Six hotels in Japan we can’t wait to check in to
From mountain retreats to big-city stays, these are the hotels we’re dreaming about right now.
Words by Ute Junker
Ace Hotel, Kyoto
Kyoto might seem an odd location for the first Asian outpost of Ace Hotels, the US hotel group with a distinct rock-n-roll edge. However, the new Ace Hotel Kyoto melds eastern and western influences thanks to the design talents of cult Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and LA’s Commune Design. The interiors showcase the talents of around 50 traditional Kyoto artisans – including the 97-year-old textile master Samiro Yunoki – and take inspiration from the traditional machiya houses. Mesh screens filter the breezes from the courtyard gardens, and the in-house restaurants include Mr Maurice’s Italian and the PIOPIKO taco lounge.
Kengo Kuma is a busy man. Among the recent additions to his portfolio – which include The Exchange in Sydney – is One@Tokyo, a boutique hotel located right by the Tokyo Skytree. Behind the sharp angles of the wooden façade, the industrial interiors feature concrete floors and plenty of plywood, and rooms that range in size from compact studios to spacious lofts. Our favourite features are the vending machines that offer green tea, coffee, water and juices, and the smartphone in each room that gives guests free internet access as well as free calls to local numbers and selected international destinations. The rooftop terrace, with its up-close view of the Tokyo Skytree, is another highlight.
KAI Sengokuhara, Hakone
Just two hours from Tokyo, Hakone draws visitors with its hot springs and its scenic mountain setting, which includes amazing views of Mount Fuji when the weather is right. KAI Sengokura, part of the Hoshino Resorts luxury portfolio, is designed to treat its guests to big doses of both, with glass walls that put the forested slopes front-and-centre, and private hot spring onsen baths on the balcony of each room. Each of the 16 rooms is also filled with eye-catching art, created by local artists during a series of pre-opening residences.
Azumi Setoda, Ikuchijima
Having founded one of the world’s most highly-regarded resort brands, you might forgive Adrian Zecha if he decided it was time to take things easy. Instead of relaxing, however, the Aman Resorts founder is back with a new brand, Azumi, and a new mandate – to use hospitality to help revive regional communities. The first outpost is located on scenic Ikuchijima island on the Seto Island Sea. Azumi Setoda reinvents the traditional ryokan, featuring a hinoki cypress wooden bathtub in each room. The hotel also has its own bath house, Yubune, where you will find a series of hot tubs as well as a sauna.
Give the spectacular setting looking out across the Annupuri ranges and Mount Yotei – not to mention a reputation for Japan’s best powder snow – it’s no wonder that the design of the sleek, chic Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono is all about bringing the outdoors in. Add in a ski valet service, a collection of mouthwatering restaurants delivering everything from French to Chinese to Italian cuisine, and a range of year-round outdoor activities, and you have a mountain resort that caters to all tastes.
Trunk House, Tokyo
Tokyo’s most exclusive hotel offers private chefs, 24-hour butler service – and just one room. From the outside, Trunk House is a slice of old Tokyo, a wooden house with a stone genkan entrance and a pine tree by the gate. Inside, however, it’s a distinctive mix of the modern – think designer furniture and open kitchen – and the traditional, including a tatami mat area for tea ceremonies. The quirkiest feature is the “World’s Smallest Disco”, which has an illuminated dance floor and a state-of-the-art karaoke machine. When you need a break from dancing, your butlers will mix up your favourite cocktail.