind you of a scene from a classic American movie, with the main character sitting in one of these bathtubs surrounded by soap bubbles.

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The body soap and other amenities are all exclusive to the hotel. The foam face wash is especially nice to use. If you ask the hotel staff you can purchase some for your return trip back.

100 Years of Delicious Cuisine

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Music from a glockenspiel performed by hotel employees, signals meal time. The hotel employees are known in general for being very polite and gracious throughout the entire duration of guests' stays.

The dishes at the hotel are also well-prepared and exquisite. The gorgeous dinners and the fresh bread at breakfast time are wonderfully delicious.

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Picture courtesy of Nikko Kanaya Hotel

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Two popular items on the hotel's menu are the curry rice and the bread. We highly recommend the Hundred Years Rice Curry, a recreation of a recipe from the hotel's first head chef, and the Royal Bread, developed by Katsutoshi Kawazu, often referred to by the hotel employees as a "god of bread."

These two items are also sold at the souvenir shop on the first floor.

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At the souvenir shop they also sell many of the hotel's original products. Here you'll find souvenirs that aren't available anywhere else.

The best things about Nikko Kanaya Hotel is that visitors can dine at the restaurant and enjoy these delicious dishes even if they don't stay at the hotel. Because of its popularity, it might be hard to get a room at Kanaya Hotel unless you make your reservation several months in advance. But how about coming here for lunch when visiting Nikko?

Experience the Changing Seasons of Nikko

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Picture courtesy of Nikko Kanaya Hotel

Nikko Toshogu Shrine has breathtaking fall foliage, so naturally, the hotel next door offers a chance to enjoy these magnificent colors, too.

Guests at Nikko Kanaya Hotel can take in the gorgeous outdoors throughout the year.

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Picture courtesy of Nikko Kanaya Hotel

The hotel garden reflects the four seasons, showing lush green in the summer, striking colors in the fall, and white blankets of snow in winter.

The fact that amazing scenery can be seen throughout the year, is one of the reasons why so many visitors are enchanted by this hotel and its surrounding area.

Have a Relaxing Stay at Nikko Kanaya Hotel

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Picture courtesy of Nikko Kanaya Hotel

The Nikko Kanaya Hotel is a first-class hotel with a long history in one of Japan's most prominent areas. Make sure to base your stay in Nikko at this lodging with its charming interior, friendly employees, and abundant surrounding nature.

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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