During the day Hoshinoya Fuji looks like uneven stacks of concrete blocks with glass covering the negative space. When the sun goes down and the lights in the rooms go on, the sky, a deep royal blue, contrasts with the rooms, now illuminated by soft yellow light and small gas campfires flickering on the balconies. From inside, floor-to-ceiling glass windows reveal views of Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji, which on clear days is fully visible. On some occasions the mountain’s spectacular 12,389-foot summit is draped in lenticular clouds, which look as if they’ve been painted on carefully with a brush. If you judge a room by its view, this is one of the best in the world.
While the view is the main attraction of the hotel, it is not its central thesis. The thesis is “glamping,” which in this case the Japanese owners of Hoshino Resorts, the parent company and operator of more than 30 hotels, resorts and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), have interpreted a bit differently than other arbiters of the glamping experience. It’s actually more like a camping-themed hotel, and in that respect it succeeds. Instead of tents and lanterns, the cement buildings house spartan, modern white rooms with plush beds, bathrooms with smart Toto toilets, Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speakers, and elevated amenities like a Hario pour-over coffee setup and a refrigerator filled with colorful beer cans from Suiyoubi no Neko and Kiuchi breweries. There are also hooks on the wall for hanging the canvas backpack — packed with a Snow Peak headlamp, binoculars and blanket — issued on arrival.
Outside of the rooms the experience more closely resembles glamping. On the balcony there’s a kotatsu, a low wooden table with recessed seats and a heated blanket for your legs — an ideal setting for an opulent in-room breakfast of soft Parker House rolls, local berry jams, ham cooked on a griddle, quiche, and salad decorated with edible flowers. Beyond the rooms, a path through the woods leads guests to a series of wooden decks — called the “cloud terrace” because of their shapes — complete with low-slung chairs for relaxing, a campfire, pastries in the afternoon, tables for private dining in the evening, and a bar that opens at night, stocked with good bottles of Japanese whisky from Yamazaki, Yoichi and Miyagikyo.
The whole experience can feel a bit over-produced (even Mount Fuji and its brushstroke clouds), a sort of hyperreal expression of nostalgic American camping two hours west of Tokyo. But the quality of everything, from the beer in the refrigerator to the meticulous service, is endearing, and in that way, it’s luxurious. If you want to go glamping, there are interesting options in the American West and in eastern and southern Africa; if you want a luxury hotel that lets you roast marshmallows on the balcony, go to Hoshinoya Fuji.