Hotel TAITO was established in 1916 in the heart of Tsurui Village, on the doorstep of Japan's largest marshland, the Shitsugen National Park. Tsurui Village was recently recognized as one of The Most Beautiful Villages in Japan, making it a magnet for tourists and locals alike. The hotel is owned and operated by Tsurui Village local, Masahiro Wada, who is also a professional photographer specializing in the Tsurui Village region. Wada-san's work can be observed throughout the hotel, with many mini galleries displaying beautiful pictures of the elegant Tancho Crane and surrounding national park.
TAITO is a western influenced hotel complete with the Japanese luxuries of an onsen and delicious local foods. The hotel has western style bedrooms including twin rooms, and twin rooms with lofts suitable for larger families. The twin loft rooms are equipped with a work desk, internet access, and large bathrooms and wardrobes. For those who prefer traditional Japanese style rooms, TAITO also offers tatami matted rooms. The hotel restaurant specializes in western foods using local seasonal ingredients. A western meal sounded tempting however I opted for the Japanese set meal and was rewarded with sashimi, nabe, soba noodles, beef salad, pickles, rice and a scoop of ice-cream to finish off.
One huge draw card for any hotel in Japan is whether or not it has an onsen, and TAITO has one of the best in the region. The silky smooth waters of the pH 9 alkaline water instantly warms the body and stimulates blood circulation leaving you with incredibly silky smooth skin that'll warm your body for hours. There is also a library located on the second floor above the reception which is stocked with over 2,000 books collected by the owner Wada-san. Many of the books are nature focused and provide detailed information on Japan and Hokkaido's rich culture and natural beauty.
Wada-san offers customizable tours of the surrounding Shitsugen National Park and also runs early morning walking tours to Cape Kirakotan for guests of TAITO. The early morning walking tour starts in Tsurui Village, weaving its way through rolling farmland, stopping to view elegant Japanese cranes raising their broods, cows grazing on the fertile land and skittish Sika deer patrolling the meadows. The walking tour weaves its way through dense summer foliage as the sound of early morning bird songs compete with the light tapping of raindrops on the forest canopy as Wada-san explains the fragility and emphasizes the importance of protecting the wetland for future generations to enjoy. We arrived back to the hotel at 09:00 and were promptly served a Japanese set menu breakfast and enjoyed a quick onsen before check-out at 10:00.