At this time of year, what could be more welcome than a long soak in a hot bath? Kisshō Caren (吉祥 Caren) is a ryokan 旅館 (traditional inn) at the Hokkawa Onsen 北川温泉 (hot spring) on the Izu peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. It offers a novel take on the onsen, with an atmosphere more akin to a luxury resort than a traditional Japanese hot spring.

After checking in, you’ll find pyjamas and an aroma pot gently bubbling away in your room. Most of the rooms at Kisshō Caren have tatami mats and boast magnificent views of Ōshima Island 大島. Once you have chosen your favourite colour yukata and obi belt, make your way to the outdoor bath.

There are 18 hot spring spas at Kisshō Caren, including private open-air spas and large public spas. Views of Ōshima Island are best enjoyed while soaking in the rotenburo 露天風呂 (open-air bath). Soaking is particularly pleasurable before and after the full moon when you can see the reflection of moonlight on the surface of the sea, a sight known as “the road to the moon.”

Caren 可憐 means "lovely" or "touchingly sweet" in Japanese. With this in mind, Kissho Caren is offering a discounted accommodation plan for women until the end of March, perfect for girls who want to relax together. The resort also offers a free bath-hopping service to its nearby sister facility, Tsuruya Kisshotei つるや吉祥亭.

Kisshō Caren prides itself on its upscale French Japanese fusion cuisine. If you fancy a drink after your bath, the resort offers guests free beer between 4 pm and 6 pm (and tea or aloe juice for those feeling abstemious).

Why not try the “Drink for toast” or “Flambe dessert,” both of which are offered as part of a French kaiseki dinner? You can enjoy elegant pancakes and afternoon tea, and as part of the discounted "girls only" accommodation plan, a "chat set" of free drinks and snacks will be laid on for you in the sea view room. The plan even includes a selection of local Izu sweets, brought to your room just before bedtime.

Although you’re unlikely to tire of soaking and fine dining, Kisshō Caren rents painting and calligraphy supplies. The 24-hour concierge desk also offers sightseeing pamphlets and walking maps for those tempted to explore the surrounding hills and coastline.

Prices vary according to date but start at 26,500 yen per person per night. That includes two meals and is based on two people sharing a room (inclusive of tax and service charges but excluding a 150 yen "bath tax").

Kisshō Caren is at the Hokkawa Hot Spring, on the east coast of the Izu peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. For more details, see their website here.

By - George Lloyd.