The warmth of omotenashi — Japanese hospitality — is part of what transforms an average trip to the island nation into an exceptional one. Another way to take your trip to the next level is by checking into over-the-top or unusual lodgings. Guntû, Japan’s newest floating hotel, fits just this bill. Located off the beaten track on the dazzling Seto Inland Sea — home to more than 3,000 islands — the hotel-cruise-ship hybrid is a haven of wooden interiors, sleek lines, and neutral tones.
Designed by award-winning architect Yasushi Horibe, the 68m-long floating ryokan features 19 spacious ocean-view cabins bathed in tranquil ash and alder-wood floors, walls and ceilings. Minimal furniture and sleek white bedding keep the focus on the floor-to-ceiling windows, which slide open to reveal each cabin’s sea-view private terrace — many of which come complete with deep soaking tubs.
If they can tear themselves away from watching the sea slip by on their private terraces, guests can head out to the floating hotel’s walnut and Japanese cypress decks. The three floors hold a host of amenities for guests to enjoy, including a tea room, gym, spa treatment room, communal bath, sauna, cocktail bar and lounge. Come dinner time, local cuisine takes centre stage at Guntû’s restaurant, where master chef Kenzo Sato of Shigeyoshi in Tokyo supervises the seasonal menu, while chef Nobuo Sakamoto of Nobu in Awajishima brings his sushi expertise to the table.
When not partaking in the rejuvenating delights of an afternoon massage or traditional tea ceremony, the floating hotel, which glides across the water at a top speed of 10 knots, offers a number of off-ship activities. Depending on which course guests book during their stay (the floating hotel offers both Eastbound and Westbound routes through the waters of the Seto Inland Sea), tenders are available for day trips to many of the region’s uninhabited islands. Guests can also try their hand at fishing, visit ancient temple ruins, cycle through the lush forests on the islands and moon-gaze aboard a traditional Japanese boat.
Guntû’s 2-, 3-, and 4-day cruises around the Seto Inland Sea depart from and return to Bella Vista Marina in Onomichi City, located about 3 hours southeast of Kyoto.