[2021 Edition] 7 Tranquil Luxury Accommodations in Setouchi - Unwind in Paradise!
One of Japan’s most exotic locations, the Setouchi area is centered around the serene Seto Inland Sea stretching between the Japan mainland of Honshu and Shikoku regions. Home to hundreds of islands, Setouchi is known for its warm climate and the unique nature and history born from it. This article will feature handpicked accommodation facilities in Setouchi where you can enjoy your vacation away from others, including villas and inns with detached rooms.
Sep 07 2021 (Jun 07 2022)
Located west of Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, Hyogo Prefecture (map) is situated in the easternmost part of the Chugoku region. It faces the Sea of Japan in the north and extends to the Seto Inland Sea in the south, so the climate can significantly differ depending on the area. Hyogo is an area with a deeply independent culture centering around Kobe Port, which has thrived as an international trading port since ancient times.
The area is filled with attractions such as Himeji Castle (first image above), a designated World Heritage Site where the 400-year-old castle tower remains intact, along with the Ruins of Takeda Castle (second image above), which was constructed atop the 353.7 m Mt. Kojo, forming a truly wondrous scene.
Hanagoyomi is a coast-side Japanese-style inn on the southeastern part of Awaji Island, which sits in the Seto Inland Sea and connects the Honshu and Shikoku regions. The image above shows the view from the open terrace leading from the entrance. Here you can take in breathtaking ocean views of the Kitan Strait while the sea breeze caresses your skin and the pleasing roar of the sea nourishes your soul.
There are four types of guestrooms and they all offer ocean views. You can choose from the Haruka Type A with a private open-air bath (second image above) and an open terrace, the Haruka Type B that features an open-air bath and open terrace, the 10-Mat Japanese Room (first image above) that offers a relaxing view of the ocean, and the Japanese-Style Twin Room that features a low bed.
Two onsen (hot springs) await you: the Scenic Garden Spa Kaze no Ne/Nami no Ne (first image above), which uses luscious hot spring water from Sumoto Onsen, and the Reservation-Only Private Open-Air Bath* (second image above), where you can enjoy a private soak. Whatever hot spring you choose, you’ll be able to bathe while relishing magnificent views of the Kitan Strait.
*Extra charge applies (2,200 yen/45 minutes, reservation system by email or phone. If there is a vacancy, this bath can be used on the day you book it.)
For dinner, you can relish gourmet food unique to Awaji Island. The variety of seafood from the abundant surrounding seas is so wide, it’s said that there is no fish that can’t be caught here! Savor “kaiseki” course cuisine filled with luxurious ingredients like fresh island vegetables and Awaji beef, a brand of beef that has cleared extremely strict standards before arriving on your dining table. Also worth noting is the Horakuyaki (second image above), a local dish that originated from Awaji Island boasting sea bream, shellfish, and other ingredients steamed and roasted in an unglazed “horaku” (a kind of shallow pot). You’ll be able to gorge on all kinds of delicious foods to your heart’s content!
Another great point about Hanagoyomi is the ability to pick a yukata (light cotton kimono) to wear during your stay from a selection of various colors. You can also treat yourself to a healing massage at the Kanaloa salon, which uses a traditional treatment called “Lomi Lomi” used by the Hawaiians in ancient times.
You’ll need reservations while in Japan. See our writers’ top picks!
Okayama Prefecture (map) is located on the west side of Hyogo Prefecture. It borders the Seto Inland Sea to the south and the San-in region (a region in western Honshu that includes Tottori and Shimane) to the north. The climate is vastly different in the north and south, with the north side being mountainous and snowy during winter and the south boasting a warm climate with little rainfall, earning the nickname “sunny country.”
This area is also home to numerous tourist destinations, including Korakuen (first image above), one of the three great gardens of Japan where the aura of the Edo Period from 300 years ago remains. The garden is designed for strolling, with a path that circles a pond allowing visitors to admire the scenery while walking. At the back of the garden is Okayama Castle. The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter (second image above), which flourished as a district for the transportation of goods along the Kurashiki River, is another famous sightseeing spot that retains traces of ancient times. It is one of the must-visit areas of Setouchi!
You’ll need reservations while in Japan. See our writers’ top picks!
Ryori Ryokan Tsurugata
Ryori Ryokan Tsurugata is a well-established Japanese-style lodging with a 277-year-old history tucked away in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter introduced above.
