2 November 2007

A Pebbles' Throw from Tokyo

Kawana Hotel & Golf Club
The Pebble Beach of Asia and Less than 2 hours from Tokyo!

If you've heard rumors of a fantastic, mysterious hotel and golf links in Japan called Kawana, this is it. The Kawana hotel opened its doors in 1936 and features two of the finest coastal links courses you'll find anywhere in the world. In its heyday the resort was a buzz with valets scurrying about in service of their cherished customers who comprised the most discerning of Japanese and overseas society.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio strolled leisurely along the hotel's paths and lawns during their honeymoon stay here in 1954 and even John Wayne enjoyed the panoramic ocean views over morning coffee from the Sun Parlor. The elegance and ambience remains today and the Prince Hotels and Resorts group has ensured that the tradition of fine service and excellence goes on.

Fine dining is available at the various restaurants including authentic seasonal French cuisine served in the Main Dinning Room with set menus ranging from 12,000yen to 22,000yen. (try the Abalone steak that comes with the best sauce in the world!!) Also recommended is the Grill Room on the lower level with fresh fish and seafood and priced at about half that of the Main Dinning Room. If you forget your jacket for dinner they have loaners and are very discreet in passing them to you! Oops! Ties are not required.

Guests are treated to an experience of "old world splendor" that will have you feeling as though you've traveled back in time to a forgotten era. Over the years many prominent people have stayed here including multiple Japanese Priministers, Japanese Emperors and Empresses, the King and Queen of Sweden, Boris Yeltsin in 1998, even Golf Royalty...Gary Player came to relax and tee-it-up just a few months ago!

The Hotel offers a combination of Western and Japanese style rooms and a stay here in a single occupancy room (twin bed) is between 29,400yen and 54,800yen and double occupancy room between 32,400yen~ 57,800yen. Should you find your self in need of their finest accommodations available, the Imperial Suite goes for 288,800yen.

The Courses

The Fuji Course
18 hole par 72, Blue tee yardage 6691, white tee (regular men's) 6187yards.

Ranked 35th in the world for 100 best courses (outside the United States) and always impeccably groomed and maintained, the Fuji course offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the Sagami Bay with Mt Fuji in the back ground. Designed by world famous architect C.H. Alison in 1932 the first 9 holes opened along with the main hotel in 1936 with the full 18 completed the following year. The location couldn't be more dramatic with elevated greens and sunken fairways most bordering 100 foot cliffs with the Pacific Ocean crashing on the rocks below.

This proximity to the sea causes the courses playing characteristics to change rapidly when the prevailing winds whip up, but most are happy to have the breeze during Summer Months as carts are not allowed on this course and the changes in elevation can make for a fairly hard walk. The course hosted its first professional tournament in 1939 along with its first International, the 3rd World Amateur Golf Tournament, in 1962. It's challenge and quality brought in a regular men's JPGA tournament from 1981 until 2004 and currently hosts the Fuji-Sankei Ladies Classic Tournament yearly in April.

No handicap certificate is required to play the Fuji course, however access is "only available to hotel guests" with a weekday round costing 26,500 yen and Saturdays/ Sundays and holidays 33,900yen including caddy, tax and all applicable service charges. A round here will require you to dig rather deeply into your pockets, but you won't be disappointed. The price structure guarantees that the course has limited access and is therefore always in pristine condition and awaiting your perusal.

The Oshima Course
18 hole par 70, white tee (regular men's) 5711yards.

The Kawana legacy began with the Oshima Course. Designed by Komyo Otani and named after the island off the coast that can be seen from most holes, the Oshima course was completed in 1928 a full 8 years before the hotel opened its doors for business. It was reportedly built "with out" the permission of the owner and founder, the Baron Okura, while it was still a private estate. Having spent his student days in England and realizing the benefits it would bring to the relaxed country atmosphere, luckily he allowed it to remain.

It's a fascinating course built with respect to the natural contours of this hilly coastline with comparable quality and ocean views to its sister Fuji course. The Designer masterfully worked with the lie of the land to create a course that feels like it existed there quite naturally. This is partly due to the technology of the day when the course was created, but minimal amounts of earth were moved. Carts are available on this course and it is a self play only style of play i.e. no-caddies with the price of the cart included in your green fee.

Each hole has been given its own nick name with highlights like the 15th par 3, that requires you to carry your ball over a ravine, named "S.O.S", or the 13th par 4 bordered by the ocean down the left side and accurately named "Good-bye" in memory of your shiny new golf ball as it cascades down into the abyss. A round here will run you 21,000yen on weekdays and 28,400yen on weekends and holidays including cart and tax. The Oshima course is a true pleasure to play with each hole having its own personality in this postcard like coastal setting.

The Area and Activities
The Izu peninsula is a renowned destination for expats with its semi-tropical white sand beaches, hot springs and beautiful natural scenery. It's a great place to un wind from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo life. What most people don't know is that the Izu peninsula is also home to 21 beautiful golf courses including the world renowned Kawana Hotel Golf Courses.

The Ito area alone has 4 courses nearby and is salted with hot springs, pensions and great beaches featuring some of the best surfing and body boarding in Japan near Atagawa and Shirahama. Other popular activities include rock-climbing, hiking, scuba diving at nearby Futo, and even paragliding!

If you prefer sightseeing the suspension bridge at Jogasaki offers incredible views of the rocky coastline and the ocean below and is a part of the Izu Oceanic Park which has in contrast, sandy beaches, swimming pools and diving. The ropeway lifts at Mt. Omuro and Komuro are an easy way to take in mountain top panoramic 360 deg. views with less effort.

A nearby Japanese Inn "Hanafubuki" offers a stay and play package for Kawana's Ohshima course and you can find further info on it by logging onto the Golf-in-Japan.com site under "Reservations" or by going to the OutdoorJapan.com sites "Places to Stay" and clicking on Shizuoka for this and more great places to stay on the Izu peninsula!

Getting There
By Train: take the Tokaido Shinkansen (45min) to Atami station, then switch to the Ito line and ride it to Ito Station (25min) then take a 15min taxi ride.(approx. 3000yen) By Car: from Tokyo, take the Tomei Expressway to the Atsugi interchange, exit and get on the Odawara-Atsugi road that leads to the Manazuru road that then intersects with coastal route 135 that passes near the Hotel. *Car navigation input tel. # 0557-45-1111.

For reservations at the Kawana Hotel and tee times at the golf courses log onto www.princehotels.co.jp/kawana-e/ or call 0557-45-1111 directly and experience the best of traditional Japanese service and some of the worlds finest links courses. If you have any questions ask for Kato-san the hotels English speaking Public Relations Manager and hotel history buff.

Also for further information on this and other beautiful courses in the Izu area check out the new www.golf-shizuoka.com site

Bennett Galloway, 2 November 2007

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  • About Bennett
    Bennett is a long time resident of Japan and the Director of Golf for Gotemba Golf Club and Belle View Nagao G.C., in Shizuoka near Mt. Fuji. Member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a teaching professional, providing lessons for all ages and abilities, in English or Japanese. He also specializes in in-bound golf tours to Japan with Golf Shizuoka and Golf Hakone.

    Contact Bennett »