Oyado The Earth
In the "Land of the Gods," locals make daily offerings to honor their life in heavenly territory. And the owner of Oyado The Earth is no exception.
Living with the Divine
I get off the train at Nagoya station and transfer to the Kintetsu line. After an hour and a half on the limited express, I arrive at Toba Station to a heavy downpour. I can barely see two feet in front of me, and the place doesn’t feel special at all. Waiting for my lift to the hotel, all I can think about is all the work I’m not getting done. This isn’t a great start to my journey…
My destination is a 30-minute drive away. The cityscape makes way for the mountains, and below, I’m rewarded with glimpses of the sea. The winding road bounces away my thoughts about work, and by the time we reach the mountaintop hotel, I notice I have no worries left! A vast expanse of ocean opens up in front of me. The sea is calm, and tiny waves flutter gently along the horizon.
As I sit in the lobby gazing at the sea, a staff member hands me a welcome drink. I take a sip, overwhelmed by the view. She tells me it’s calm out today, but when the weather is bad, the waves gets really rough, and the landscape changes completely. I’m reminded that Oyado The Earth is famous for storm watching.
It’s hard to imagine this idyllic blue ocean transforming into a dark and choppy nightmare, with winds so aggressive you’d think demons were on the prowl. The hotel is located on the edge of a cape and features large windows so guests can absorb the view from anywhere in the building.
I get a full panorama of the Pacific Ocean from the rooftop deck. The hotel is framed by lush greenery, and I can see the small inlet nearby and the rock formations that created the cape. The Shima Peninsula area has been known since ancient times as the “Land of the Gods,” a place where the divine coexists with humans. Every morning and evening, locals make offerings of the bounty of the sea and the riches of the soil. It’s no accident that the Ise Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most sacred houses of worship, stands in this area. Everyone here is honored to live in heavenly territory.
And the owner of Oyado The Earth is no exception. Born and raised in the area, Katsuya Yoshikawa built this hotel as an expression of his pride and affection for his homeland. Yoshikawa himself cleared the roads leading to the hotel, and even drilled to access to the natural hot spring. He says he wanted guests to get a feel for the nature here, so he left 95% of the property untouched. He says it’s important to protect the forest and the fishing grounds directly under the inn, which are susceptible to the smallest change to the ecosystem. He adds that he originally had a free-flowing system in mind for the hot spring baths, but opted instead for a circulation system to prevent runoff from contaminating the surrounding environment. Women known as ama, or traditional free divers, have relied on this area for over a millennium, and Yoshikawa feels he must protect it.
Seabirds soar above the water’s shimmering surface as vessels, large and small, navigate in the distance. I roll out of bed and onto the chaise longue on the terrace. I listen to the wind rusting through the leaves, as I relax in the open air. I can’t get enough of the view from this special spot reserved just for me. I lose track of time sitting in the rocking chair in the study. As the sun starts to sink, the colors of the sky and ocean melt into each other until everything turns dark.
Now that the show outside is over, I take a good look around my room. There’s a stereo, a coffee machine, and even a DVD player. It’s so well equipped, I feel like I’m at home. Outside, at the edge of the terrace, is another slice of heaven: a wooden bathtub brimming with hot spring water. I revel in the ocean breeze as the warmth envelops my tired body. I don’t ever want to leave…
I head to the restaurant for dinner, and am shown to a semi-private room. I savor each course of the kaiseki (traditional Japanese) meal. Unusually, each is paired with a different wine. The cuisine, made with carefully selected ingredients from all over Japan, is creative and vividly colorful. Chef Motoji Yamakawa’s take on the culinary art is complimented even by the most robust wines. I interpret this contemporary fusion between Japanese and Western elements as a reflection of the current Japanese lifestyle.
All this fits perfectly with the décor of Oyado The Earth, which incorporates many elements of Western hotels such as hardwood floors, beds, dining tables and chairs. In contrast to the wild natural environment that surrounds it, the inn is a paragon of refined architecture and comforting amenities.
Late at night, I tiptoe through the quiet hallway and make my way to the common outdoor bath. What a luxury to have this spacious bath all to myself. There’s a chill in the air, enhancing the sparkle of the stars above. I can’t make out the ocean in the darkness, but notice a small spot of light in the distance, perhaps from a fishing boat. I stretch out in the water, reassured that the beautiful ocean will still be there in the morning.
But just to be sure, I venture up to the observation deck before dawn. I wait for the sun to rise in the crisp morning air. I’m so close to the water, I feel like I’m standing on it. I can’t tell yet where the ocean ends and the sky begins… until a sliver of light, red and burning, pierces through the horizon. It’s a new day, and thanks to this place, I feel ready for anything.
by Aiko Goto, translated by Maho Harada
April 30, 2016
Oyado The Earth information
|Number of rooms||16|
|Check in/out||in 2:00pm out 11:00am|
Additional Information about Oyado The Earth
Vegetarian option available
Minatoya (Izakaya) - 1-4-53, Toba, Toba-shi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0559-25-7173
Cuccagna (Italian) - 1-6-17 Toba, Toba-shi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0599-26-3143
Okuyama (Izakaya) - 139 Sakuragi-cho, Ise-shi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0596-22-1515
Butasute (Sukiyaki) - 52 Ujinakanokiri-cho, Ise-shi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0596-23-8803
Tsutaya (Udon) - 2-22-24 Kawarazaki, Ise-shi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0596-28-3880
Ronku-shokudo (Noodles & Izakaya) - 288 Tooshi-cho, Toba-shi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0599-37-2167
Takama (Japanized Western cuisine) - 1-2379-24 Toba-shi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0599-25-4750
Tanaka Ryoriten - 250-1 Daiochonakiri, Shima-shi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0599-72-0564
Arisue (Ramen) - 973 Murayama, Ise-machi, Mie-ken - TEL: 0596-76-1593