Japan is a country that has perfected a complex blend of tradition and modernity on many levels. If you’re planning a trip to Japan in 2017, finding a hotel or ryokan (旅館; traditional Japanese guest house) that reflects both traditional and modern aspects of Japanese culture, history and architecture is one of the best ways of guaranteeing an authentic Japanese experience.
Based on rankings from 2016, membership based booking site Relux has compiled a list of the top 10 hotels and ryokan in Kanto (関東) and Koshinetsu (甲信越). The Kanto and Koshinetsu regions’ proximity to Tokyo (東京) means you have no excuse not to get out of the city for a few days to experience a fascinating and luxurious side of Japan. These hotels and ryokan all offer open-air hot baths and have all been carefully selected with the guarantee that they are not only popular among visitors but tick off over 100 criteria which ensure the highest quality of service.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect place to stay for a special occasion or the chance to make your trip to Japan as special as it can be, a stay at one of these 10 hotels and ryokan will ensure that you experience the trip of a lifetime.
Last, but most certainly not least, is Kinugawa Kanaya Hotel (鬼怒川金谷ホテル) which is found in Tochigi prefecture (栃木県). A two-hour trip north of Tokyo will throw you head first into the wonderful countryside of “the villa of valleys”. A look out of any Kinugawa Kanaya Hotel window will greet your eyes with a feast of colourful rolling hills and the nearby Kinugawa River (鬼怒川). Appreciate nature in all its glory from the steaming waters of the hotel’s open-air baths or settle inside with the aromas of ancient cypress.
The hotel boasts a perfect melange of Japanese lifestyle and design with modern aspects from the west which result in classic western furniture set alongside impeccably designed Japanese architecture.
The cuisine is also of the highest standard with the added benefit of housing chocolatier John Canaya giving you access to exquisite luxury chocolates which are only made more delicious when paired with the restaurant’s liquors and coffee. Complete your evening with a trip to the cigar salon or for more relaxation at the beauty salon.
Tobira Onsen Myojinkan (扉温泉 明神館) has been a favourite among locals for almost a century with this impressive hot bath-ryokan being built in 1931. The ryokan is found a little way out of Tokyo in Nagano (長野), a prefecture which is known for being home to the Japanese Alps (日本アルプス). As a result, this ryokan has a homely feel that gives you the feeling of entering a villa on a ski resort.
Myojinkan is sure to appeal to those who are conscious of their health and the environment thanks to its fully organic menu which has all been created from locally produced pesticide-free vegetables. The complimentary dinner served up at the ryokan comes in three different styles: kaiseki (懐石), which consists of a variety of small traditional Japanese dishes; a creative modern Japanese dish; or a French course.
There are two options for spas at the hotel with the Tobira Onsen (扉温泉) for outdoor hot baths as well as the Setsugekka (雪月花), which is a standing bath which allows you to appreciate the healing effects of the hot water to your waist and the refreshing breeze. The aroma room also offers phytotherapy which uses natural herbal medicine.
Fontaine Bleau Sengokutei (オーベルジュ 箱根フォンテーヌ・ブロー仙石亭) lies at the base of Mt. Hakone in Japan’s Kanagawa prefecture. As the name suggests, this hotel has taken inspiration from the French region Fontainebleau, thanks to the hotel’s surrounding nature being reminiscent of the magnificent Fontainebleau forest.
Each room at the Fountaine Bleau Sengokutei is fitted with a private spa along with spectacular views of the luscious scenery from the expanse of windows. With a focus on health and relaxation, all of the cosmetics provided in the hotel are made from organic ingredients. Staying faithful to its name, the hotel restaurant serves up an appetising array of French cuisine which has been carefully married with elements of Japanese gastronomy.
For anyone that’s a fan of the sea, sand and ocean breeze Beachside Onsen Resort Yuumi (Beachside Onsen Resort ゆうみ) will most probably come in at number one for you. Minamiboso City (南房総市) in Chiba prefecture (千葉県) is just a one and a half hour train ride from Tokyo making it an ideal spot for those wanting to appreciate some of Japan’s beautiful coast without venturing too far out of Tokyo.
This resort is in the perfect location with the beach right on its doorstep and an additional terrace area to appreciate it from. All the rooms, both traditional Japanese and modern western styles offer spectacular ocean views that will take your breath away from sunrise to sunset.
The many hot baths are all private with a variety to choose from whether you’d like a private spa attached to your room or an outdoor jacuzzi overlooking the sea and sand ahead of you. The restaurant’s menu is naturally heavily seafood based with an incredible array of Japanese dishes to choose from.
Originally the villa of one of the most powerful families in Japan, the Mitsui (三井) family, Hakone Suishouen (箱根・翠松園) is now one of Kanagawa prefecture’s most renowned ryokan. With greenery on offer at every turn of the head, this setting is a feast for the eyes and the perfect place for a serene and relaxing stay.
The variety among the 23 bedrooms on offer at this traditional ryokan gives you the option to choose what suits your tastes, all with the promise of an excellent night’s sleep in the pristine and blissfully comfortable beds.
