Since leaving nearly two years ago now, I know I have left a little bit of my heart in Japan and with the COVID restrictions, we still haven’t been able to return. So what to do whilst we are waiting for Japan to open its borders to tourists? We decided to go to the next best place… Yasuragi in Stockholm.
Yasuragi is a luxury spa based just south in the Stockholm archipelago whose entire ethos is about Japanese relaxation and sustainable tourism. The walk from the car park to the reception area, is even designed to transport you from Scandinavia to the land of the rising sun, starting your stay off just right.
From the moment you walk through the door you can feel your stress melt away. Once checked in, you are given a key wristband, which is your room key and locker key in the spa. You are also given a yukata robe and slippers which you wear throughout your stay and an all black swimming costume that you are asked to wear in the Japanese bath house to ensure there is no clash of colour and help to create a tranquil atmosphere. The swimming costume you keep at the end of your stay.
Our room was a basic queen room which was a good size with shoji windows shutters and a true ryokan feel minus the futon. Our room came as part of a package which included all our meals, 2 breakfasts, 2 dinners and 1 lunch.
The dinner on our first night we upgraded to teppanyaki which was a fun experience. Not only was our chef very entertaining and we even met a lovely guy called Daniel who was celebrating his 40th birthday with his brother and father. They were excellent company and we had an amazing night! Trying a range of different foods cooked right in front of us and sampling a selection of Japanese and European alcohols to compliment each dish.
The Japanese bath house is the highlight of the stay and it is stunning. The architecture, the sounds and the atmosphere make it such a unique and relaxing experience. There are five outdoor onsen pools with views over the water. Five different indoor pools, a sauna, a steam room and relaxation room. The changing rooms have their own onsen and sauna as well as rows of the tradition stools and buckets that you will find in any Japanese onsen for washing. We spent most of our time in here and it was heaven. Unfortunately it is a mobile free zone which I followed rigidly so this photo is borrowed from Yasuragi’s website:
The breakfast and lunch is served in the a la carte restaurant next to the cocktail bar. The breakfast is a European buffet style and the lunch is a one course meal chosen from a very Japanese menu. I opted for the salmon sushi and Rob chose the chicken ramen.
The evening meal was a three course meal served at a completely different restaurant with beautiful views of the archipelago. The menu was really good and after a serving of dumplings with ginger, karaage (fried chicken) and kimchi with ginger mayonnaise for our main and a yuzu, raspberry mousse for dessert. Partnered with an Asahi beer for Rob and an Umeshu and soda water for me, it was the perfect way pretend we were back in Japan.
To finish our trip we decided to send a glass of Umeshu to our new friend Danial as a happy 40th birthday present. We bumped into each other a lot of over the few days we were there and by the time we left, he became a friendly familiar face.
In addition to the Japanese bath house and all the good food, Yasuragi has a lot to offer. They have a daily timetable of activities that you can join for free, from yoga to journey of sounds. There are plenty of places to relax and enjoy the view from the tea room where you can enjoy a selection of Japanese tea and fruit with views over the water or from the rocking massage chairs that play calming music whilst they rock you to sleep.
It was a struggle tearing ourselves away from the calm of Yasuragi but when it was our time to go, we left feeling reset and charged for the new term.
We really enjoyed our time here and it has made us even more desperate to return back to Japan in June if we are allowed. Fingers crossed Japan will let us in but until then. Yasuragi was the perfect second best.