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The 15 best hotels in Japan

Unearth ancient traditions and soak up contemporary comforts at the very best hotels in Japan

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ben West
Ed Cunningham

From the sky-scraping towers of Tokyo and the rustic ryokans of Kyoto to the pristine beaches of Okinawa and thrilling ski slopes of Hokkaido, Japan is a wondrously, vastly diverse place. And that goes for the country’s hotels, too: some of the most luxurious, unique and characterful hotels in the entire world are to be found in Nippon.

No matter the purpose of your trip, whether you’re hunting for cherry blossom, here for a spot of sumo wrestling or pitching your way around sushi samples at a local food market, Japan has a hotel to fit the occasion. And plenty are unforgettable attractions in themselves: hotels with their own history and traditions, with uber-luxurious features like onsen and waterfalls or quirks like capsule rooms and on-site libraries. So, without further ado, for all budgets and functions, here are 15 of the finest hotels in Japan.  

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The best hotels in Japan

Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

Impeccably located in the heart of the city by the Kamogawa river, overlooking the Higashiyama mountains, this modern luxurious hotel steeped in the traditional Kyoto tradition oozes tranquil individuality, with features such as a huge waterfall by the lobby, zen gardens, wooden partitions and traditional paper artworks. It apes a luxury ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and has spacious and minimalist rooms, while dining options include a high-end Japanese eaterie, an Italian restaurant and a patisserie.

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon, Tokyo

This superb budget option is located in the characterful eastern Asakusa entertainment district by the city’s oldest temple complex, Sensoji, an area which still retains a sense of its past. The interior design of this small boutique design hotel is subdued, but the attentive staff compensate for that. The rooms are compact but spotless, and neutral in tone and decor, letting city views in many take centre stage. The restaurant serves French fusion cuisine, and there’s a bar and terrace.

Four Seasons, Kyoto

Staying at this elegant, luxurious hotel means surrounding yourself in supremely attractive exteriors – including a pond garden with a traditional tea house, maple trees, cherry blossom and stone bridges – and enjoying interiors that begin in the large marble and cypress wood lobby decked with pretty paper lanterns and flowers and continue through to 123 attractive rooms that fuse traditional Japanese with modern design, and feature sleek, spacious bathrooms. The spa focuses upon Japanese wellness rituals, and there’s a tastefully-designed pool. The brasserie offers excellent Asian-European fusion dishes, and there’s a sushi bar too.

Hoshinoya, Tokyo

When in Japan why opt for a nondescript Western-style hotel? Superlatively blending old and new, this contemporary luxury ryokan situated within a 17-storey tower offers the Japanese experience in spades, from removing your shoes to walk on the tatami mat floors to sleeping on futon-style comfortable beds. There’s a suitably hushed atmosphere as staff here wear traditional kimono to serve guests in the Ochanoma (tea room) lounges, onsen (hot spring) baths, and restaurant, which offers traditional Japanese breakfasts. Traditional performances sometimes take place at the hotel too.

Book and Bed, Tokyo

If your budget is miniscule, then this hotel made up of wooden ‘capsules’ of different sizes is ideal. Who needs a Corby trouser press, minibar and the like anyway? Located in the lively neon-heavy Ikebukuro district, each space has rows of books on one side and a curtain for privacy on the other. There’s no restaurant or cafe but if the on-site vending machine doesn’t quite hit the spot, there are numerous eating options nearby. Bathrooms are communal, yet spotless and ultra-modern.

Okinawa feels a world away from the rest of Japan – and that’s because, at 400 miles from the mainland, it kind of is. Okinawa feels like much more of a tropical paradise, so who can blame Iraph Sui for making full use of its idyllic surroundings? On Miyako Island, Iraph Sui boasts rooms with mind-boggling ocean views and balconies, as well as a spectacular outdoor pool.


