Mashiko is located in Tochigi Prefecture, very close to Nikko (which we did not have a chance to visit this trip). I stayed at the Hotel Sunshine Mashiko in October 2008 with my husband, sister/boyfriend, Mom and her 2 friends, 7 guests total. During our 10 days in Japan, my Mom really wanted to see the town of Mashiko, which is known for their country-style pottery (yakimono), so we went to this little town before spending the last 3 days of our trip in Tokyo. I would make it a point to go back to this area just to stay at this hotel again because it is truly a hidden gem! The level of service was unbeatable, and we were sad to leave the hotel staff even though we stayed only one night because they were so fantastic! I called ahead for reservations for two Japanese-style tatami rooms for our group (they lay out the futons at night). They have a van pick-up/drop-off service that will not only get you to and from the station, but they will also get you to the main street of town where all the pottery is, which is the main attraction for their town. They have a WONDERFUL hot spring (onsen) with 3 baths, including two indoor pools and our favorite, the outdoor one with a view of a beautiful waterfall! Once you enjoy that, they have a spectacular multi-course Japanese meal set up for you for dinner! The service was so personal they had my name written in Japanese calligraphy outside our dining room! It was the same first-class treatment at breakfast, where they had another very exquisite and delicious spread for us! All of this for only about $120 US per person! You should definitely try a Hot Spring or Japanese Inn (Ryokan) when you are in Japan, and this one is a shining example of the heart of the people, the culture, and the yummy food!
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