T here is no shortage of upscale accommodation in Japan — there is so much, in fact, that it can be impossible to choose. We’ve selected three captivating hotels that stand out in service, style and setting to inspire you ahead of your next adventure.
1. Okcs Retreat Setouchi Aonagi, Ehime Prefecture
With only seven suite rooms, Okcs Retreat Setouchi Aonagi is a coveted luxury destination for the select few. Renowned architect Tadao Ando designed this minimalistic concrete masterpiece, which was originally an art museum. Perched atop a mountain overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, the hotel seamlessly slots into its surroundings. Art lovers and architecture aficionados will appreciate the nature-inspired art pieces and floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as the hotel’s overall daring design. Though it offers easy access to popular destinations such as Dogo Onsen, Onomichi and Matsuyama Castle, guests will likely want to stay onsite. After all, when everything you need is in one place — including a spa, a hot spring jacuzzi and an infinity pool — there is no reason to leave.
2. Iizukatei, Tochigi Prefecture
The only tangible cultural property in eastern Japan to be renovated into lodgings open to the public, a stay at Iizukatei is an exclusive experience. Traditional Meiji-era houses — including a few kura storehouses — have been refurbished into luxurious and spacious accommodations to call home for a night, a week, or even longer. Historic accents are preserved where possible and enhanced by modern amenities to offer guests the freedom of preparing their own food. Naturally, the hotel is happy to provide locally sourced sustenance if requested. Using their extensive connections with Nakagawa-machi residents, Iizukatei staff organize encounters with locals at farmhouses and offer guidance to explore artisanal Koisago ware pottery studios, art forests and museums in the area.
3. Kishi-ke, Kanagawa Prefecture
Embrace the spirit of Zen with a memorable stay at Kishi-ke , a private oceanside resort in the ancient city of Kamakura. Chisoku, a Zen Buddhist concept of contentment, is the ryokan’s guiding precept. Every element — from the manicured landscape garden to the blend of contemporary and traditional touches — contributes to the feeling of being separated from the outside world. With a maximum of one group per night, guests can expect personalized service and curated experiences. Zen mindfulness sessions, tea ceremony practices and katana swordsmanship lessons are just some of the activities that can be arranged. For dinner, guests can dine at one of Kamakura’s fine eateries or invite a private chef to prepare a meal onsite. Top off the evening by watching the sun sink into the ocean from the rooftop balcony, before slipping into the ryokan’s hinoki cypress bath. As it fills, the natural wood imbues the bathroom with an intoxicating earthy aroma to soothe both mind and body.