From end of the year to New Year period, some people stay Japanese inn. If you are one of them, don't miss this episode. (Part 2)

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From end of the year to New Year period, some people stay Japanese inn. If you are one of them, don't miss this episode. (Part 2)

In Hamaya inn in Suzaki, enjoy a delicious dinner of Izu’s delicacies featuring lots of seafood and vegetables. The next morning, head to Ebisujima - which is a five-minute walk from the inn - to capture the stunning sunrise. For breakfast, you will be served homemade dried horse mackerel, hijiki, zouni and handmade rice cake. A night’s stay at Hamaya inn costs 9,800 yen (S$125) per head.

Let’s go to Karuizawa in Nagano next. We’ll stay at the luxurious Prince Grand Resort Karuizawa. The normal room rate, which includes two meals, is 43,000 yen (S$544). But during the New Year holidays, the accommodation fee is 10,000 yen. First, we’ll head to the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza. With about 200 shops, it is the largest shopping mall in Japan.

After indulging in some retail therapy, make your way to the hotel, which is a 15-minute walk from the mall. The hotel - which recently revamped its rooms and lounge to commemorate its 30th anniversary - has 100 rooms. Enjoy some Shinshu sparkling wine first before going to your room. Some twin rooms command a beautiful view of the garden and Mt. Asama.

Occupying a land area as large as 12.5 Tokyo Domes, the hotel has a private skiing slope, a free shuttle bus, a huge bowling centre and last but not least, an open-air bath for hotel guests only. You will be served a luxurious French meal for dinner. Items include boiled abalone and red sea bream kobujime; freshwater shrimp; topinambour flan with scallop and shrimp poele in black truffle sauce; mushroom and foie gras with soup; Japanese black beef steak in red wine sauce; and macarons with strawberry. End your night with a cocktail at the hotel’s bar. The next day, feast on a healthy breakfast of soup, salad and carbonara rice with onsen eggs.

Our next destination is Takayama in Gifu. We will stay at an inn for just 5,250 yen (S$66) per person. Start by travelling on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya and then transferring to the Takayama Main Line. Alight at Hida Takayama and make your way to the Hida Takayama-so inn. Opened four years ago, the Japanese-style inn is spacious and comfortable. There are even massage chairs which guests can use for free. A night’s accommodation fee of 5,250 yen includes breakfast; the rate is the same throughout the year. If dinner is included, the rate is 8,400 yen (S$106). Despite the huge premises, the inn has only 10 rooms, two of which are Western-Japanese style rooms.

Soak in the scenic hot spring bath before heading out for dinner. You may want to check out Kippou, which serves the famous A5 grade Hida beef at a reasonable price. You can find items such as curry, steak, hamburgers, gyumeshi don and Hida beef seiromushi-zen with sashimi on the menu.

The next day, breakfast includes sukuna pumpkin – a Takayama specialty - hoba miso and rice. After checking out, do drop by the Miyagawa Morning Market, which is opened throughout the year. There are 40 stalls selling a variety of products such as fresh vegetables, pickles and even local toys.

The last inn we’ll stay in is located in Kawayu Onsen, Hokkaido. A night’s stay with two meals costs 10,000 yen during the New Year period. Our starting point is Kushiro, which faces the Pacific Ocean. Before taking the train, explore Washo Market, which is near the station. Here you can find lots of fresh and seasonal seafood from Hokkaido. A speciality at this market is katte don; you can even choose your own toppings for the dish. After this delicious treat, go to the train station and hop on the Senmo Main Line, which connects Kushiro and Abashiri. The train travels north through the Kushiro Marsh. During the train journey, look out for a national special natural monument, red-crowned cranes. They live in the Kushiro Marsh from December to early spring and are usually seen near Kayanuma Station.

Alight at Kawayu Onsen and head to Kitafukurou, which is well known for its spa which uses fresh spring water. Locals here worship the owl as a sacred bird so you will notice lots of owl statues. And if you’re lucky, you may just catch a glimpse of wild owls in the surrounding forest. The inn has 120 rooms, most of which are Japanese-style rooms. The open-air bath boasts a gorgeous view of Hokkaido’s scenery and the snow. For dinner, feast on sashimi; whelk; grilled salmon; Hokkaido’s speciality, salmon roe pickled with salt; squid pickled with Japanese pepper; chicken meat ball; cod; and Bekkai beef. The buffet-style breakfast features 35 items such as salmon and mackerel caught in Kushiro, handmade tofu, Pacific herring and matsumae-zuke.

After breakfast, have a look at some pagoda woodwork and souvenirs which are sold in the hotel’s lobby. The pagoda amulet, for example, is believed to bring you happiness. Or you could get a mobile strap and have your name carved at the back for free.

THIS WEEK'S TIPS:

  • After checking out of the Hida Takayama-so inn, visit the Miyagawa Morning Market
  • Look out for red-crowned cranes when travelling on the Senmo Main Line in winter

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