When Japan eventually fully opens its borders again, there's a charming new hotel awaiting in the mountain resort town of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture, where skiing and hot springs are popular in winter and where residents of Tokyo go to escape the summer heat.
It's also where John Lennon and Yoko Ono enjoyed the peace and quiet of summer on repeat visits. Yoko came from a wealthy family who holidayed there alongside those others from Tokyo. There are guided tours of the sites pertinent to the famed popular culture couple's sojourns – he, half of the Lennon-McCartney song writing partnership in The Beatles, she the artist who looms by his side so weirdly and wonderfully in Peter Jackson's epic doco Get Back. But their Karuizawa haunts, such as the hotel they often stayed in and the bakery Lennon visited for crusty baguettes, are also chronicled on the internet so fans on pilgrimage can visit independently.
Like stablemates under IHG's Hotel Indigo brand, the new 155-room Hotel Indigo Karuizawa is locally inspired in both design and experience, reflecting the town's abundance of natural beauty and genteel history. John and Yoko weren't the only celebrities attracted to Karuizawa. A summer resort for western missionaries in the Edo period, it grew to be a fashionable retreat for royalty, and other creatives and intellectuals.
Sprawled across three buildings, the hotel's construction utilises Nagano-grown karamatsu, a local species of larch, and is designed to minimise carbon emissions. Local ingredients are used in the restaurant and the property is staffed as much as possible by local residents. And fitting to such a storied resort town, the hotel features a stunning spa.
From $392 a night. See ihg.com
IN OTHER NEWS
ECUADOR IN COMFORT
New boutique cruise line, Kontiki Expeditions – not to be confused with Contiki – is the first water-based member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and promises something new for luxury ocean cruises "focusing on conscious travel and immersive water and land experiences". Carrying a maximum of 18 guests across nine staterooms, Kontiki's 128-foot superyacht, Kontiki Wayra has just begun two eight-day itineraries incorporating untouristed ports along the Ecuadorian coast. From $9911 a person twin share. See kontikiexpeditions.com
SHOP AND STAY
With the return to the office, government restaurant spending incentives and theatre coming alive again, Melbourne's CBD is jumping. Dive in with the Lancemore Crossley St Hotel's Shop & Stay package, a collaboration with retail precincts, The Strand Melbourne and Melbourne's GPO. The offer includes a stay in a Design King Room, a $50 gift card to spend at Melbourne's GPO, a $100 gift card to spend at The Strand Melbourne and other goodies. From $374 a night . Valid until April 30. See lancemore.com.au
SPROUT AND STAY
Wild mushroom foraging can be dangerous – but in the expert company of a mushroom expert, it's simply delicious. Kyah Boutique Hotel at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains is offering a wild mushroom hunting expedition, lunch in the woods, a three-course foraged mushroom dinner at Kyah's onsite restaurant, Blaq, and a night's stay, hosted by the hotel's general manager, executive chef and mushroom farmer, Mate Herceg. It's on April 9, 23 and 30. From $315 a person twin share. See thekyah.com.au
Qatar Airways has upped the amenities game with the introduction of toiletries from luxury French brand Diptyque in a newly-designed bag for first and business class passengers on routes across the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to A380 flights to London and Paris. The collection comprises a lip balm, body lotion, face cream and one of two eau de toilettes, either Eau Rose or the brand's signature 34 Boulevard Saint Germain. See qatarairways.com