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Hot springs, saunas, nature, and art. Mifuneyama Rakuen: A Paradise for the Senses

Mifuneyama Rakuen combines large boulders and caverns with the surrounding forest and an expansive garden. It is a popular spot for azaleas and cherry blossoms in the spring as well as dazzling foliage in the fall. There are two high-quality lodging facilities on the grounds: the luxurious Japanese-style inn Chikurintei and Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel, which is renowned for its saunas.

For this report, we spent one night and two days at Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel in July, right after it completed major renovations including the opening of a new large-scale women’s sauna.

The new and improved women’s sauna is located inside the Rakan Bath, the hotel’s large communal bath. The cold-water bath and sauna are inside bright white rooms, each which draw in sunlight directly from numerous skylights. Altogether, the facilities feel like something from a high-end spa in Northern Europe. The hotel is located in the Takeo Onsen district in Saga prefecture, which is known for its mildly alkaline spring water that does wonders for the skin.

Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel is about a 90-minute drive from Fukuoka or a one-hour train ride from Hakata Station. Upon stepping into the lobby, you’ll be taken aback by the art installation that appears to connect with the mountain’s forest outside. This is “Forest and Spiral of Resonating Lamps in the Forest – One Stroke” by teamLab. No matter how we describe it here, you’ll be surprised by what awaits. After your initial surprise, relax and let yourself be transported away as you enjoy your welcome drink.

And since you’re here to relax, you’ll want to hit the hot springs at least three times: once after check-in, once after dinner, and one last time early the next morning. The large indoor bath is designed for ultimate relaxation, but you don’t miss having a soak in the outdoor bath and gazing at the stars.

And last but not least, you’ll want to try their renowned sauna rooms! Naturally, there is a steam sauna that is great for the skin, but you’ll also want to stop by the dry sauna. The bright white sauna rooms will make you feel like you’ve been transported to another dimension. If you take a kugel, a frozen ball of aroma-infused water, and place it on the stove in the center of the room, in a few minutes, the relaxing aroma will diffuse throughout the sauna. In the men’s sauna, you can splash water on the sauna stones to raise the temperature. But if you prefer something more aromatic, try splashing hojicha (roasted green tea) instead. According to the hotel staff, the hojicha also serves to purify the sauna room. 
The men’s and women’s baths are switched in the morning, so men can also bathe in the new sauna as shown in the photo.

Instructions for using the sauna
Before entering the sauna, wash your body and wipe off any excess water. This makes it easier for your body to heat up and produce sweat.

1. Sit and sweat (6 -12 minutes)
2. Leave the sauna, wash away your sweat in the shower or with a basin of hot water and head to the cold-water bath.
3. Take a break while enjoying the scenery outside. Don’t forget to hydrate.

Repeat Steps 1~3 between three to five times. Finally, soak in the soothing waters of Takeo Onsen and replenish your skin’s moisture.

Nothing beats eating dinner in a yukata after you’ve had a good long soak in the hot spring. The lightly seasoned original fare is made from local ingredients, and after a stint in the sauna, the food will feel truly rejuvenating. 

There are also family baths, so if you prefer a private bathing experience, be sure to ask about their availability when you make your reservation.

“A Forest Where Gods Live” by teamLab. Open from dusk until 22:30. Let a fusion of nature and art wow yourself. Twenty-two indoor and outdoor installations can be found throughout the 500,000 m2 park. Although you can visit the park just to see the teamLab installation, hotel visitors can enjoy the show after letting their stress melt away in the sauna and hot spring baths first.

Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel
4100, Takeo, Takeo-machi, Takeo City, Saga

Day-trip communal bath at Rakan bath (Limited time)
While teamLab’s “A Forest Where Gods Live” is being held.
• Reservation required (Limited to 40 people per day)
• ¥4,850 (tax incl.)

Saga Prefecture
Published: Aug 19, 2020 / Last Updated: Aug 20, 2020

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