Translated by Sandy Lau
Snow, Hot Springs, And Exquisite Food! Enjoy Nagano's Winter At KAI Alps
Written by MATCHA-PR
Hoshino Resort KAI Alps is a Japanese inn located in Nagano’s Omachi Onsenkyo district. Here you can gaze at beautiful mountain scenery, enjoy hot springs and regional cuisine, as well as snow. Our writer introduces what the inn was like during her stay!
What Is KAI Alps?
Did you know that the Northern Alps of Japan have been gaining attention as a tourist attraction over the past few years? The beautiful scenery of the Northern Alps, which include the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and Hakuba Valley, consists of high elevation areas that are also popular as spots you’ll want to visit at least once in your life.
We will be introducing KAI Alps, which is situated at the foot of the Northern Alps in Omachi, Nagano. This high class lodging facility operated by Hoshino Resorts has been reopened after remodeling in December 2017.
The famous hot springs of Omachi Onsenkyo can be enjoyed at this facility. You can also experience the culture of this region, once called Shinshu, not to mention that you can enjoy relaxing in spacious rooms.
Nagano also has several ski resorts and the features of this snow country are even reflected in the lobby’s design. For example, the decorations on the walls of the reception area are said to represent the icicles that can be found in the snow country which is Nagano.
In this article, MATCHA’s English editor will introduce KAI Alps as she experienced it during her stay by dividing the introduction into five special charms that can only be found at this facility.
1. Experience the Warmth of a Sunken Hearth
After finishing the check-in procedures at KAI Alps, you will be shown into a room with a sunken hearth which is adjacent to the lobby.
Oyaki (round flour cakes with various fillings) were being roasted over the sunken hearth when our writer visited. Oyaki is a regional food that has been passed down for generations in the Shinshu area. Homemade vegetables and tsukemono (pickled vegetables) are wrapped in a dough made from wheat flour that is then roasted and eaten while warm. Even today, it is popularly eaten as a snack.
The fillings of the oyaki we ate consisted of a vegetable that is a Nagano specialty called nozawana (Japanese mustard leaves). The great combination of the hot and fragrant dough together with the fresh taste of the nozawana was extremely delicious and we even asked for seconds!
The sunken hearth will easily warm your chilled body. The fact that we were able to have a taste of the region immediately upon arriving made us feel that it was worthwhile coming all the way from Tokyo.
In the evening, after we warmed our bodies in the hot springs, we gathered once more around the sunken hearth and had baked apples with warm sake.
Sunken hearths were once found in every Japanese home. It was at these hearths where food was prepared and families gathered. Being able to taste warm local sake alongside delicious apples, a specialty of the region, while feeling the ambience of a local home was a wonderful experience.
2. Hot Springs That Will Warm Your Body Throughout
The hot springs of Omachi Onsenkyo, where KAI Alps is located, draw their waters from Tsuta Onsen located at the foot of the Northern Alps. It is a low alkaline hot spring that will smooth your skin. Both indoor and open-air baths are available at KAI Alps and you are able to enjoy the baths as many times as you like during your stay.
The inn prepared a Shinshu apple bath the day our writer stayed at the inn! It’s such an elegant experience that you’ll forget that time is passing when you soak in the hot springs all the while enveloped by the fragrance of apples. We were able to have a moment of pure relaxation.
It began to snow just as we were about to enter the open-air baths and we were luckily able to have a hot springs experience while the snow came fluttering down! Although the snow piling up outside added to the cold, we were able to warm our bodies in the hot springs, which made for a very special experience.
Please check the website of KAI Alps if you would like to learn more information about these wonderful hot springs.
3. A Classic Shinshu Multi-Course Meal
One of the greatest charms of KAI Alps is its multi-course meals that lavishly use local ingredients. Not only are they delicious, but the visuals of each meal are designed to show visitors the classic landscapes of Nagano.
For example, the snow in Nagano is represented by cotton candy while the food is arranged on plates that look like wasabi leaves, another special product of Shinshu. Just seeing these dishes made with such careful thought and fine details will make you glad that you chose this inn.
It goes without saying that everything tastes amazing!
