There are many ways to get to know Kyushu, but if you want to absorb all the local culture, history and cuisine while relaxing in beautiful surroundings that would make even the feudal lords a tad jealous, then here are two luxury hotels you’ll want to stay at…
AGORA Fukuoka Hilltop Hotel & Spa
Best thought of as a tranquil mountain sanctuary, AGORA Fukuoka Hilltop Hotel & Spa lets you forget about the hustle and bustle of the modern world, while still being accessible enough for a quick visit to Kyushu’s largest city. The hotel perfectly blends the peace and serenity of a luxury resort with the attraction of Fukuoka’s nearby sightseeing spots.
The hotel offers 48 luxury boutique guest rooms, in both Western and Japanese styles, holistic therapy treatments at its spa that promise to cure both body and mind, and culinary experiences you won’t soon forget. At its Japanese restaurant, Koyomi, you will be able to dine on multicourse traditional Japanese cooking that will bring you closer to authentic Kyushu culture. The Main Dining Cabana, on the other hand, will first dazzle you with magnificent views of Fukuoka and then blow you away with its breakfast, lunch and dinner selections featuring a variety of locally sourced ingredients. For fans of something less formal, there’s always the garden restaurant “k” and Bar Octopus where you can unwind with a cocktail or a cup of tea or coffee.
In the summertime, make sure you don’t miss the hotel’s Cool & Luxury Beer Garden, offering not only beer but also perfectly paired BBQ and finger foods.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE…
All of the above would be reason enough to never leave the hotel, but if you do decide to venture out, there is plenty to see and do. Just a few minutes from AGORA Fukuoka Hilltop Hotel & Spa you will find the city’s zoological garden. The facility houses over 700 animals and 2,500 plants, both outdoor and greenhouse varieties. Also close by are the Fukuoka Castle ruins, an important historical site dating back hundreds of years. Right next to it is Ohori Park: a popular relaxation spot modeled on the West Lake in Hangzhou, China.
If it’s shopping you’re interested in, look no further than the nearby Canal City Hakata, a huge entertainment complex often called a “city within the city.”
More info at agorafukuoka-hilltop.com
Furuyu Onsen ONCRI
While AGORA Fukuoka Hilltop Hotel & Spa is a modern resort, ONCRI in neighboring Saga is more of a reflection of the prefecture’s traditional charms. As such, it’s modeled after a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) where you can enjoy hot spring baths amidst the splendor of nature. Located at the site of the Furuyu Onsen, ONCRI is one of the oldest hot spring resorts in western Kyushu.
It also has its international side. While it has been designed with tradition in mind, ONCRI has also been refined with many modern amenities, including access to wonderful Japanese and Italian cuisine. The former can be experienced at KIMI restaurant, which serves kaiseki, the Japanese equivalent of haute cuisine. Composed of nine to 13 dishes, the feast is that of both the mouth and the eyes, with each course being made from the best seasonal ingredients available, presented in an aesthetically pleasing and traditional way.
For fans of Italian cooking, there is SEBRI bar and restaurant. There you will find a delicious spread of meat, seafood and local vegetables prepared by skilled chefs who’ve helped make SEBRI one of the best restaurants in Japan, according to a 2012 rating by restaurant review site Tabelog.
But the biggest draw of ONCRI is its baths. The hotel boasts a total of 15 public hot spring baths, plus a number of private ones. This includes outdoor baths for relaxing among the beauty of Saga’s nature. As a bonus, the hotel also has a sand bath where guests can relax by burying themselves in warm sand.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE…
Another amazing feature of ONCRI is its proximity to places where you can experience traditional Japanese culture. Just an hour’s drive away you have the coastal city of Karatsu, famous for its rich history and traditional pottery known as Karatsu-yaki. A little closer are workshops producing Japanese paper (washi), traditional woolen carpets, or Hizen Vidro glassware. All of them are open to visitors interested in seeing how these old Japanese crafts are being kept alive by skilled artisans. If you make reservations, a few of the workshops will even let you participate and make your own pottery or glassworks, creating one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
More info at www.oncri.com
Plan Your Route From Fukuoka to Saga
Keen to stay at both resorts? Here’s a quick guide to traveling between the two, and things to see along the way
Visitors to Kyushu who wish to experience the high-class comforts of AGORA Fukuoka Hilltop Hotel & Spa as well as the traditional luxuries of ONCRI will not have to go out of their way to visit both hotels. After you’ve enjoyed your stay in Fukuoka, make your way to Hakata Station. If you’ve got time to spare while at the station, take some time to shop around Hakata Hankyu department store where you’ll find both international luxury brands and delicious local foods.
From Hakata Station, it’s a relatively quick 40-minute train ride to Saga Station (from where you’ll be able to catch ONCRI’s shuttle bus). On the way, though, there are several exciting locations to stop off at and experience the best of Kyushu. For example, you can visit Komyozenji Temple and see the only Japanese rock garden on the island. More outdoorsy travelers, on the other hand, might be interested in a stop near Mount Tenpai for some amazing hiking. Fans of history will probably want to get off in Kanzaki to see the Kunenan Mansion, a place of scenic beauty famous for its autumn foliage (only open for a short period of time during spring, and for nine days during autumn).