Yasuragi Hasseludden, Saltsjö-Boo, Sweden **

Q: What is it? A: An odd combo of Japanese-themed spa, conference hotel and retreat, located just outside Stockholm. Used to have four stars. Rated it down since.

If you manage to avoid the conference guests, this lounge is a relaxing place where there’s always a fruit buffet available in the daytime.

If you manage to avoid the conference guests, (Sweden has no shortage of team-building computer consultants), this lounge is a relaxing place where there’s always a fruit buffet available in the daytime.

I’m surprised that not more places in Sweden are going for this concept: A very shallow pool where the water is hotter than you’d expect. Perfect for cold winter days!

I’m surprised that not more places in Sweden are going for this concept: A very shallow pool where the water is hotter than you’d expect. Perfect for cold winter days!

Hasseludden Yasuragi’s 25 meter main pool. It sure gets busy at times. Here is where I’ve seen a Financial Director, about 20 stone, do the meatball.

Hasseludden Yasuragi’s 25 meter main pool. It sure gets busy at times. Here is where I’ve seen a Financial Director, about 20 stone, do the meatball.

After a much-needed renovation, I think this futon room would be quite a nice place to stay in.

After a much-needed renovation, I think this futon room would be quite a nice place to stay in.

With eight iron griddles, this is the largest teppanyaki in Scandinavia. It’s not a mind-blowing culinary experience, but expect good food prepared in front of you, and you will be pleased.

With eight iron griddles, this is the largest teppanyaki in Scandinavia. It’s not a mind-blowing culinary experience, but expect good food prepared in front of you, and you will be pleased.

Voted Stockholms best spa year after year… but this time I rated it lower.
It used to have four stars in my book. I ripped two of them out after my last visit. There are good reasons for that. Hasseludden originally got four stars because it is a pretty unique place in Europe. Originally built in 1974 to serve as an educational facility for members of LO, the Swedish worker’s union, it was designed by a Japanese architect, Yoji Kasajima. From 1992 it served as a regular conference facility and in 1997 it got the complete overhaul into a Japanese spa. That is: A Japanese themed spa, surrounded by pine trees with a stunning view over the Stockholm’s inner archipelago. Overall it is a pleasant place and they are playing the Japan card quite successfully. But trust me, those two stars were taken away for a reason.

Avoid the crowds.
Originally, I thought that the biggest threat to a nice experience at Hasseludden was the conference crowds. Conference groups can turn a tranquil place into a middle-aged mayhem, fueled by high cholesterol and hard liquor. People going on conference with their company seem to think that they’re protected by some corporate spending power and internal loyalty. Quiet people go loud. Social drinkers turn into drunkards. Good people from account dept. go bad. My best advice to make the best out of a stay at the Yasuragi was, (and still is), to wake up early and go and enjoy the outdoor pool at 6.00 AM. Those conference guests won’t be around. I promise.

Be picky about the room or the stay may be a chilling experience.
There’s a bigger threat to the Hasseludden Yasuragi experience than the crowds. First it’s about attitude: The staff is somewhat sluggish and not responding to calls that would require immediate action. Spending a night in a futon room (#434) without working a heater and where the isolation around the windows was only semi-effective…That’s a no-no when you’re in a place where you are supposed to walk around in your yukata around the clock. Two calls to the front desk didn’t create any response at all. Also, the room was in serious need of renovation with dents, scratches and big pieces chipped off from corners. This is certainly not OK when you are charging € 243, ($ 353) per night. It should be mentioned that this rate includes a teppanyaki dinner but… the price is per person, (correct, you’re looking at € 486 / $ 706 for two people!). Conclusion: The Yasuragi Hasseludden is serious need of renovation and, above all, of an improved service attitude and care about their guests.

Teppanyaki and kaiten sushi – in a spa!
Think Benihana, but very downplayed (we’re in Sweden, remember?). If you don’t shun at the idea of having your meal being theatrically prepared by a knife-wielding, joke-telling chef, then this one is for you. In Japan, teppanyaki restaurants are mostly frequented by tourists, (try Misono, where the concept originated). The chefs at the Teppanyaki restaurant at Hasseludden are typically young and emphasize the conversation with the guests rather than juggling their kitchen hardware. Food is good although not mind-blowing. Oddly enough there’s a kaiten sushi next to the teppanyaki restaurant – that is of course sushi on a conveyor belt. Don’t get me wrong, I love kaiten sushi, but it has very little to do with the Japanese habit of eating very slowly in a tranquil atmosphere.

Remember, it’s not a ryokan.
It should and could not be compared with a Japanese ryokan. True, you wear a yakata, (all guests do, even at dinner), and there are tatami mats in quite a few of the rooms and you may sit on your koshikake (a tiny wooden stool) to clean yourself before the bath, but all in all it’s more like letting a Swedish spa collide head-on with a sushi bar. Maybe it’s the pine trees. Maybe it’s just me. Avoid the conference guests and it’s certainly not a bad place for winding down. Make sure that you get a room with heating that works and don’t be in a hurry.
I also hope that your stay is on the company expense account – at the moment the Yasuragi is a rip-off. It’s a pity. It used to be a solid four-star facility in my book.

Yasuragi Hasseludden
Hamndalsvägen 6
S132 81 Saltsjö-Boo
Sweden

+46-8-747 64 00

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