This spa property is one of just a handful in Japan to be selected by Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and it's not difficult to see why. The design concept is loosely based on an auberge, and describes itself as 'a French restaurant where guests can stay overnight.' Head chef Mr Chiharu Takei honed his craft at Joel Robuchon and Maison Troisgros in France, and he was drawn to this property for the quality of the local ingredients. It's a far cry from his previous posts in Tokyo, as Sankara is located on the ocean-ward side of the remote southern island of Yakushima.
It is most famous for its 'yakisugi' 1,000 year-old cedar forests which loom up behind the Sankara and can be explored with guides from the property, but one can equally well be pampered by spa treatments using Thai herbs and lounge by the pool with its magnificent sea views. 29 spacious villas and sprawling suites have been built into the hillside, with warm wood tones and patterns reminiscent of luxury properties in Bali that share the same interior designer. Given its southerly location, this is the perfect place to round off a stay in Japan before the 3 hour journey back to Tokyo via Kagoshima airport on the mainland. The one significant caveat is that the Yakushima locals say 'it rains 32 days a month', the last quarter and the first quarter of the year being the least wet.