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Luxury camping in Japan

With high-spec accommodation and fine dining, Hoshinoya Fuji is breaking new (camp) ground

Cherry Casey
Monday 02 May 2016 08:56 BST
Canoeing on Lake Kawaguchi, with a view of Mt Fuji
Canoeing on Lake Kawaguchi, with a view of Mt Fuji (Cherry Casey)

“Well, since you don’t eat meat, we wondered – is lobster ok?”

The first question of our stay at Hoshinoya Fuji, “Japan’s first glamping resort” in the Yamanashi prefecture, west of Tokyo, suggested this was going to be a rather nice break.

Once the menu was decided, my boyfriend and I were asked to take our pick from the selection of stylish rucksacks filled with camping necessities – head torch, roll mat, water bottle – to hold on to during our stay. They were not, as I discovered embarrassingly at check out, for us to keep.

Moments later we were driven in a 4x4 to two rows of what looked like giant concrete periscopes, protruding from the land. These were revealed to be 40 cabins, designed by Azuma Architect & Associates, whose highlight was floor-to-wall windows on to the snow-capped cone of Mt Fuji, Japan's tallest peak.

Our temporary home was a 41sq metre room with heated flooring and a private porch with a woodburner, rocking chairs and electric blankets. Even a marshmallow-toasting kit. We wondered at what point our roll mats would be needed.

The cabins (Cherry Casey)

Now, at this point, you might be thinking Hoshinoya Fuji doesn’t sound much like “glamping”. But this is a resort that has borrowed from camping traditions, and has just gone pretty heavy on the glam. Again, if it attracts a new kind of tourist to rural Japan, an area with significant economic difficulties – does it really matter?

What is important, is that it has been created with sensitivity to the surrounding area, and on that front Hoshinoya Fuji cannot be faulted. Trees poke through decked flooring, lighting is kept to a minimum (hence the head torch), and from a distance, the cabins are barely perceptible. And though we had no complaints regarding room size, the cabins are compact in order to encourage people to spend as much time outside as possible.

We had a full itinerary, starting with the endearingly-named “sweets party” at the Library Cafe. Hoshinoya Fuji is set against a mountainside, with the cabins at the bottom and the amenities, restaurants and so on, up the hill, on wide, decked terraces. Climbing up the first flight of stairs took us to the Dining Hall, a restaurant tucked within a red pine forest, where guests can watch chefs prepare their food at the central grilling station.

Continuing upwards, we reached the Cloud Terrace, an area for morning stretch sessions, then up further still we came to the top deck, home to the Takibi (bonfire) lounge and the Library Cafe, where there was a table filled with an array of bite-sized sweet-treats: waffles, brownies, strawberries with dipping chocolate, mini bananas and of course, marshmallows.

“Toasting marshmallows on the bonfire isn’t very Japanese,” Hoshinoya Fuji’s Natsume Nagasi said, as we watched guests show each other how it works. This nod to the West is a subtle but recurring theme here: the interiors are Scandinavian in style, that night’s meal was to be a Dutch oven dinner. This is a quite unusual move for Hoshino Resorts, whose 21 retreats around the country lean more towards the traditional Japanese style. As Natsume explained though, “Glamping is originally from the West, so we’ve picked certain aspects from there that have blended well with Japanese nature to create the right atmosphere.”

Next up was the “smoking activity”. While we’d had visions of some kind of Japanese shisha, we were in fact presented with little tubs of salmon, brie, tofu, nuts and dried fruit, and a smoker to prepare them in. Natsume talked us through how to experiment with different flavourings, while she prepared reindeer sausages for my boyfriend. All the while, we watched the handful of guests who’d gathered to have a go at (supervised) wood-chopping.

The 'smoking activity' (Cherry Casey)

As night began to set in it was already time for dinner, so after layering up in the big, puffy coats provided, we headed to another small terrace – the Cloud Kitchen – where our table was waiting, prepared with gloves and earmuffs to keep us toasty while we dined.

Dinner comprised eight delicious courses prepared in a Dutch oven next to our table: after soup came various salad and vegetable dishes, a steaming pot of lobster stew was followed by salmon fillets, while we were topped up with locally made Chateau Mars red wine.

After dinner, we were serenaded by a hypnotic-sounding Japanese guitarist, which we listened to while sitting round the fire with the other guests, sampling a selection of whiskies.

The next morning we were up at 6:15 for our canoeing session on Lake Kawaguchi: one of the Fuji Five Lakes that Hoshinoya Fuji overlooks (other activities on offer include horse hiking, star-gazing and forest tours). While outdoor pursuits aren’t always my forté, this was an incredibly gentle introduction to the sport. And bobbing around on the beautifully still lake, with the sunshine blazing and Mt Fuji ahead of us, even I couldn’t find a thing to complain about.

Then, it was back to the resort for breakfast on the balcony; specially made salmon-sausages, omelette, brioche, various spreads, soup, yoghurt, juice and coffee, before heading out for a stretch on the deck.

After one last look at that view, it was time to leave. Both, however, with a strong suspicion it wouldn’t be too long before we were back.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Cherry Casey flew from Heathrow to Tokyo via Frankfurt with Lufthansa ( Fares from £474 return.

Staying there

Hoshinoya Fuji ( Doubles from 63,000 yen (£408), room only. Breakfast from 2,200 yen (£14) per person; dinner from 7,000 yen (£45) per person.

More information

The Library Cafe (Cherry Casey)

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