The best hotels in Japan
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.