Japan’s Best Hotels & Ryokans

In today’s Japan Travel Q&A we answer a question about Japan’s best hotels and ryokans from Raquel in Irvine, California:

“When I travel I usually like to stay in boutique hotels. What are some of the best hotels in Tokyo, and Japan?”

Don’t feel like watching a video? Read below for today’s answer!

Great question, Raquel. Japan has so many remarkable hotels and ryokans (traditional inns) that keeping this list short was a challenge.

We’ve included a selection of our favorite luxury and boutique hotels and ryokans in Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as a few in other parts of Japan.

Keep in mind that the “best” hotel is ultimately one that matches your personal travel style and needs, so what may be the perfect hotel for one traveler may not quite be right for another.

With this in mind we hope our list — including both small boutique properties and larger luxury hotels — helps you decide which will best suit you, and that you find some new favorites here!

Luxury & Boutique Hotels in Tokyo

Aman Tokyo resort guest room japan

Guest room at Aman Tokyo Resort

Tokyo is a hotel lover’s dream, full of properties that will make you want to simply stay in your room and enjoy the view.

It’s blessed with some top-notch luxury properties, and one thing they all have in common is impeccable service (Japanese hospitality is always a highlight).

We’ll begin by listing some of our favorite larger luxury hotels in Tokyo, and then give special mention to two smaller boutique hotels as well.

Aman Tokyo

A true urban resort, Aman Tokyo is the city’s newest and most exciting top-end property. With only 84 rooms and suites, Aman offers the perfect combination of luxury and intimacy.

Featuring an unbelievably spacious lobby with stunning views over the Imperial Palace and all of Tokyo, Aman’s guest rooms are also extremely spacious, with roomy suites and the largest entry-level rooms in the city.

Enjoy the resort from your beautiful room or suite, unwind by the stunning pool, rejuvenate in the luxuriant spa or partake in tea or cocktails while looking out onto the Palace grounds, Shinjuku’s skyscrapers and – on clear days – Mount Fuji in the distance.

More of Our Favorite Tokyo Luxury Hotels:

Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo Signature Restaurant

Signature Restaurant, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

  • Conrad Tokyo: Conrad Tokyo features modern and spacious rooms, fantastic views of Tokyo Bay and the glittering skyline, and truly warm service.
  • Andaz Tokyo: Tokyo’s most stylish new hotel, Andaz offers beautiful views, complimentary extras (such as wine in the evenings) and a convenient location in the brand-new Toranomon Hills complex.
  • Palace Hotel Tokyo: Palace Hotel Tokyo (newly renovated and reopened in 2012) features bright, elegant rooms with balconies overlooking the Imperial Palace gardens, and an incredibly-central location very near Tokyo Station.
  • The Peninsula Tokyo: A perennial favorite among connoisseurs, The Peninsula Tokyo features spacious rooms, delicious cuisine, and an ultra-convenient location within walking distance of the excellent Ginza neighborhood.
  • Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo: Another favorite among hotel lovers, Tokyo’s Mandarin Oriental features attractive rooms with a Japanese touch, sweeping views, and a location in the traditional and dynamic Nihonbashi neighborhood.
  • Park Hyatt Tokyo: With a unique location in western Tokyo’s neon-filled Shinjuku neighborhood, Park Hyatt Tokyo offers impeccable service, spacious rooms and sweeping views of the city (best enjoyed over whisky at the New York Bar).

While not boutique hotels, each of these luxury hotels features a great combination of style, service and comfort.

But if you prefer something smaller, you might like the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi below.

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi is a true luxury boutique hotel, with just 57 rooms and suites, but most of the amenities you would expect at a world-class luxury hotel.

Rooms are spacious and modern, and the hotel’s location is extremely convenient (in Marunouchi, by Tokyo Station and the Ginza district). If there is a drawback, it’s the lack of panoramic city views that higher-floored hotels offer.

Of course, if 57 rooms still sounds too large to you, you may like Hotel CLASKA below.

Hotel CLASKA

CLASKA Hotel Tokyo tatami room

Hotel CLASKA

Hotel CLASKA is an intimate, artsy hotel, and one of Tokyo’s few small boutique hotels.

Japan is full of small and intimate properties, but they usually take the form of ryokans – you’ll find more on our favorite ryokans below.

CLASKA has just 18 uniquely-decorated rooms, plus a roof deck, art spaces, a cool boutique, and a stylish lobby/lounge area with a DJ booth. It’s located in the quiet Meguro neighborhood, not far from the trendy Naka-Meguro neighborhood.

While not a luxury hotel, CLASKA is a great option in Tokyo that tends to draw a bit of a younger crowd.

Hopefully this helps you decide which Tokyo hotels would be right for you!

Next we’ll tell you about our favorite boutique and luxury properties in Kyoto.

Luxury & Boutique Hotels in Kyoto

Japanese Tatami Room - Ryugin in Kyoto

Ryugin Kyoto

With the opening of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto (and more new additions in the near future), hotel lovers have even more reasons to be excited about visiting Kyoto.

Kyoto — Japan’s ancient capital — is home to a handful of fantastic boutique and luxury hotels, and each is outstanding for a different reason. This makes it easy to tailor your Kyoto experience to what you’re looking for.

