Photo courtesy of Otowa Sansou, Meiji no Mori Mino Kokutei Koen
Otowa Sansou, Meiji no Mori Mino Kokutei Koen
Located in a quasi national park about 20 kilometers due north of Osaka, this 87-year-old ryokan-style property has maple trees as neighbors. The park teems with nature, home to 1,300 plant species and 3,500 insect species. Despite its proximity to the city, Otowa Sansou is a tranquil place to stay, especially spectacular in the fall when the maple leaves gracefully morph from green to fiery red. The traditional Japanese inn is a window to the past, with a pretty, central courtyard shaded by maple trees, and shoji (paper sliding screens), tatami, and lanterns used in the design.
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Bring walking shoes. Despite being about a 30-minute drive from Osaka, this green space is literally a breath of fresh air, with paths winding through a long natural gorge. Parts of the park showcase 2,000-foot mountains, or the 110-foot Mino Waterfall. Not far from the waterfall, the Mino Insect Museum displays about 10,000 samples of insects, and also features more than 200 live butterflies, with exhibits that detail their year-round ecology. Depending on the time of year, visitors to the park can expect to see cherry blossoms, breathtaking fall colors, or trees covered in hanging icicles. The park is also the western point of the Tokai Natural Trail, a long-distance walkway stretching 1,050 miles across 11 prefectures.
Need to Know
Rooms: Two rooms, one suite. From $300. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: 10 a.m. Dining options: The sole restaurant provides a bonanza of traditional kaiseki or sushi made from seasonal ingredients and served on earthenware and ceramic dishes. Spa and gym details: None in the classic sense, though a Japanese bath, hot-stone bath, and foot spa are on-site.
Who's it for: Anyone who appreciates nature and a deep sense of heritage. Our favorite rooms: Any of the three—the traditional Japanese design is hugely atmospheric—though the suite is the largest. Plan ahead: Book in advance. Not surprisingly, given the closeness of Osaka, this place fills up fast.