Bamboo forests, lakes, blossoming trees, hot-spring baths, dancing fireflies, the scent of tatami… If there is one place where the unpoetic might feel inspired to write a haiku, it’s Asaba. The 15th-century family-run ryokan, on the edge of the hot-spring town Shuzenji, is just two hours south of Tokyo by train. The entrance is marked by a split cotton noren curtain hanging above a monochrome pebble entrance, behind which elegant kimono-clad staff usher guests to one of 17 minimal guestrooms. Each is designed in signature ryokan style, with tatami mat floors, sliding screens, deep cypress baths, futons, paper lanterns and asymmetric flower arrangements, as well as windows with views of pretty lakes and gardens. Guests can soak in the restorative outdoor hot-spring baths before indulging in a private in-room kaiseki dinner: a banquet of a dozen dishes fit for an emperor. The Harry Bertoia chairs in the lounge best sum up the Asaba experience – it may be rooted in heritage, but the atmosphere is fresh and modern.