At the concierge’s suggestion, I slip off my shoes and into my hidey-hole for the night at the special Villa Bel Tramonto annex of Resort Hotel Moana Coast in Naruto. Classical music plays softly amid gently dimmed lights. The glass doors look out on a forested mountain scene.
Tucked away within a rural scene, the Moana Coast Resort allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature, despite only being 20 minutes from central Tokushima. A wide, lush lawn greets visitors, the reception and restaurant are elegantly draped in vines, while the annex itself — the luxurious Villa Bel Tramonto — is set aside a little more still. Outside, I can see early autumn colour in the mountains.
“You should come back during sakura season,” the concierge comments, as he carefully deposits my luggage inside the door. “They are what Moana Coast is really famous for. It’s rare to see such healthy groves of sakura trees this close to the sea. But booking a room at that time is… difficult.”
“How far in advance would I need to?” I ask.
He considers. “About 6 months.”
The hotel stands surrounded by cherry blossom trees, and I know the view must be breath-taking in spring. I envy those with the organizational skills to book a hotel room so far in advance.
“It must be a popular time for weddings. I noticed a little chapel in the front garden. Do you hold many here at the Moana Coast?”
“A few a year. But we organize more proposals.”
“You help set up proposals?”
“Yes, we have music and lights arranged for the big moment, and of course a cameraman hidden away to capture it on film.”
The concierge leaves me, and I begin to explore. Rooms in Villa Bel Tramonto occupy two storeys, while I’ve been told the rooms in the main building are three. It is so calm here; birds come down to drink from a shallow, rectangular water-feature; the wind tugs a few leaves from the trees; the crickets of autumn chirp, and the reflection of clouds moves across the water. Children under the age of 13 aren’t allowed to stay in the Villa Bel Tramonto, and to be honest, there isn’t much here to satisfy them. The atmosphere, from the mood-lighting, to the partially open-air bath, is aimed more at the couples-on- romantic-getaways, or maybe the visiting business-executives- looking-for- a-comfortable- spot-to- consider-weighty- matters market.
Or single, travelling adults looking for a spot to slow down.
Despite the temptations of the large, comfortable-looking bed, and sparkling white jacuzzi, I’m not quite ready to hunker down yet. Upstairs, I switch the CD player from classical to my own playlist, make a coffee, and sit enjoying the view of the Seto Inland Sea from the window. The sturdy desk and hotel-wide WIFI means that, given the urge, I could do some work — but instead I take the time to relax.
Later, I venture out to the cozy restaurant to try Moana Coast’s other signature feature — food. The dishes are Italian, but incorporate local Naruto ingredients, including Abalone, seasonal fish, and often vegetables fresh from their own backyard farm.
“We hope to provide an Italian meal that you can’t enjoy anywhere else,” the waiter said with a smile as he brought out a meal which fulfilled his promise.
At Moana Coast you can savor the best of life, from beautiful rooms that are open to nature, to delicious, fresh food . It invites visitors to slow down and savor each moment, each bite. My only regret is not being able to hide away here longer.
As for access — the hotel has a free shuttle bus to and from Tokushima airport, and from the Naruto highway bus terminal, that picks up hotel guests on their arrival. They offer free parking too. Visitors can eat at the restaurant without needing to book a room.
A night in the Villa Bel Tramonto costs around 35,000 yen per night, per person on weeknights, and 30,000 on weekdays, breakfast and dinner included. As intimated above, booking as early as 6 months prior is recommended for weekend stays, particularly, during peak cherry blossom season.
Photographs & Text by Felicity Tillack