Located in the business district, Otemachi, the 84 rooms and suites at Aman are especially spacious. Set across the top floors of a skyscraper, they have great views of the city – the Imperial Palace and Shinjuku office towers in particular, and Mount Fuji on clear days. With a minimalist interior featuring paper, stone and wood, the hotel offers a huge spa with an onsen-style bath and a pool, and eateries with French and Italian menus.

Offering a welcome retreat from Osaka’s famously restless, never-ending buzz, Zentis in Dojimahama also features some exceptionally snazzy hotel design. Spread over 16 storeys, the soundproofed rooms are airy and peaceful, with plenty also offering fabulous city views. With a garden and terrace too, there are fewer better places in which to kick back and take a breather from one of Japan’s biggest, most bustling cities.


This eclectic 16-room boutique hotel in the cosmopolitan city of Fukuoka in western Japan is more geared to those in party mode than travellers seeking tranquility. Cosy yet sophisticated, there’s a rooftop spa Jacuzzi, pool, in-room spa treatments and massage, Italian and Teppanyaki Japanese restaurants, water terrace and colourful, spacious rooms. Lots of nice touches are included in your stay, including the Japanese/western breakfast, a minibar and bicycle use.

Wise Owls Hostels Shibuya, Tokyo

The lively, neon-draped Shibuya neighbourhood is not known for good budget accommodation, so this hostel with private rooms, a female-only room with bunks and mixed capsule-style dorms is especially welcome. It’s simple and functional, with communal kitchens, laundry areas and bathrooms, a good-value organic restaurant and vending machines. And it’s convenient for the creative Nakameguro quarter, whose fashion boutiques, cafes and design studios around the canal make for some fun hanging out.


In Kagawa Prefecture, away from the big cities and tourist haunts, this is rather different: a hotel within a museum filled with painting, sculpture, photography and installations, and designed by Tadao Ando. With a minimalist design using concrete, wood and glass, don’t expect grandiose bedrooms: these are relatively small and simple, yet possess lovely sea views and display original artworks, as do public areas, grounds and the surrounding area. The restaurant continues the minimalist theme, and serves a French-inspired menu. Sadly, the accommodation and dinner costs are far from minimalist.

Tucked away down a side street in Higashiyama, Sowaka blends the peaceful, traditional comforts of an old style ryokan with the swishest features of a modern boutique hotel. Mere steps from the historic geisha district of Gion, Sowaka also boasts its own gorgeous Japanese-style garden and La Bombance Gion – an on-site restaurant headed up by a Michelin-starred team from La Bombance’s estab in Tokyo.


The Shinmonzen was designed by Tadao Ando, one of the world’s most celebrated architects, and you can really tell just how painstakingly each element was deliberated and pored over. The nine suites here have several themes, from those that are more directly inspired by traditional ryokan (with tatami floors and the like) to others accented by bamboo and stone. Each room is simply so calming and pleasing to the eye, all while also offering balcony views out over an equally serene, soothing river.

St. Regis Osaka

This stylish, comfortable hotel is in the smart Midosuji district – the ‘Champs Elysées of Osaka’ – and therefore ideal for shopping, the train station, the trendy Shinsaibashi and the Namba nightlife neighbourhoods. With a stunning Zen rooftop champagne garden, smart Italian restaurant, French-style cafe and elegant bar, spa and gym, topped by luxurious rooms with neutral decor, Nespresso machines and fine city views, it’s a top choice for stays in Osaka. Don’t miss the signature Shogun Mary cocktail, the Osaka take on the original Bloody Mary created in 1934 at the first St Regis Hotel in New York.


If you didn’t know about the Treeful Treehouse’s seriously impressive sustainable credentials, you’d still think it was a totally spectacular place to stay. Consisting, as you can probably guess, of tree houses in the Okinawan jungle, Treeful combines eco-friendliness with a bucketload of cozy luxury. Using composting loos and water from a well, Treeful is all designed to minimize the impact on the habitat below – and actually claims to be carbon negative, meaning that it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces.

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