Japanese bathhouses are lovely but need they all follow the same design template of pitched roofing and cypress-wood tubs? Not, apparently, at the Risonare resort, tel: (81-551) 365 111, a 2 1/2-hour train ride from Tokyo in Yamanashi prefecture's Southern Alps. There, guests with no hang-ups about mixing modern taste with traditional pleasures will find themselves at ease in the Moku Moku Yu bathhouse. This clean, contemporary timber affair opened at the beginning of the year in a wood on the resort's grounds.
The bathhouse's name plays on the Japanese words for wood (moku), steaming (moku-moku) and bath (yu). Its unusual structurethe complex is made up of a series of circular wooden buildings housing changing rooms, washing facilities and the baths themselveswas partly inspired by the traditional outdoor barrel baths found at many onsen. Both single-sex and mixed bathing are on offer, with the latter being something of a rarity in Japan these days (bathing costumes are required by guests opting for it, however, so there's no need to be bashful).
After a good soak, you'll be relaxed and ready for Risonare's other recreational facilities, which are also in a decidedly modern vein. Choose from upmarket boutiques, the sprawling Il Mare spa and pool complex, and several restaurants. Accommodation is equally diverse, and includes opulent "residences" that can easily run a couple over $650 a night if you opt for extras like a personal chef. Pricey, but then you are there to take a bath.