By Bryan Baier
Tucked away in the sleepy town of Asuka in Nara Prefecture, HMI Hotel Group's Hotel Wellness Yamatoji is a fantastic place to bond with family and friends, and visiting this area also opens up a wealth of regional sightseeing opportunities, including Asuka-dera, Ishibutai Tomb, Asuka Historical Museum and the Asuka Historical National Government Park.
If you're looking to spend some quality time together with your loved ones, the activities and facilities available at Yamatoji make it a great choice. Five tennis courts are available for guests, as well as the public large bath, relaxation areas with karaoke machines and a number of rental bicycles. Armed with the numerous maps and brochures available in the lobby area, exploring via rental bicycle truly unlocks the surrounding environment and town, making it quick and easy to get around.
Inside the Yamatoji
Hotel Wellness Yamatoji provides multiple room types catering from 1 to 5 guests. The guest rooms are predominantly Japanese style while a few rooms come in Western, Japanese and hybrid combinations. Combining both Western and Japanese design in one, the hybrid style includes Western-style beds as well as a separate tatami room, complete with sliding wooden door. Cupboards house extra futons and cushions, allowing larger groups to stay in comfort whilst still offering a larger amount of space and long windows providing plenty of light. Large Japanese tatami rooms, with up to 28 mats, are recommended for groups of up to 15 people (good for those coming here to play tennis).
The hotel also has two lounge areas where there is a television and free Wi-Fi. There is also a gift shop selling interesting and unique products from Nara, such as painting and calligraphy brushes and a variety of local food products like Miwa somen noodles, Yoshino kuzu (arrowroot) and more.
The restaurant 'Yamato' serves a sumptuous breakfast and dinner daily, to up to 64 guests, and is conveniently included in all room bookings (there are no other restaurants in the neighboring vicinity). The restaurant serves up a unique array of dishes, many of which I had never tried before. Both breakfast and dinner consist of an assortment of dishes served to you at your table, as well as a free coffee service.
When you are in Asuka, you must check out its historical highlights. Ancient tombs and temples that have stood the test of time are easily accessible. On bicycle, you can easily check out sites like Asuka-dera, the oldest temple in all of Japan, and Ishibutai Tomb, which was constructed out of huge stones in the seventh century. The mountainous backdrop, long straight roads past rice fields and traditional Japanese-style houses makes any bike ride between the historical sites even more enjoyable.
The map provided at the hotel will guide you through the main sites, including all the mysterious carved rocks from centuries ago and introduce the small museums that can help you piece together the rich history of this unassuming town.
If not coming by car, there is also a bus from Sakurai station to nearby the hotel, leaving a short 10 minute walk. Coming all the way to witness Japan's natural environments is definitely worth it. I will never tire of the fresh air and beautiful scenery that surrounds this hotel, and after my few nights' stay I found myself wishing I could stay a little longer.
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