Sasayuri-Ann, Countryside Villa in Nara Prefecture
After speaking with one of my friends who is a Japan travel specialist, he gave me a list of things that are a bit "outside the box". One of those was visiting a countryside villa in Nara prefecture. We chose to stay in the Ozunu Villa of Sasayuri-Ann (there is also another villa available). The villa was only a 1 hr 15 minute drive outside of Osaka, which was an easy drive from where we live.
Up until this point, we hadn't really had an authentic Japanese experience. We dressed up in Kimonos, and took pictures, but that wasn't the real deal.
When we pulled up to the villa, we knew this would be exactly what we were looking for. Built only 7 years ago, the villa had all the traditional characteristics of villas built ages ago. The landscaping was impeccably maintained. The rock garden was so perfect, it made me want to build one in my own home!
There are several activities that are available during your stay. Dinner was very fun, preparing shabu shabu in the villa (cooking thinly sliced meat in a pot of broth and vegetables), or sushi, or other options. There are hikes to sacred waterfalls for all levels of ability, which we did with the kids. There are ninja demonstrations in full costumes, as Nara is apparently the birthplace of the ninja. There is so much history to learn. There are meditation practices led by a Monk who is also the owner of the villas. Not to mention, the beautiful bath tub over looking the garden was enjoyed by the entire family :
An activity that we enjoyed with the children was learning about tea, how it grows and its cultivation. We picked the top "baby leaves" off of the tea bushes, as well as the leaves off of an olive tree, which are known to have healing properties and fight viruses. From there we took the leaves and added fruit to a blender and created a smoothie that we called our "liquid vaccine" to protect us against Covid :) We also brought games like uno and sorry, which are always nice for family time :)
By far the best part about the villa was the owner/manager, Matsubayashi-san. As a Monk and also a business owner, he educated us about his life, and his religion. He taught us about meditation, about the history of the properties, and even took us on a guided tour of the sacred waterfalls. He was extremely kind, and also patient with our kids :) We truly enjoyed getting to know him.
Check out the video to take a glimpse into our 1 night vacation. Contact me to add this stop to your Japan trip.