An oasis of mindful tranquillity
TEXT: LIZ LONGDEN | PHOTOS © MARKUS CRÉPIN
Situated amidst the natural beauty of the Stockholm archipelago, Yasuragi, the Japanese bath and hotel, has undergone a complete refurbishment. Taking direct inspiration from traditional Japanese bathhouses, Yasuragi offers an authentic experience, with every detail carefully chosen to soothe, relax and re-energise the senses.
Housed in a building originally designed by Japanese architect Yoji Kasajima, the hotel and Japanese bath has been helping guests to relax the Japanese way since 1997. In January 2018, however, Yasuragi opened to a complete redesign – the result of a two-week trip to Japan, during which CEO Sunniva Fallan Röd and a team of architects visited traditional bathhouses across the country. Gone is the large, standard pool and in its place are several smaller bathing areas and places to calm body and mind, including hot and cold springs, a Japanese footbath and a carbonated spring. There are also a number of saunas, including a salt steam sauna and ‘sleep sauna’, where guests lie on heated slabs, as relaxing aromas carefully chosen to calm the nervous system drift across the warm air. “The really interesting thing is that even if you only sleep for a short time, it is an incredibly efficient sleep. It really is fantastically relaxing,” Fallan Röd explains.
A life philosophy
While the décor and facilities offer a luxurious aesthetic, this is no mere Japanese-themed spa. Instead, Yasuragi promotes a genuine, holistic philosophy of well-being through simplicity and calm. Guests are encouraged to slow down and step away from the frequently frantic pace of modern life. On arrival, each is given simple bathing clothes, a traditional cotton ‘yukata’ robe and slippers, which they are asked to wear instead of their own clothes.
“Some guests do find it very strange at first, but it’s fascinating how well and how quickly they all take to it,” Fallan Röd notes. “So much of our daily energy and effort is focused on how we appear to others, and what others might think of us, but if everyone is wearing the same clothes then you can just let go of all that and focus instead on relaxing. And that is actually really nice.”
Even the fact that guests must wear slippers is a way of encouraging a more meditative and relaxed mentality. “At Yasuragi, you are allowed to take your time and, in fact, you have to, because you can’t run in slippers,” Fallan Röd laughs. “Occasionally we have guests who find it frustrating that they can’t move more quickly, and actually it’s great when they tell us that, because then we have the opportunity to explain to them that it is the stress in their bodies which is the cause of those feelings of frustration.” Needless to say, the bathing area is a digital-free zone and guests are politely requested to keep their mobile phones switched off.
The Yasuragi philosophy of encouraging harmony through simplicity also extends to the wider environment and, as part of the 2018 refurbishment, Yasuragi has paid particular attention to sustainability. Some of the most striking changes relate to the food on offer. In order to dramatically reduce the hotel’s carbon emissions, a new, strictly vegan restaurant has been introduced, while meat has also been taken off the menu in the à la carte restaurant. In the Teppanyaki restaurant, where each table has its own chef to prepare food in front of the guests, red meat is no longer served.
“It has certainly caused a bit of a stir among guests and that’s a good thing, as far as we’re concerned,” says Fallan Röd. She adds: “A few years ago, we stopped serving bacon and a lot of guests really reacted to that, but we love it when we get comments, because then we can engage with our guests and actually explain why we are doing this.” Fallan Röd points out that simply removing bacon from the menu produced a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to 11,000 car journeys between Stockholm and Yasuragi. “It is incredibly important that we all start to take responsibility for the impact we make on the natural environment and we want to take a lead in that and start spreading that message further.”
If proof were needed that peace, harmony and sustainability can go hand in hand, it came earlier this year, when Yasuragi was crowned Europe’s best Luxury Resort Spa at the 2018 World Luxury Spa Awards. “We’re incredibly proud. It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time, and I think it comes down to the experience that we create for our guests,” says Fallan Röd. “It’s completely genuine – everything we do, every choice of material, and all the food we serve is designed to positively affect the senses and nervous system to promote well-being from the inside out, and I think that is something quite unique.”