24-Hour Room Service: Natulux, Furano, Japan
Saturday 26 April 2008
It hits me the moment the lift doors glide open: not the sleek, monochrome corridor or the grey stones artfully engraved with room numbers – but the uplifting aroma of sweet orange that infuses the air.
Some hotels set out to indulge the taste buds with gastronomic delights. Others use cutting-edge design to create visual feasts. But the Natulux Hotel favours another of the five senses: smell.
Surrounded by snow-covered mountains in winter and lavender fields in summer, Natulux Hotel in Furano, on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido, is a celebration of all things scent-related.
On each of the seven floors, a different aroma is released from burners in the hallway – lavender wafts around the second floor, while grapefruit is on the fifth. The smart, black and white guest-rooms also have customised lamps upon which scented crystals are burnt, releasing scents that range from mint tea to hyacinth.
The hotel ensures, however, that the guest's remaining four senses are not neglected. The hotel is sleek and modern, complete with Tadao Ando-style concrete-studded walls and black and white furnishings.
Jazz floats through the plant-filled lobby, and guests can peruse an array of design books in the library or indulge in retail therapy in the stylish gift shop, where the shelves, naturally, stock scented candles and aromatherapy oils.
The small, single-sex ground-floor spas provide the perfect antidote to a hard day's skiing or hiking. As well as an obligatory hot onsen bath and conventional massage therapies, there is a room dedicated to the fashionable Japanese detox treatment known as ganban yoku, which involves sweating out toxins on heated slabs of volcanic rock.
Meanwhile, taste buds are catered for in the airy white restaurant, Natural Dining. Here, organic cuisine is the order of the day, including Furano milk at breakfast and products made from fermented soy bean, or natto.
Natulux Hotel, 1-35 Asahicho, Furano city, Hokkaido, Japan (00 81 167 22 1777; www.natulux.com).
Conveniently located in the heart of Furano, in central Hokkaido, the hotel is a stone's throw from perfect powder skiing in winter (December to March) or hiking through lavender fields in summer.
Distance from international airport: Sapporo's New Chitose Airport is about three hours away by train, which costs Y3,290 (£16). During the winter, a coach service operates, taking three-and-a-half hours and costing Y2,500 (£12).
An exercise in minimalism, the 70 guest rooms are clean, modern spaces with cube-shaped lamps, sharp leather chairs, spacious white baths and large square windows framing mountain views. Alternate floors are designed in a simple palette of white and either black or brown. A variety of stark flower sculptures, designed by the artist Fras, hangs on the wall and provides solitary splashes of colour. Many of the bathrooms have indoor windows aligned with exterior windows, enabling bathing with a view of the mountains.
Guests can obtain a complimentary selection of scent crystals at the reception – from mango to vanilla – which can be burned on bedside lamps.
Freebies: As is befitting a scent-oriented hotel, homemade sandalwood and lavender soaps and sweet-smelling POLA Aroma products in large plastic dispensers are provided as well as comfy, white cotton nightshirts.
Keeping in touch: Complimentary broadband access at reception, direct-dial phones and TVs. Free cables are provided at reception for wired internet connection in the rooms.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at Y15,750 (£75), room-only; breakfast costs Y1,050 (£5).
I'm not paying that: Check in to the nearby North Country Inn (00 81 167 23 6565; www.northcountryinnfurano.com), which has doubles from Y11,200 (£53) including breakfast.
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