Breakfast is also arranged with several types of dishes made using ingredients produced in Nagano. The region was once a trading route that connected the ocean with the inland, so seafood and mountain foods are also incorporated into the meals.
Please check the website of KAI Alps for details on the exquisite meals served at the inn.
4. Guest Rooms with Regional Characteristics
KAI Alps has four types of rooms, all of which are large spaces where you can unwind. Annex guest rooms have been furnished with a wood-burning stove, making the fact that you can enjoy the warmth of a fire in a modern space one of their special characteristics.
There are also rooms that come with an indoor hot spring bath. For a limited time, they also come with apples and Japanese sake. How about extravagantly enjoying a hot spring bath in your own room?
All tatami-matted rooms have beds that are very comfortable to sleep in.
The guest rooms are decorated with lovely creations made by paper-cutting and woodblock artist Kyoko Yanagisawa who is a Nagano resident. Postcards of Ms. Yanagisawa’s art filled with her love for her hometown can also be purchased at the souvenir shop of the facility. If there is a work that you’re interested in, we also recommend buying it at the shop in commemoration of your stay at KAI Alps!
Please check the website of KAI Alps for details about the guest rooms.
5. Experience Nagano’s Charms at the Library and Souvenir Shop
We naturally recommend enjoying the hot springs and sunken hearth at the inn, but you can also spend your time reading at this travel library. Here, you can read books that introduce the highlights of Nagano or novels and stories that take place in the area while enjoying coffee or tea.
There are not only books in Japanese but also in English, along with plenty of fascinating photo collections and picture books. How about checking out the highlights of this area at the travel library before setting out to explore the Northern Alps?
Traditional Nagano handicrafts (bowls, accessories, everyday utensils made with Japanese paper or fabric, etc.) and local foods can also be purchased at the shop.
We especially recommend the walnut yubeshi sold as an original KAI Alps product. It is a soft rice cake with a gentle flavor from which you can experience the elegant culture of Nagano.
Use KAI Alps as a Sightseeing Hub!
You can also visit spots famous for their beautiful scenery such as the Tateyama Kurobe Dam near Omachi and Hakuba Valley during your stay at KAI Alps.
If you are traveling to Nagano by car, then you can also visit Nagano’s famous Zenkoji Temple. Worshipped at Zenkoji Temple is Japan’s oldest Buddhist statue, a representation of Buddha Amida Nyorai.
Since you’ve come all the way to Zenkoji Temple, then please also visit the corridor below the sacred statues of the inner temple. It is said that you can form a bond with the Buddhist deities enshrined at this temple through this means of visiting, which is called Okaidan Meguri.
There are several charming restaurants and souvenir shops lining the shopping district that leads to Zenkoji Temple. We also recommend tasting the famous products of Nagano here after your temple visit!
KAI Alps Is Best When You Want to Enjoy Nagano’s Culture!
If you want to experience a trip that will take you to the grand mountain range of Nagano and leave lifelong memories, then you can’t leave KAI Alps out when choosing where to stay. You can personally experience a condensed form of Nagano’s culture and nature through activities such as the hot springs, food, and sitting near the sunken hearth.
Though we introduced the highlights of KAI Alps while focusing on our stay during this cold season, the nature-filled city of Omachi, Nagano, is a charming area no matter what season you visit. If you’ll be visiting the superb scenery of Nagano, then how about staying at KAI Alps?
Reservations can be made here. You can lodge at KAI Alps for a cheap, discounted rate if you make your reservation 90 days in advance, so we recommend making your reservations early! The reservation page to take advantage of the special 90 Day Early Bird offer is here!
Hoshino Resort KAI Alps Official Website:
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Photos by Miho Yamaki
Sponsored by Hoshino Resorts
Hoshino Resorts operates hotels and ryokan (Japanese inns) in 35 locations all around Japan. Their facilities are ideal for travelers who wish to fully enjoy the charms of Japan.
Each facility has English speaking staff who make sure that visitors from all around the world experience the full breadth of Japanese hospitality without inconveniences.
The Hoshino Resorts brands include HOSHINOYA, KAI, RISONARE, and OMO.