By Tiffany Ryes, International Banker
For a unique getaway that is sure to defy expectations, head to the Pearl of the Orient known as Japan. An ultra-high-tech country that is still amazingly steeped in its time-honoured traditions, you’ll find Japan to be a land of amazing contrasts. Here you can expect to find the world’s fastest bullet trains and most state-of-the-art gadgets right alongside Shinto shrines and samurai swords. You can catch a glimpse of the country’s most cutting-edge contemporary cultures in its busiest districts, or simply enjoy a quaint and quiet zen moment enjoying a ramen or two in a traditional ryokan.
This juxtaposition of Japan’s rich history and vibrant energy is all woven together by superb food and picturesque landscapes, and the best way to experience all of what Japan has to offer is to book nothing less than a luxury Japanese getaway in one of these fabulous locations.
Suiran-A Luxury Collection Hotel (Kyoto)
Tucked alongside the peaceful Hozu River and amidst the breathtaking Arashiyama hills, Suiran—A Luxury Collection Hotel in Kyoto offers a Japanese experience that is truly relaxing and inspiring. The hotel is located in Arashiyama, in the western part of Kyoto. This location provides guests easy access to the district’s most distinguished attractions, such as the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Togetsu Bridge, Monkey Park and one of Kyoto’s five great Zen temples, Tenryuji Temple.
Still, guests will find themselves going back to the district’s gem, Suiran itself. They can bask in the sun alongside the Katsuma River, surrounded by dainty Japanese pines. They can also lounge in one of the 39 rooms, including four suites, that all manage to provide privacy and intimacy without losing that unique Japanese hospitality. Every spacious room combines the finest comforts of modern living with that unmistakable Japanese aesthetic. Heavenly Simmons beds and high-tech appliances such as flat-screen televisions feel right at home inside a traditional ryokan setting. Tatami mat floors, black-lacquered furniture, wood-textured walls and a clean, minimalist theme create the makings of a truly zen experience. And if that’s not all, each room offers open-air, hot-spring baths in a cedar onsenthat provides the perfect way to cap off each day in Suiran, while listening to the faint, nearby sounds of the rushing river or the trickling falls.
Truly, this Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel combines the best of both worlds in perfect harmony—the modern delights offered by Japanese design and technology combined with the richly historic culture that is uniquely Japan.
Amanemu (Ise-Shima National Park)
A study in minimalistic elegance that is unmistakably Japanese, the celebrated Aman chain of hotel’s latest gem, Amanemu, is a must-visit for discerning travellers. This hotel, located right in the heart of the Ise-Shima National Park on the southern coast of Honshu, is built around natural hot springs, celebrating the well-loved and time-honoured tradition of the onsen. A visit to Amanemu is an unfolding of a promise of relaxation, rejuvenation and inspiration. From the spacious, minimalist rooms that showcase its natural materials and genuine Japanese aesthetic, to the picturesque views of the lush forest and Ago Bay, guests can feel harmony and tranquillity.
Still, true to Aman’s exacting standards, Amanemu’s accommodations are meticulously planned. The 24 spacious suites and four two-bedroom villas offer peaceful, well-appointed sanctuaries that spill out to the private onsens and lush gardens. The low-tiled roofs, bare cedar walls and natural-hued furniture feature the Minka aesthetic.
Rounding up the hotel’s holistic approach, Amanemu’s 2,000-square-meter spa also offers natural spa treatments along the therapeutic and mineral-rich outdoor communal hot spring. And, of course, there’s the restaurant offering a feast for the senses. It serves authentic regional cuisine, showcasing the finest wagyu beef paired with the best saké. But perhaps the highlight of this hotel’s dining experience is the Hachiman-Kamado, a place where 75-year-old female shell divers can cook you freshly caught seafood delicacies.
St Regis (Osaka)
Lined by fabulous ginkgo trees, Midosuji in Osaka is one of Japan’s most popular streets. After all, it’s referred to as the Champs-Élysées of the Orient. Midosuji is indeed an enviable address, and travellers with discriminating tastes can find themselves right at home in this stretch as they stay in the exquisite St Regis hotel. St Regis Osaka, a five-star hotel awarded Five Red Pavilions by Michelin Guides, offers superlative luxury hospitality. From its lavish contemporary décor, well-appointed rooms, top-notch amenities and exceptional butler service, St Regis can feel like a luxury home away from home in the middle of the bustling city of Osaka.
The modern room, complete with remote-control curtains, ultra-plush bed, strategically located furniture and high-end comforts, offers a stunning view of Midosuji. The spacious bathroom, fitted with black-marble counters and floors, is a luxury within Japan’s cramped spaces. It’s complete with a large jetted tub and a separate shower complete with in-wall TV. Meanwhile, the bedroom is a soothing contrast with its neutral, muted tones.
While St Regis’ design is more contemporary, the hotel still harks back to its time-honoured roots with evening shows featuring traditional performances at the Pavilion. In the morning, this area in the middle of the hotel showcases a calming zen garden. The hotel offers afternoon tea and cocktails served in the lounge or in the comfort of the guests’ suites, as well as a sumptuous champagne brunch. The restaurant, La Veduta, offers superb Italian cuisine.
Park Hyatt Tokyo (Tokyo)
Tokyo takes the boutique-hotel concept to another level with Park Hyatt Tokyo. Guests who want an invitingly over-the-top experience can expect to be treated like royalty in the hotel, right from the moment they receive their room keys in sterling-silver key rings. Opened in 1994, the Park Hyatt is one of the first ultra-modern hotels in the district. This legendary hotel, which is the subject and setting of the film Lost in Translation, occupies the 39th to 52nd floors of a glass skyscraper designed by renowned Kenzo Tange. There’s also a hotel delicatessen to welcome guests at the ground floor.
Meanwhile, the 177 flawless John Morford-designed rooms boast of clean lines and serene neutral colours with subtle green accents. The soft, enormous beds are clad in Egyptian cotton, while the floor-to-ceiling glass walls afford a breathtaking view of the Shinjuku skyline. Select rooms face Mount Fuji, providing a spectacular sight. Aesop amenities pamper guests as they relax in the indulgent soaking tub, which also has sweeping vistas of the ultra-modern cosmopolitan.
The urban spa, Club on the Park, has a wide range of treatments, one of which is the famous Tokyo Massage. The hotel also has a swimming pool, gym and aerobics studio. For restaurants, guests have a wide array of options to enjoy superb dining. Treats in the French-inspired restaurant Girandole, exquisitely traditional eats at Kozue, cheery cocktails at the glass-roofed Peak Lounge, or the East-meets-West mash-ups of the New York Grill, where seared Kobe beefsteaks are a must.
Overall, a trip to Japan is not complete without being captivated by its landscapes, cityscapes, cuisine, people, technologies, traditions and occasional quirks. It is indeed a country of contrasts that is worth exploring, providing a memorably authentic and immersive experience that is tough to beat. As for luxury accommodations, Japan is not short of those, offering different features that are sure to capture anyone’s fancy.