Overflowing with Japanese atmosphere, the inside of the inn is filled with rustic charm and features a small but beautiful interior garden. Through the windows, you will catch glimpses of people coming and going along the “namako” wall (seen from a lattice window on the second image above; a wall covered by flat tiles which are joined by plaster made from kneading lime, glue plant, and clay raised in a semi-cylindrical shape) by the alley.
There are only seven guest rooms here, all of which are purely Japanese-style rooms. If you stay in the largest room, Achi (first image above), you will get to see the “oimatsu” pine tree in the garden, the oldest pine tree in Kurashiki at over 400 years old. You can also marvel at the inner garden adorned with lanterns from the “engawa” (a veranda/passageway with a wooden floor built to overhang from the edge of a building so that people can go up and inside directly from the garden). There are also rooms to fully take in sights of the back alley of the “namako” wall from the lattice windows, showing off a vibe unique to Kurashiki. Choose the room that matches your tastes and interests!
You can dine at the Tsurugata Restaurant annexed to the inn. The speciality dish here is “taichazuke” (shown in the image above), which is eaten by pouring hot tea onto sea bream fillets dipped in a special sesame sauce and then covering the bowl to steam the fish inside. There are other dishes available as the menu is quite extensive, including the Lunch Set Tsuru-fu that differs from season to season. Enjoy their cuisine masterpieces!
Feel the nostalgic Japanese atmosphere while unwinding at this 277-year-old traditional inn amongst the deep legacy of the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter!
Hiroshima Prefecture (map) is located on the west side of Okayama Prefecture. It forms a stepped terrain from the highlands to the lowlands parallel to the Chugoku mountains in the north and also has around 140 islands in the Seto Inland Sea. While it is blessed with a mild climate throughout the year, it also experiences severe weather conditions from spring to fall, including typhoons and torrential rains.
There are two World Heritage Sites in Hiroshima, one of which is Miyajima's Itsukushima Shrine (first image above), which is known for its giant vermilion torii (shrine gate) sticking out of the sea that's visited by thousands of tourists throughout the year. The other is the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome (second image above) that tells the horrific story of the atomic bombing during World War II.
Iwaso is a long-established Japanese-style inn with a history of 160 years. It is located on the island of Miyajima (Itsukushima), which is home to Itsukushima Shrine as introduced above. One of the inn’s biggest draws is its location alongside the mountain stream in Momijidani Valley, which is famous for autumn foliage and allows guests to thoroughly relish the richness of nature.
You can choose your room from either the spacious New Building (first image above), which boasts views of Momijidani Valley and the Seto Inland Sea, or from the Main Building (image above), built in the early years of the Showa Period (1930s). The Main Building rooms all have a different design and come with brilliant views of Momijidani Valley.
Unavailable on Booking.com and Agoda but found on the official website (Japanese/English) are four luxurious detached rooms where many members of Japanese royalty have stayed in the past.
The inn’s onsen allows guests to soak in a bath filled with rare Wakamiya hot spring water from Miyajima. There are two hot spring baths to choose from: the Hinodeyu (open-air bath, second image above) and the Tsukinoyu (first image above). Males and females rotate between these baths depending on the day. They are amazing at relieving any tiredness acquired from exploring Momijidani Valley.
Relish in kaiseki cuisine served by a master of Kyoto kaiseki cuisine. You can enjoy seasonal dishes, including fresh seafood and mountain ingredients carefully selected by the chef in the comfort of your own room. You should also try, by special order, the exquisite Miyajima oysters that are in season around February. We recommend having them grilled or fried. The second image above is the highly recommended grilled unseasoned conger eel. Savor the fruits of the sea that are unique to Setouchi here!
As the inn is surrounded by lush nature inside a national park, if you’re lucky, you just might spot a deer! It’s the kind of special encounter that can only happen at an inn like this!
Yamaguchi Prefecture (map) is located on the westernmost tip of Honshu and west of Hiroshima Prefecture. It is surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea to the south and the Sea of Japan to the north, while the Chugoku mountains run from east to west in the central part of the region. The south and north sides of Yamaguchi are roughly divided into the Sanyo and San'in areas respectively, with the Sanyo area characterized by a warm climate while San'in is likewise known for its relatively warm climate due to the effects of the Tsushima Current.