The hotel’s restaurant serves up delicious authentic Japanese cuisine including sashimi (刺身) and teppanyaki (鉄板焼き) and head to the bar later in the night to sample their carefully selected wines from around the world and alters its menu to fit the season.
The Inn of Excellence Shoubun (蛍雪の宿 尚文), found in the rural town of Minakami (みなかみ) in Gunma prefecture (群馬県), is the place to go for those in need of ultimate relaxation. Incredible nature envelopes the ryokan with plenty of viewing spots to appreciate the seasonal transformations of Japan’s countryside and the rising and lowering of the nearby Tone River (利根川).
As well as the option to soak your muscles in the beautiful open-air baths, some rooms boast their own private baths, both half open-air and indoor rock baths. For foodies, one of the main draws of this inn will most certainly be the authentic Okutone (奥利根) cuisine which is all prepared with locally sourced ingredients. With the option to have breakfast, dinner or both included you are sure to get a taste of some of the most exquisitely prepared Japanese dishes.
Found in the Yamanashi prefecture (山梨県), the Bessho SASA (富士山温泉 別墅然然) hotel ticks off several boxes with its traditional appearance and its proximity to the unconquerable Mt. Fuji (富士山). Each comfortable room opens up onto an immaculate wooden terrace, fit with an outdoor hot bath, all overlooking the spectacular views of Mt. Fuji and its surrounding countryside.
As the scenery changes with the seasons, the kitchen’s inventions transform with a chance to taste traditional Japanese dishes specific to that time of the year. Enjoy a cup of the nation’s much-loved matcha (抹茶) tea which you can find in the hotel’s sophisticated chashitsu (茶室; tea room).
You can also wade on over to the public outdoor baths whose natural healing properties are said to relieve muscle aches and even chronic pain and illnesses. For further treatments, you can also take a trip to the beauty salon.
Tucked away in a valley at the foot of the towering Mt. Hakone (箱根山) lies Oku Yugawara Yui (奥湯河原 結唯 -YUI-), a ryokan and attaching open-air baths with a long and illustrious history. This traditional guest house is beautiful inside and out with both the rooms and the exterior displaying impressive Japanese architecture.
The abundance of natural water and minerals in the area created the Oku Yugawara hot springs 1,300 years ago, which puts them on the top of the list for the oldest springs in Kanto. Previously a popular destination for some of Japan’s most reputable writers, the ryokan and baths ambiance prove to be both relaxing and inspiring. If you’re looking for a view from above, enjoy the scenery from comfortable indoor baths found on the fourth floor of the guest house.
This ryokan is as authentic as it gets with all rooms in the traditional Japanese style including tatami (畳) flooring and chabudai (ちゃぶ台; traditional Japanese low tables). You will also be provided with two delicious meals per day during your stay. Whatever time of year you plan to visit the ryokan, this is the ideal spot to experience Japan’s four dramatic seasons in full flow.
Just a few hours northwest out of Tokyo and you’ll find yourself in Gunma prefecture (群馬県) surrounded by luscious mountains and clean air. The Bettei Senjuan (別邸 仙寿庵) ryokan is based at the bottom of the immense Mt. Tanigawa (谷川岳), a unique setting which provides this ryokan with a charm that is unbeatable by any city accommodation.
Not only can the stunning views be appreciated from your bedroom window but also from the comfort of open-air hot springs which truly complete the experience of being out in nature.
There is a wide selection of rooms to suit your needs: Japanese-style, Western-style or a fusion of the two. With breakfast and dinner included, you will also have the chance to match the stunning setting with a choice of high-quality cuisine. Finish off the evening with a massage, salon treatment or foot bath and you won’t be questioning why Bettei Senjuan is one of the most highly celebrated ryokan in Japan.
Kanagawa prefecture (神奈川県) is proudly home to 2016’s number 1 hotel, Gora Hanaougi Madokano-mori (強羅花扇 円かの杜). Nestled in the heart of Hakone (箱根) Forest, this hotel epitomises the meeting of people with nature. Relaxing in your room’s private outdoor hot bath gives you the chance to feel at one with nature while finding an inner peace that is hard to find in the busy city.
If the visuals weren’t breathtaking enough, the hotel’s cuisine will complete your sensory journey. Enjoy the taste of traditional Kyoto (京都) dishes, notably the mouth-watering Hida beef (飛騨牛), fresh seafood from Sagami Bay (相模湾) and locally grown vegetables. Gora Hanaougi Madokano-mori’s authenticity is proven by its popularity among locals with some Japanese families visiting for special celebrations. With the perfect setting, incredible food on offer and the hotel’s clean and comfortable atmosphere, it’s no surprise that this glorious hotel was voted the people’s favourite.
To experience the true beauty of Japanese nature on a relaxing break that you deserve, these top-rated hotels and ryokan are unbeatable. Open-air hot baths, privacy and impeccable hospitality make this the perfect getaway for those looking for some peace and quiet.
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