By Nicole Bauer
To be honest, this lodge seems so special to me that I first wanted to keep it a secret! Selfish thinking, I know, and that's why you can read about it today. Great places should always be shared.
The name of the lodge, Nutapukaushipe, seems unpronounceable; however, it simply means 'Daisetsuzan' (Big snow mountain) in Ainu, the language of the indigenous people in Hokkaido. As puzzling the name might have been also for me, I fell in love with the lodge from the very first moment. It's a wonderful wooden log cabin that was designed and built about 25 years ago by the owners themselves, and their strong passion for nature clearly comes through in the overall structure, interior design and décor. The atmosphere is warm and cosy, full of amazing woodwork everywhere. It also has been renovated regularly, so there's nothing that makes you think it's built quite a while ago.
The lodge has six beautiful rooms of different shapes and sizes, mostly with tatami flooring. The futons are pretty thin, but using two on top of each other works for a European back too. The common facilities were so impeccably clean that we didn't miss the private bathroom at all.
There's a basic but wonderful onsen (hot spring bath) inside the lodge-completely made of wood too. On top of that you'll find a stunning rotemburo outside. The latter can be booked for private sessions, so you can soak together with your partner!
Now the food-home-style cooking at its best. It's a fixed menu with a great variety of fresh and seasonal dishes, mostly vegetables and local fish. I think the owners spend most of their day in the kitchen to prepare all these different and delicious things. Breakfast is also typical Japanese with some cooked fish, rice and miso soup, sometimes accompanied by some fruit or yogurt.
One evening after dinner some guests and the landlord himself all gathered around the largest table in the common room and we exchanged our adventures of the day. It's a bit of a challenge if you don't speak any Japanese; however, there's always a way to participate in the conversation. For us at least it was great fun.
As it’s a small place, make sure to book early, especially in autumn when everybody is keen to watch the autumn colours at Mount Asahi. You have to either call or send them a fax, there is no website. Their English is basic, but communication via fax is generally no problem. We paid 7,500 yen per person per night, 2 meals included, a very reasonable price.
Last but not least, please note that there's no convenience store in Asahidake Onsen; so if you plan to do a full day hike, you need to stock up with some snacks before you go there. There's a restaurant at the ropeway station; however, no onigiri (rice balls) or sandwiches to take away.
If Japanese hotels or guesthouses sometimes lack a certain snug comfort or visual opulence, at least they do for me, this lodge has it all. Of all the places in Japan I've stayed so far this one is really unique, and I hope to go back again soon.
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Travelling abroad to discover new places, getting to know different cultures and learning foreign languages has always been my passion. I was born and raised in Germany; however, for a few years now I've been very lucky to be able to spend my life abroad. I lived for some time in England and Italy before moving to Japan in October 2009. It took me a while to adapt to this very different world; however, travelling up and down the country has helped me to not only adapt, but to actually fall in love with this country Japan. It has also reawakened my interest in photography, so whenever I get a chance I pack my camera and discover something new. Japan is full of beautiful but less well-known places. To make these more discoverable for everybody, I'm very happy to be able to share my stories and photography on this site, and open a world of extraordinary experiences, which would be difficult to find in a guidebook. For any queries regarding Tokyo as a travel destination or any of my published articles, please feel free to contact me.