One of the most profound experiences a traveler to Japan can have is an encounter with omotenashi, the country’s legendary approach to hospitality rooted in mindful care for someone else without expecting anything in return. Hotels and inns are one of the most all-encompassing ways to experience this singular part of Japanese culture.
With this in mind, we’ve carefully chosen the 15 retreats across the country that showcase the best lodgings Japan has to offer today. From a modern palace in an urban skyscraper to a traditional rural ryokan, or inn, the top hotels in Japan each immerse travelers in the places they’re visiting, often in less discovered regions. They also offer guests their own takes on omotenashi at every turn.
In no particular order, here are our picks for the 15 best hotels in Japan.
1. Aman Tokyo
Having become famous for its retreats in sublime natural settings, Aman Resorts made its urban debut in 2014 with Aman Tokyo, which delivers the brand’s imaginative cultural experiences and superlative service to the center of Japan’s capital. Elevators open onto a 33rd-floor lobby with a soaring atrium and a seasonal ikebana flower arrangement that floats over a reflecting pool. The 84 guest rooms, inspired by traditional Japanese ryokans and designed by Singapore-based Kerry Hill Architects, are among the city’s largest entry-level accommodations. They’re a minimalist’s dream, with chestnut floors, sliding shoji screens, floor-to-ceiling windows, and large stone furo soaking tubs worth clearing an entire afternoon for. The spa, which has onsen-style baths and a 90-foot pool with city views, offers treatments that embrace Japan’s traditional herb-based Kampo healing philosophy.
2. Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Occupying the top nine floors of the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, designed by renowned Argentine architect César Pelli, the Mandarin Oriental showcases postcard views of Mount Fuji to the west, Tokyo Skytree and the Sumida River to the east, and Tokyo Bay to the south. The hotel also turns to nature for its design inspiration. The property itself resembles a tree, with its entrance at the bottom of the tower representing the base; on the top floor, fabrics and carpets suggest leaves and branches, creating the feeling of a forest canopy. The 157 rooms and 22 suites were designed with such flourishes as bonsai trees and cherry blossom motifs. At the 37th floor spa, a signature “Totally Tokyo” treatment uses pine, bamboo, plum, green tea, and rice hulls to stimulate the senses and restore a sense of clarity. For dinner, choose between French, Cantonese, and Italian restaurants.
Established in 1818, this heritage Kyoto ryokan has been run like a sacred temple by six generations of the Nishimura family. Consider it a sanctuary where you can fully immerse yourself in the traditional Japanese inn experience—think low-slung lacquer tables, sliding fusuma doors, multi-course kaiseki meals, and pristine white shoji screens. Watch Japanese white-eye birds flit through the private camelia garden; bundle up in your yukata to dine in-room on abalone with miso egg yolk sauce and sea urchin chawanmushi (a savory egg custard) served on Kiyomizu ceramics; and drink a nightcap of sake before sinking into the freshly laid tatami mat in one of property’s 28 rooms.
4. Aman Kyoto
The location itself is a major selling point: 80 acres of serene forest in the foothills of Mount Daimonji, 30 minutes from Kyoto Station and 5 minutes by car from Kyoto’s famous Kinkaku-ji temple. Here, Aman Kyoto’s 26 modern suites stretch across an old river bed blanketed in emerald. The forest is punctuated with native maples, cedars, and blue oaks, an ideal setting for forest bathing excursions. Much of the property was built with materials from the surrounding woods—cypress soaking tubs, heated stone bathroom floors, and bamboo dividers whose clean minimalist lines and varied textures offer a restorative setting.
Location: Hanase, Kyoto Prefecture
Getting to Miyamasou is an experience unto itself. The hour-long drive from Kyoto on a narrow road passes Japanese cedar forests, small towns, temples, and shrines. The ryokan is famous for its two Michelin-starred, multicourse kaiseki dinners that showcase ingredients from the forest like gingko nuts and carp sashimi from a nearby river. After a hot bath in heated mountain spring water, guests dine in their yukatas in private rooms. The five immaculate tatami-floored accommodations feature sliding doors that lead out to terraces that hang over a rushing river, whose sound lulls guests to sleep at night. Book well in advance, given the inn’s diminutive size and outsize reputation.
