Satoyama scenery at Satoyama villa DEN (Photo: Satoyama villa DEN)
- 9 min read

Wellness Travel in Japan’s Northern Alps

Nourish your mind and body in Matsumoto—where culture and nature intertwine

Life is busy.

In today’s modern age, the world is constantly rushing towards the next big thing. From the moment the morning sun filters through our curtains each day, we are bombarded with an excess of information, including messages, emails, news updates, social media notifications, and much more. These conveniences help us stay connected to the world and each other; however, they can also leave our minds feeling cluttered. Therefore, physical and mental resets are essential for our well-being.

Take a break from your everyday routine with a healing retreat in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. Here, cultural heritage, bountiful nature, and local charm coexist to create an environment where you can utterly relax and stimulate your mind in new ways.

Tobira Onsen Myojinkan, a treasured hotel located in the heart of the Northern Alps, serves as an excellent place to help guide you on your Matsumoto wellness journey. This facility effortlessly blends sophistication with serenity for one-of-a-kind lodging experiences. The hotel even offers accommodation options in renovated historical houses—Satoyama villa HONJIN and Satoyama villa Den.

Let’s pause time and learn more about this exquisite area and its offerings together.

Matsumoto City, a hub of preserved culture and natural beauty

Nagano Prefecture’s Matsumoto City, situated in Central Japan, is a diverse destination popular for Matsumoto Castle and its vibrant museum culture. Given its location, the city also acts as a frequent gateway to Japan’s Northern Alps. Together, Matsumoto’s history and nature make it an ideal getaway where you can enjoy physical rejuvenation and mental stimulation through cultural learning.

Highlights: Matsumoto Castle and the Northern Alps

Standing as the city’s icon, Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s most well-preserved original castles and is designated as a National Treasure. In fact, its five-tiered, six-story castle tower is the oldest of its kind in Japan. On clear days, you can admire the black castle tower mirrored in the moat against the silhouette of the Northern Alps in the distance. The view will make you feel as though you stepped into the past. This scenery is further enhanced by daily night illuminations, as well as cherry blossoms in spring. Inside the castle, you can explore its immaculate interiors and intriguing artifacts, such as weapons and samurai armor.

Past the city limits in western Matsumoto, rests one of Japan’s most scenic mountain ranges—the Northern Alps. This mountain range is located in the Chubu Sangaku National Park and lies along the borders of Nagano, Gifu, and Toyama Prefectures. From Matsumoto, visitors typically explore nearby areas, such as Kamikochi and Norikura, as well as the scenic Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route. These beautifully preserved destinations are characterized by their majestic mountains, lush forests, abundant animal life, and crystal waters. Naturally, these spots are popular hiking destinations!

Tobira Onsen Myojinkan: a time-honored establishment in Matsumoto

Zen Suite SPA Living
Zen Suite SPA Living (Photo: Tobira Onsen Myojinkan)

Opened in 1931, Tobira Onsen Myojinkan is a luxurious ryokan, or Japanese-style inn, nestled in the picturesque nature of the Northern Alps. In each season, the encircling forest creates a serene atmosphere where you can separate yourself from life’s worries and mindfully embrace the beauty of the present. Since its inception, the facility has prioritized peaceful coexistence with nature and utilizes the environment’s beauty to enhance visitors’ experiences. To convey its values, the hotel’s branding focuses on simplicity, ecology, and a connection with nature, which it further extends to its sustainable and environmentally-conscious initiatives.

In tandem with its environmental mindset, the ryokan also places high value on comfort and hospitality and is a member of Relais & Châteaux, a global association of luxury hotels and restaurants. Therefore, during your stay, you can expect high-level Japanese hospitality, quality services, and support, while having peace of mind for the environment’s wellbeing.

Hot Springs

Bath for Standard Zen Suite
Bath for Standard Zen Suite (Photo: Tobira Onsen Myojinkan)

Without a doubt, Tobira Onsen Myojinkan’s greatest pride is its hot spring facility, which has been designed to help improve guests’ physical and mental health. The hot spring water typically ranges from 38 to 40℃ (100.4 to 104℉) and is known to help soothe gastrointestinal disorders, neurosis, rheumatism, and more. Both the hotel’s indoor and outdoor baths provide wide views of the surrounding scenery, allowing you to enjoy nature’s display as you soak in the healing waters. The baths are the perfect setting to clear your mind and enjoy the simplicity of the moment.

Guest rooms

Shirakaba Zen Suite
Shirakaba Zen Suite (Photo: Tobira Onsen Myojinkan)

Tobira Onsen Myojinkan’s guest rooms epitomize modern elegance while still incorporating traditional Japanese designs. While all the rooms have their own charms, they overall share welcoming attributes, such as warm wooden designs and views of the natural landscapes. You can opt for a complete Japanese experience with a futon on tatami floors or choose a Western-Japanese fusion room with beds that are guaranteed to facilitate sweet dreams. Some of the guest rooms even come equipped with private hot spring baths, both indoors and outdoors, where you can soak in peace no matter the hour. With the rooms’ attention to detail, you will immediately feel at home.

Cuisine

To nourish your body during your stay, the facility prepares exquisite cuisine using the area’s fresh water and locally-grown ingredients. The hotel’s chefs create masterful dishes that reflect the changing seasons and highlight the environment’s blessings. At the facility’s three restaurants, you can enjoy artfully plated dishes of traditional Japanese and organic, macrobiotic French cuisine.