There are many tourist spots in Yamaguchi, with the first image above being Motonosumi Shrine, which became famous after being chosen as one of the 31 Most Beautiful Places in Japan by CNN in 2015. The sight of the 123 bright red torii gates along the Sea of Japan is truly stunning. The second image above shows the Kintai Bridge that was built using sophisticated techniques passed down for more than 300 years. The view of the wooden bridge set against the surrounding seasonal nature is the kind of scenery that truly encapsulates Japan.
Hotel & Resort Sunshine Sazanseto
As suggested by its catchphrase “a seaside hotel on a starry island,” Hotel & Resort Sunshine Sazanseto is a resort hotel located on Suo Oshima, a widely celebrated island known for resorts and spectacular scenery. The cobalt blue waters of the Seto Inland Sea and its white sandy beaches stretch out in front of the hotel, and at night, you will finally get to admire the sky full of stars that the island is famous for.
There are seven types of rooms here, including the Suite Room (first image above) with an oceanfront view and open-air bath, the Superior Twin (second image above) that comes with an open-air bath, and the Welcome Baby Superior Twin, which allows a stress-free stay with your child.
For dinner, courses are prepared to exhibit the best of the current seasonal delicacies. You can choose from the Japanese-Western Standard Kaiseki Plan, the summer-only BBQ Plan at the Seaside Garden Restaurant, or the Chef-Recommended Special Kaiseki, amongst others. No matter the season, guests will get to feast on gourmet dishes unique to Setouchi, including rarities like scabbard fish platter and mandarin orange hot pot.
The hot spring uses water from Katazoegahama Onsen, which is said to prevent people from feeling chilly after their bath. Unwind and zone out in this spacious, heavenly open-air bath!
Ehime Prefecture is located in the northeastern part of Shikoku (map) and largely falls under the mild Seto Inland Sea climate with little rainfall and lots of sunny days. It has more than 200 small to large islands and presents plenty of diverse natural wonders, including the rising Mt. Ishizuchi (elevation: 1,982 m) in the southern part of central Ehime, which is the highest peak in western Japan.
There is also no shortage of tourist attractions in Ehime. The first image above is the unmanned Shimonada Station, a charming, rustic station made from just an old shed and benches facing the sea. The unobstructed seaside scenery offers a photogenic hotspot popular with people from all over the world. Ehime also has Dogo Onsen (image shows the main building of Dogo Onsen), which has been used as a hot spring for over 3,000 years, along with Matsuyama Castle, which overlooks the Seto Inland Sea and Matsuyama City, the central city of Ehime. The area is full of sightseeing potential!
WAKKA is a comprehensive tourist facility in Omishima, an island located right in the middle of the Shimanami Kaido. In addition to complete cycling support services and a cafe, WAKKA offers a multitude of lodging facilities like cottages, dome tents, and a dormitory.
There are three cottages (first image above) with stunning ocean views. You can choose between a Japanese-style cottage that has Ryukyu-style tatami mat flooring or Western-style cottages. There is a BBQ stove (second image above) on the deck, where you can grill local ingredients and savor them in front of the sea. Furthermore, the cottages come with a shower and an extensive list of amenities including high-quality Imabari towels, which are renowned throughout the world.
The two dome tents are created in glamping style and present guests with refreshing ocean views. The inside is surprisingly spacious and is furnished with a wooden door with an electronic lock and air-conditioning system for added comfort. Similar to the cottages, the dome tents feature a table with a BBQ on the deck, where you can dine while gazing at the sea.
All four dormitory rooms can now only be reserved for one person or group in line with COVID-19 countermeasures. You can use the cafe space freely at night.
When you stay in a cottage or dome tent, you can choose between having two meals or just breakfast. A stay in the dormitory comes with breakfast only. WAKKA also provides top-class cycling support, such as taxis with bike carriers and a taxi boat for carrying bicycles by sea (second picture above).
Even if you’re not a cyclist, anyone is welcome at WAKKA! With rental bikes and various activities available, WAKKA is recommended for those who want to feel the nature in Setouchi up close.