6. Kayotei Ryokan
There’s a reason why renowned chefs like Eric Ripert have visited Yamanaka, a hot springs town in Honshu’s seaside Ishikawa prefecture: to make a pilgrimage to Kayotei Ryokan, a 10-room private inn with onsen baths fed by natural mineral springs from the ground below it. Here, multi-course kaiseki meals are prepared mostly with the surrounding agricultural area’s organic produce, from the fish to the tofu. Every ingredient has a story: The rice maker uses ducks for pest and weed control in lieu of chemicals, and the midwinter nori, or seaweed, is harvested by brave souls who face the large waves and slippery rocks along the coast. Book one of the tatami-floored rooms with a private onsen, and be sure to check out the impressive collection of antique tansu scrolls and pottery throughout the retreat.
7. Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Located at the base of the laid-back Niseko Annupuri ski resort, the ski-in, ski-out Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, makes hitting the slopes easy with onsite gear rental, lesson booking, and lift pass sales in the lobby. It also offers priority access to a high-speed gondola leading to 70 runs and 2,191 acres of skiable terrain. The 50 guest rooms feature oversize windows that face either Mount Yōtei (Niseko’s symmetrical Mount Fuji) or the forested piste, which is just as lovely in summer when international ski bunnies depart and domestic visitation increases. A slate-clad ofuro tub in the bathroom offers a tranquil soak with a view, but is no match for the spa’s indoor and outdoor thermal baths, which feel restorative any time of year.
8. Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono
Park Hyatts in Japan are not only next level, they’re arguably the most Japanese of the international chains in the country, with generous touches of omotenashi throughout. Opened in 2020, Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono’s 100 spacious rooms—including 28 suites, each with a private onsen—occupy four separate buildings and overlook the Annupuri range. The spa is surrounded by a stream and hemmed by birch trees. It includes a pool and a tattoo-friendly onsen—a rarity in Japan, where tattoos are often still found to be taboo. Accommodations feature deep soaking tubs, oversize beds, huge walk-in closets for storing bulky winter luggage, and sofas that convert to an extra bed for families or small groups. Close to a dozen restaurants are on offer, including a deli, sushi counter, cozy charcoal-grill robata, and French-Japanese teppanyaki, not to mention a private karaoke dining room. Onsite ski valet services pamper powder pilgrims, while an early-bird First Tracks program with the general manager himself gets you on the piste before it opens. Summer activities bookable onsite include everything from golf and zip-lining to cycling, rafting, and excursions to the National Ainu Museum, which showcases the culture of the Ainu people.
9. Kai Beppu
Opened in 2021, this 70-room oceanfront retreat is located in Beppu, just 90 minutes from Fukuoka on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu. Designed by the celebrated Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the structure is cloaked in sho sugi ban, a method of charring cedar so it doesn’t burn. Like many properties in Beppu, guests come for the restorative onsen, which takes many forms here—private balcony ofuro tubs, a landscaped ground-level onsen, and a hanging glassy infinity footbath, all high in hydrogen carbonate to help soften skin. Inspired by onsen towns, Kai Beppu features an in-house street food market and nightly performances of a rhythmic onsen jug band—a true “only in Japan” experience.
10. Hoshinoya Taketomi
This small southern Okinawan island, part of the Ryukyu archipelago, is a tropical escape that’s home to Hoshinoya Taketomi. The resort’s 48 spacious villas feature red roofs carved with Shisa lion figurines, and they cluster around a breezy dune made of coral sand. Accommodations feature large soaking tubs, day beds that let in refreshing breezes, and stone walls that offer extra privacy. Kick back with a fresh shikuwasa juice, made from a native citrus, and enjoy plucky Okinawan music sessions and walks along the white-sand Kaji Beach, known for its star shaped grains of sand. Cool down in the hot afternoon by doing laps in the long sunken oval pool, also alluring at night when the Iriomote Dark Sky Reserve glitters overhead.
11. Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei
Location: Kinosaki Onsen
The charming seaside town of Kinosaki Onsen, home to Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei, lies 2.5 hours northwest of Kyoto, and is set along the willow-lined Otani-gawa River. The eighth-century town’s seven mystical-feeling onsen each have their own individual appeal, and it’s common to hear the sound of wooden geta sandals on the pavement, worn by visitors who are hopping from onsen to onsen. But the most dramatic onsen in town is Nishimuraya’s private cedar-lined one, which overlooks a windswept bamboo gorge and is ideal for couples and families who want privacy, or tattooed travelers who can’t access many public onsen. The 32 accommodations were built in the Sukiya style modeled after tea houses, and have wooden terraces, sliding screens, and big windows facing Japanese gardens with karikomi, sculpted shrubs and trees.
12. Azumi Setoda
Location: Ikuchijima Island
Ikuchijima Island is famous for its lemons and Shimanami Kaido cycle route. And leave it to Adrien Zecha, founder of Aman Hotels, to create an entirely new reason to come here: Azumi Setoda, a retreat in the 146-year-old former home of the island’s prominent Horiuchi family. For the 22-room minimalist inn, which is located in the town of Setoda, he hired Kyoto-based architect Shiro Miura. The retreat captures the languorous mood of the Seto Inland Sea, while still offering proximity to the area’s famed art islands, including Naoshima with its famous yellow pumpkin installation by Yayoi Kusama. Curved roof tiles, exposed beams, and a courtyard with a cherry tree offer a taste of Old Japan. The guest rooms feature rice paper screens, cypress wood bathtubs, and gardens that face a landscaped courtyard, while the community bathhouse across the street is complimentary for guests.
13. Simose Art Garden Villas, Hiroshima
A new art complex and resort on the Seto Inland Sea in Otake, which is part of the Hiroshima prefecture, opened in April 2023 near Miyajima’s UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine. The constellation of buildings are the work of Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Shigeru Ban. Four of the 10 villas date back to the 1990s and were rebuilt here this year and include Le Corbusier-inspired structures with colorful Mondrian panels. Five new waterside villas use an Austrian lightweight Kielsteg design featuring sliding wooden panels with key holes to let in light, while two rooms have deep cypress ofuru tubs. A glass-walled French restaurant and a mirrored museum featuring floating and glowing gallery modules, both designed by Ban, are open to the public, but museum access is exclusive and free to guests in the evenings and mornings.
14. Fufu Kawaguchiko
It’s hard to top the Mount Fuji views at this contemporary-feeling boutique hotel, which opened in 2018 in the wine country town of Kawaguchiko, about two hours southwest from Tokyo by bullet train. The 32 guest rooms have giant glass windows that face serene Lake Kawaguchi that lies about three miles away, and all have private balcony onsen tubs made with Fuji lava stone. The setting gets extra cozy with outdoor firepits and cashmere throws. The onsite restaurant pairs local wine with such seasonal dishes as Fuji Sakura Pork seared on lava stone with blueberry butter.
15. Conrad Osaka
Occupying the 33rd to 40th floors of the Festival Tower West skyscraper, the silver and walnut interiors of the 164-room Conrad Osaka offer a stylish sanctuary amid Osaka’s never-ending bustle. Hilton’s service-forward premium brand stands over the city’s bustling Nakanoshima neighborhood and is home to a collection of 389 contemporary works of art. Sprawling rooms feature cherry-red lacquer wall flourishes, while the sobagara pillows, traditional Japanese buckwheat husk pillows, add some traditional flair. Don’t miss a trip to the spa, where the wellness menu includes such treatments as baths infused with sake and yuzu.