Stay at Satoyama villas—DEN or HONJIN

Satoyama villa DEN
Satoyama villa DEN (Photo: Satoyama villa DEN)

In 2019, Tobira Onsen Myojinkan started the “Satoyama Revitalization Project” to renew historic private houses in the area and connect guests with Japan’s satoyama culture through experiential accommodations. Satoyama is a Japanese word that describes an agricultural village in close proximity to mountains and forests. This term is typically associated with idyllic rural communities where people have learned to harmoniously coexist with nature. Through this project, Tobira Onsen Myojinkan has renovated two historic residences: Satoyama villa DEN and Satoyama villa HONJIN.

Both facilities offer hands-on activities that allow you to interact with residents and help revitalize the local communities. These experiences offer insights into different lifestyles, which you can integrate into your own routine for a more fulfilling life.

Satoyama villa DEN

Satoyama villa DEN
Satoyama villa DEN (Photo: Satoyama villa DEN)

Satoyama villa DEN is an over 100-year old traditional Japanese home that has been converted into a five-bedroom villa. The renovated facility has a modern feel that exudes comfort, while still maintaining its traditional roots. The cozy wooden interior, natural color palette, and wide windows for natural light will immediately set your mind at ease.

Natural rejuvenation
Natural rejuvenation (Photo: Satoyama villa DEN)

Outside, you can enjoy peaceful views of rice fields, Matsumotodaira Valley, and the distant Northern Alps. The mesmerizing scenery coupled with the refreshing countryside air will leave you content to enjoy a simpler way of life.

Peaceful sleeping area
Peaceful sleeping area (Photo: Satoyama villa DEN)

The home itself has a common space on the first floor, two Japanese-style rooms, three private rooms with beds, a living room, a dining room, a fireplace, a kitchen, and three bathrooms. Onsite, the facility also features a Japanese garden, porch area, and covered barbeque area. Inside and outside, the home is fully equipped to support a private, fun, relaxing, and comfortable stay. In total, the facility can accommodate 16 people.

Private chef
Private chef (Photo: Satoyama villa DEN)

In terms of food, you can request a private chef to create exceptional meals. However, we recommend that you put your barbeque tools to work. During the day, you can interact with local farmers and harvest your own produce. Then, in the evening you can grill your day’s pickings under the stars for a deliciously fresh meal.

Satoyama villa HONJIN

Satoyama villa HONJIN
Satoyama villa HONJIN (Photo: Satoyama villa HONJIN)

Satoyama villa HONJIN, once operated by the prosperous Ozawa family, served as a headquarters for the Matsumoto clan and a resting place for the clan’s feudal lord when he would travel to Edo, modern-day Tokyo. The family’s prestige is well represented in the home’s elegant and sophisticated design.

Satoyama villa HONJIN interior
Satoyama villa HONJIN interior (Photo: Satoyama villa HONJIN)

Similar to Satoyama villa DEN, Satoyama villa HONJIN is beautifully renewed to convey the past’s aesthetics, while still integrating modern comforts. The expansive villa has three separate guest suites that are designed to make you feel like royalty, complete with masterful carpentry and nostalgic Japanese elements, such as shoji (paper sliding doors) and tatami. All of the suites are equipped with mini kitchens and bathrooms.

Nighttime view
Nighttime view (Photo: Satoyama villa HONJIN)

From the windows, you can admire an onsite Japanese garden, as well as the encircling mountainous scenery. The historic presence of the home will make you feel as though you are living in a different era.

Food preparation in the villa’s irori (traditional Japanese sunken hearth)
Food preparation in the villa’s irori (traditional Japanese sunken hearth) (Photo: Satoyama villa HONJIN)

For nourishment, the facility uses seasonal ingredients with a focus on local production for local consumption.

Satoyama villa Activities

Cycling through the countryside
Cycling through the countryside (Photo: Satoyama villa HONJIN)

Aside from the unique accommodation, Satoyama villa HONJIN also offers wellness plans related to gastronomy and local interactions. Some activities available to guests include a satoyama cycling tour, personal training (with stretching and walking techniques), morning walk with a guide, meditation and goma fire ritual, and a countryside walk.

Walking tour
Walking tour (Photo: Satoyama villa HONJIN)

Through these experiences you can better understand the cultural significance of your surroundings and appreciate the rejuvenating sceneries. All of the activities are available in English too!

For the gastronomy course, an executive chef from Hikariya Nishi, which is recognized by Relais & Châteaux, will craft delectable dishes made with local ingredients that aim to support individuals’ health.

Prioritize your wellbeing in Matsumoto

Meditation, an available Satoyama villa activity
Meditation, an available Satoyama villa activity (Photo: Satoyama villa HONJIN)

We all deserve a break from our busy lives. Enjoy your slice of bliss in Matsumoto. This blessed region, filled with local culture and iconic natural vistas, acts as a tranquil haven where you can truly embrace your own needs—body, mind, and soul. At Tobira Onsen Myojinkan and its affiliate accommodations Satoyama villa DEN and Satoyama villa HONJIN, take a moment to reset and truly enjoy a rejuvenating stay that you will cherish for years to come.

Once you return to your everyday routine, you will likely find that the gentle essence of satoyama will linger on your soul, adding a touch of peace to your daily life thereafter.

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Join the discussion

Kim 3 weeks ago
Can definitely see the benefits in this kind of travel!