Bathe in Beer at this Japanese Hotel
A quintessential Japanese traveler experience is to soak in an authentic onsen or hot springs. But have you ever heard of a beer onsen? I hadn’t either until I visited Misugi Resort in southern Japan.
Misugi is the only designated “Forest Therapy base” in this region, meaning the surrounding forests are known to have healing properties for both physical and mental health. Between onsen and magical trees, Misugi is where people go to relax and unwind. Only two hours from Kyoto, Misugi is worth veering off the beaten path.
In the face of a declining population, and a decreasing lumber economy, Misugi has transformed itself into a wellness resort. The resort is fourth-generation family-owned by the Nakagawa family. Offering guests indoor and outdoor bathhouses, a sauna, pool, and soaking tubs, all next door to the family’s Hinotani Brewery. Using black and sake rice, the brewery makes Ninja Beer, which is piped into the resort’s Hinotani Onsen and combined with the hot spring water, creating a one-of-a-kind onsen experience. According to the brewmaster, the combination of yeast, malt, and hops in Ninja Beer is an amazing tonic for your skin, leaving it silky smooth and soft. It’s also rumored that the carbonic acid can help detoxify your body and improve circulation. The beer onsen only just opened in March 2018 and is already a big hit.
The resort also takes great pride in the cuisine served in the restaurants. Chefs here use local ingredients as much as possible, including deer meat that is served often. Of course, the beer is a popular ingredient, but they also strive to include organic, chemical-free produce and seasonal ingredients such as mushrooms, bamboo, cabbage, and rice. Guests can choose from several dining options, from simple to extravagant.
The Misugi onsen is open to the public, but why not stay on property when you are visiting? I stayed at the Hotel Annex, which has 25 Western-style rooms and 51 traditional Japanese-style guest rooms.
The hotel features access to onsens, including a private onsen, outdoor swimming pool, game room, bar, karaoke room, a water park, and a spa. If you prefer a more private experience, the resort has 16 cottages scattered throughout the woods, each with a private outdoor Roten bath. Beer lovers may want to consider staying in the “Beer Room,” which has Hinotani beer on tap 24/7. That’s right, two kinds of craft beer, flowing freely into your hotel room.
After a beer soak, I wanted to experience the forest therapy that makes Misugi famous, so I set out with Youki, the brewmaster and one of the hotel’s owners who today will be my mindfulness guide.
Traveling up a death-defying one lane road, I try to focus on the picture-perfect autumn foliage rather than the steep cliff just inches from the vehicle’s tire. As a travel journalist, my life is constantly in someone else’s hands and today is no different. That’s probably why this meditation and mindfulness experience is perfect for me.
Perhaps sensing my apprehension, Youki pulls the car over and tells me to hug a tree. Hug a tree for relaxation? It feels more like a punishment than a relaxing activity. My mind quickly wanders to the days of summer camp, where if you said a bad word or littered, your counselor would tell you to “go hug a tree.” Youki tells me to use all five senses and to feel the tree’s energy radiate from the ground up towards me.
As a stressed out Angeleno who is used to sitting in traffic, I’ll try anything to relax. I have tried acupuncture, have boiled and drunk mushroom and bark, so why not hug a tree? Shockingly, hugging trees helped me feel connected to the mother nature and a bit more relaxed.
Other Misugi Resort Experiences
Once you’ve soaked in beer and hugged a tree, there are still plenty of ways to experience the magic of Misugi. The resort is surrounded by hiking trails, where you are welcome to hug as many trees as you’d like.
In addition to brewing beer using local water, there’s also a bakery at Misugi resort, which creates bread using the beer, water, and local ingredients. The resort even offers cooking classes, where guests can try baking their own beer bread. You can even try your hand at making pizza or Baumkuchen, a dessert cake.
The resort also offers tours, including those to view the night sky, and tours to local markets. For the ultimate adventure, check out the Ninja Experience Package. Upon check-in, you receive a ninja costume plus instructions for your Ninja mission, which involves several attractions throughout the region. A special dinner awaits at the end of your day, including a Ninja beer hot pot.