Kagawa Prefecture is located in the northeastern part of Shikoku (map). While the smallest prefecture in Japan, it boasts an extensive history and is home to numerous noteworthy sites. This includes the legendary Shodo Island (first image shows the Angel Road, which only appears at certain periods), which is famous for producing soy sauce and olive oil, and Konpira-gu, more commonly known as Sanuki Konpira-san, which is known for its 785 stone steps from the temple road to the main shrine (second photo above). Kagawa epitomizes the unique nature, climate, and history of the Seto Inland Sea.
As the area has little rainfall, wheat production thrives since it requires less water than rice. You can also find numerous reservoir lakes that have existed here since long ago. Utilizing this wheat, Sanuki udon (Sanuki being the old name of Kagawa) is renowned as some of the best udon in Japan. The area also has a smorgasbord of other gourmet dishes on offer, including chicken legs with bones that are baked until golden brown.
URASHIMA VILLAGE consists of just three villas on approximately 6,600 m² of land along the coast of the tranquil Shonai Peninsula. Here, time is seen as simply a concept, with the villas instead running on nature’s time. The above image shows the “silence” villa, which is closest to the sea and allows guests to spend their vacation accompanied by the roar of the ocean. Encompassed by the Seto Inland Sea, time flows much more slowly here!
The above image is the "timeless" villa, which encourages guests to “forget time and enjoy life surrounded by people." Of the three villas, this one can accommodate the largest number of guests (11 people) and has the biggest veranda near the sea, making it perfect for stays with big groups. The spacious living room on the second floor (first image above) is Japanese-style and without high tables, chairs, and other furniture, making it great for children. It also comes with a projector.
All the villas offer baths with views, allowing you to soak while admiring the sea. Between relaxing and having fun with your group, you’ll surely feel the importance of “time” even more starkly.
The final villa is "visionary," a "fantasy world that looks over the ebb and flow of the tide." When you look down, you will see Urashima Shrine on the uninhabited island of Maruyama, where a sandy path appears from the bottom of the sea twice a day when the tide is low. You will surely feel the force of nature and time as the vast ocean ebbs and flows from the gravitational pull of the moon.
Above is the living room of the "visionary" villa, with the ever-changing Seto Inland Sea stretching out in front.
As for dining, you can choose from the following three:
・ Buy ingredients and cook yourself
・ Select ingredients unique to the region and have them prepared in a state where you can easily cook them
・ Request for a chef to visit your villa and have them cook for you
You can also invite the chef from the annex "Lounge & Reception Building" and hold a party in your villa (*advance reservation required).
Tokushima Prefecture is located in the eastern part of Shikoku (map). Mountains occupy roughly 80% of its total area, so the difference in climate across the region can be quite intense.
One of our top recommendations are the Oboke and Koboke gorges shown in the first image above - spots where cliffs of carved crystalline schist stretch for about 8 km. The area they're in used to be known as a difficult place to pass, but now it has become a tourist attraction complete with sightseeing boats. Meanwhile, the second image above displays the Naruto Whirlpools, one of the three major whirlpool currents in the world, reaching speeds as fast as 20 km/h with a maximum diameter of 20 m during the spring and autumn tides. You can witness this remarkable phenomenon up close on a special viewing boat.
In addition to the abundant nature seen in places like Iya, one of Japan's three greatest unexplored regions, Tokushima is full of various tourist attractions, traditional events, and activities. This includes the famous Awa Odori*, which is one of Japan’s top traditional festivals.
*Held every year in mid-August (August 12 to 14 in 2021)
Perched on the hills of Shimada Island overlooking the Naruto Strait, Hotel Ridge was designed under the concept of "bliss of the five senses." Here, you can view the calm seas of Setouchi, hear the sounds produced by the abundant nature, and enjoy the scents produced by the trees, sun, and land.
Rooms at Hotel Ridge are both Japanese-style (first image above) and Western-style (second image above), all of which offer ocean views and indoor baths.
In addition, all rooms at this hotel come with outdoor decks. You can truly appreciate the nature of Setouchi here to its fullest extent!
For dinner, guests are served the luxurious Japanese kaiseki cuisine of Awa (now Tokushima). In particular, the sea bream caught in the violent tides of the Naruto Strait is lean and tastes superb. Make sure to try the taimeshi (rice with sea bream, second image above) to savor it to the fullest!
Above is the Naruto Strait and islands as seen from the wooden deck. Enjoy the luxurious service and open space while freeing yourself from the stresses of everyday life.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.