By Sandra Isaka
Minakami has become one of Japan's top resort areas for people with an active lifestyle. Located only two hours from central Tokyo, the Minakami Kogen Hotel 200 offers a impressive variety of activities in every season and is the perfect place to stay when visiting the area.
In winter, sporting activities abound at the Minakami Kogen Ski Resort, which is located on-site. For skiers and snowboarders there are eleven courses of varying levels, covered by four lifts. There is also cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, and even dog sledding! Adults and children can choose from a variety of hand-held sleds (some quite sophisticated, others are very basic), and all can be ridden without any previous experience. There are also play areas for kids - they can slide down hills on tubes, have snowball fights, play in an igloo and much more!
Once the snow melts, guests can try their hand at golf on two courses, one of which was designed by golf legend, Arnold Palmer. It is also possible to practice at a driving range or to try an easier version - 'ground golf', which is similar to mini golf. There are 16 tennis courts and, in the summer season, a swimming pool. One of the most popular activities is the Forest Zip Line, which stretches 1.2 kilometers. Younger children can try 'Tree Trekking', a collection of 10 attractions, including a shorter zip line. Not on-site, but very close by, are many other exciting activities including lake canoeing, white water rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping, and even paragliding.
Minakami Kogen Hotel 200 is a member of the Naqua Hotels and Resorts group. Their focus is on hospitality, promoting the local community, and on being eco-friendly. The staff is extremely helpful, many signs are bilingual, and some English is spoken. The hotel also has websites in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Reservations may be made in English only.
The hotel has 220 'Western-style' rooms including regular twins, bunk beds and rooms catering to guests with infants. Guests can also enjoy a relaxing library space, a fitness center with panoramic views, spa treatments, billards, ping pong, darts, and game rentals. In winter, there is also 'Kids Club Skip', a babysitting service for children six months to six years old (it is necessary to book this service in advance to benefit from it).
Bathing in Minakami's onsen dates back over 400 years and is said to promote beautiful skin. The Minakami Kogen Hotel 200 has a traditional indoor hot spring bath and an amazing rotemburo that overlooks a forest containing beautiful white birch trees. There is also a daily shuttle to nearby Takaragawa Onsen, which offers mixed bathing in an incredible riverside setting.
Dining at Minakami Kogen Hotel 200 is simple, tasty, and reasonable. In the restaurant, Shirakaba, there is an impressive Japanese/International buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food choices have bilingual labels and easy-to-understand allergy warnings. I recommend splurging at the restaurant, Fujiwara, which is located on the eleventh floor. The restaurant serves delicious Italian/Japanese fusion course dinners that includes ingredients sourced from local farms.
The hotel is a 30-minute drive from Minakami Interchange and has plenty of free parking. They offer free shuttles from JR Minakami and JR Jomo-Kogen train stations, but you must book in advance.
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