Hokkaido is Japan’s least-developed, northernmost island and the historic home to the indigenous people of the Jomon period, whose practices of living in harmony with the land defined their culture that prevailed in this region thousands of years ago. This spirited ethos, combined with inspiration drawn from the crystalline waters of the adjacent Lake Shikotsu, defines the simple elegance of Ao no Za, the Japanese-style Ryokan hotel that bears the full name of “Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Bessou Ao no Za.” Ryokans have long been present in Japanese culture – generally with shared aspects like reed floor matting, sliding paper doors, and stately, hand-carved furniture and low wooden tables – and Ao no Za is a modern continuation of this tradition that still offers all the comforts and amenities of Japan’s best five-star hotels and resorts. The hotel’s name itself pays homage to the deep-blue waters of Lake Shikotsu, as “Ao” can mean blue or green in Japanese, while “Za” refers to a “gathering,” or a peaceful place for people to interact and enjoy life. Accommodations are furnished with natural wood-tone pieces styled with crisp, modern lines and accents of navy blue, cobalt grey, and other natural hues. What’s more, all rooms at Ao no Za come with a private indoor jet path and outdoor Onsen bath with enough space to accommodate up to three or four people at once. These baths are fed by natural hot spring water that promotes healing and a soothing sense of tranquility, and all onsens feature views looking out across the waters of Lake Shikotsu. Inspired by the cultural values and water-dependent lifestyle of Hokkaido’s ancient inhabitants, Ao no Za melds lakeside luxury with a focus on staying true to the rugged northern island and its rich heritage.
Why We Love This Hotel
Kaiseki Cuisine: Ao no Za’s tradition-forward style is perhaps most evident in its artful dining options. Hokkaido is renowned for its top-quality seafood and produce, and in-house dishes are presented in true kaiseki style wherein guests receive multiple courses complemented by local sake.
Unique Design: Put simply, Ao no Za boasts some of the most striking architectural features of any luxury resort or hotel in Japan. The lobby’s design incorporates an 8-meter-tall wall with layered rows of rock symbolizing “the interwoven layers of Jomon culture, Ainu culture, and the modern age with the flow of time.”
Lakefront Healing: The hotel’s spa awaits guests who need some extra pampering after a soak in their private Onsen bath. The hotel’s spa, Themae, offers oriental and Ayurveda massages, an array of body and facial treatments, and even a Moroccan oil scalp massage, to name a few options.
Yoga Classes/instruction On Site
Rooms at Ao no Za are inspired by classic Japanese Ryokans, feature panoramic views a
cross Lake Shikotsu, and fall under the categories of Executive Suite Villa, Executive Vill
a, Suite Sky Resort, and Suite Resort. All accommodations come with their own private in
door bathtubs and open-air Onsen baths fed by natural hot spring waters. Rooms also fe
ature high-end amenities and spacious balconies, as well as plush double beds and a sep
arate bathtub and shower. Executive Villas and Executive Suite Villas are ideal for larger g
roups of 3-4 guests, and Executive Villas may be connected to accommodate up to seve
n guests at a time. When not lounging in either of their two private baths, guests may als
o enjoy a tea-maker, large flatscreen TV, and the option of private, in-room dining.
These rooms span 100-120 square meters and feature large lounge sofas, a spacious balcony, and all other hallmark amenities of Ao no Za, including two private baths.
Suite Sky Resort
The penthouse-level offering at Ao no Za in terms of standard suite options, the Suite Sky Resort rooms are located on the highest floors, enabling the best views of Lake Shikotsu. These suites also measure 100-120 square meters and can accommodate up to three guests.
With a larger size of 120-140 square meters and all the same amenities and features as the two Suite Resort room types, these villas have space for up to three or four guests. They may also be combined to accommodate up to seven.
Executive Suite Villa
The marquee room type on offer at Ao no Za, Executive Suite Villas are an expansive 210-270 square meters and have the capacity for up to five guests. These private villas are extremely spacious – so much so, in fact, that they have enough room for two separate living areas.
Ao no Za does not disappoint when it comes to facilities geared toward health, wellness,
and ensuring the highest possible level of relaxation for guests. The hotel’s spa, Thema
e, gets its name from the traditional Japanese tea preparation ceremony in which beauty,
pleasure, and sensory stimulation are emphasized. This culture and art of tea-making co
me to the forefront in the list of treatments and massages offered by Tamao. And for gue
sts seeking a more active outlet, Ao no Za’s fitness center features state-of-the-art exer
cise machines and personal trainers ready to help tailor a customized workout.
The hotel’s in-house fitness center is the ideal place for guests to work up a cardio-forward sweat with a treadmill, free weights, or even yoga session before returning to their room’s private Onsen hot spring-fed baths.
The Ao no Za’s in-house spa facility is the ideal place to seek an even higher level of tranquility and relaxation than afforded by the hotel’s private Onsen baths. Treatment options, carried out by highly trained professionals in private rooms looking out upon the serene waters of the lake, include green tea facials, Moroccan oil scalp treatments, oriental and Ayurveda-style massages, a full-facial hydration regimen, and many more.
Ao no Za’s multifaceted dining experience is inspired and informed by the well-defined s
easonality of Japan’s least-populated island. Hokkaido’s natural environment, while home
to one of the harshest winters in Japan, flourishes with an array of fresh produce and sea
food offerings, like fresh scallops, prawns, succulent crab, and of course salmon. Where
main entrees are concerned, the hotel’s private kaiseki-style dining rooms feature dishe
s that aim to highlight local farm-fresh vegetables and catches-of-the-day. For lighter bit
es, Ao no Za’s traditional teppanyaki counter is a guest favorite where wagyu beef, a loca
l Hokkaido delicacy, is expertly grilled and served with Japanese craft beer. Finally, there
is also a lobby lounge and a bar lounge, both of which offer a relaxed yet classy atmosp
here for enjoying casual conversation over a cocktail prepared by Ao no Za’s expert bar s
taff. Be sure to inquire about the hotel’s extensive list of regionally distinct sakes, which
may also be paired with guests’ favorite dinner dishes.
Lobby Lounge and Bar
The Ao no Za’s lobby lounge and bar areas are ideal for guests looking to unwind or cool off with a cocktail and a snack. Sake is the local drink of choice, but a range of other top-shelf liquors, craft beers, and fine wines are also on-hand.
Private Kaiseki Dining
Color, flavor, and the desire to tell a story prevail in the regionally inspired offerings prepared by Ao no Za chefs. Each dish is considered a poetic expression of locally sourced ingredients, and meals are served in traditional multi-course Japanese fashion.
Grilled delights, including Hokkaido’s famed wagyu-style beef, are the norm at this bar-style countertop eatery. The traditional iron griddle is also commonly used to sear ingredients like shrimp, rice, eggs, and finely chopped vegetables.
Why Remote Lands?
With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.
With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, in the continent that our north American founders Catherine and Jay have adored and explored for decades, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.
An Asia-focused magazine brought to you by Remote Lands – a platform for adventure, luxury, and authenticity
from experts and explorers around the continent.
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