Our Favorite Kyoto Luxury & Boutique Properties:

  • Hotel Kanra Kyoto: See below for details
  • HOSHINOYA Kyoto: See below for details
  • Ryugin: See below for details
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto: See below for details

We’ll begin with the boutique Hotel Kanra Kyoto.

Hotel Kanra Kyoto

Hotel Kanra Kyoto Kanra Suite

Hotel Kanra Kyoto

If you love stylish, modern Japanese decor you’ll love the 29-room Hotel Kanra Kyoto. As you enter the lobby you are welcomed with subtle aromas and ambient lighting that change with the seasons.

Guest rooms feature the perfect blend of Japanese touches with comfortable western-style amenities. Kanra’s excellent lobby restaurant serves local and seasonal foods.

The hotel is centrally located and a short taxi (or bicycle) ride away from many of central Kyoto’s highlights, including Nishiki Market.

HOSHINOYA Kyoto

HOSHINOYA Kyoto Tsuki Twin Corner Suite

HOSHINOYA Kyoto

If what you need is a place to relax and rejuvenate, look no further than HOSHINOYA Kyoto. From the charming boat ride delivering you to the property’s dramatic entrance to the peaceful gardens and surrounding nature, a stay at HOSHINOYA Kyoto is a magical experience.

This peaceful modern ryokan — featuring just 25 beautifully-decorated rooms — is located in a secluded section of Kyoto’s beautiful Arashiyama district (close to the enchanting bamboo forest). You’ll feel like you’re worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet it’s just close enough for daily sightseeing in Kyoto.

HOSHINOYA Kyoto is the perfect place to experience impeccable Japanese hospitality in a setting you will never forget.

RYUGIN

Ryugin in Kyoto

Ryugin, Kyoto

Ryugin is an exclusive property with only 2 suites, located on a beautiful and secluded backstreet of the Gion district in the very heart of old Kyoto.

The spacious suites feature western-style beds, a spacious living room, a Japanese-style seating area, kitchenette and luxurious bathrooms.

Ryugin is perfect for couples and families, and its location makes it unbeatable for exploring the traditional Gion and Higashiyama districts, two of Kyoto’s most historic neighborhoods.

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto — opened in February 2014 — is the largest of our favorite hotels in Kyoto, with 164 rooms.

As with our other favorites in Kyoto, The Ritz-Carlton elegantly infuses its highly modern property with tasteful Japanese aesthetics. In addition to its spacious and modern rooms, The Ritz-Carlton has arguably the best location in Kyoto, in front of the Kamogawa River and within walking distance of all of central Kyoto.

Kyoto Honorable Mentions: No discussion of boutique hotels in Kyoto would be complete without mention of Hotel Mume and The Screen. Mume is an excellent and unique 4-room hotel with a fantastic location in Gion. The Screen is a design hotel in central Kyoto (though its drawback is that, while many travelers love it, unfortunately a number of travelers find it disappointing).

Luxury & Boutique Hotels in Osaka

Just 27 miles from Kyoto is the lively city of Osaka. While most travelers who visit this area of Japan opt to stay in Kyoto, Osaka is also a worthwhile destination itself. The journey between the two cities can be made in under 30 minutes by train, and if you prefer big cities you can simply stay in Osaka and make day trips to Kyoto.

In case this seems more your style, we have two great Osaka hotels for you.

The St. Regis Osaka

The St. Regis Osaka Lounge

The St. Regis Osaka

The St. Regis Osaka offers the perfect combination of comfort, style, friendly service and incredible location.

Rooms are stylish and modern with city views, and The St. Regis also has a bar you’ll actually want to hang out in, not to mention a stunning outdoor Zen garden terrace overlooking the city.

The location couldn’t be better: the upscale Midosuji district is ideal for walking around, and within easy walking distance of young and trendy Shinsaibashi, as well as the lively Namba nightlife district (where the famous Dotonbori eating street is located).

Hotel T’POINT

Hotel T'POINT

Hotel T’POINT

If you’re looking for a smaller boutique hotel with an artsy flair, we recommend Hotel T’POINT.

This ever-evolving art and design hotel has 45 uniquely-appointed designer rooms, from large suites to small efficiency rooms.

As with CLASKA (above), T’POINT is not a luxury hotel, however it is a great option for lovers of good design, and is also in a convenient location not far from trendy Shinsaibashi and lively Namba.

Beyond Tokyo & Kyoto

Tokyo Area Mount Fuji Lake Kawaguchiko summer

Mt. Fuji

Tokyo and Kyoto are two of Japan’s highlights, but if you have time we highly recommend traveling beyond these two cities and getting off the beaten path to experience more of Japan.

Japan has too many fantastic hotels and ryokans to list. But to give you a taste of what to expect in other parts of Japan, we present a short list of some of our favorite hotels and ryokans outside of Tokyo and Kyoto.

Some of these are harder to reach than others, but once you arrive you’ll realize it was worth the extra effort.

Benesse House Hotel

Benesse House Museum Photo by Tadashi Ikeda Naoshima Japan

Benesse House Museum (Photo: Tadashi Ikeda)

Located on tiny Naoshima island in Japan’s Inland Sea is the truly one-of-a-kind Hotel Benesse House, which is both a cutting-edge modern art museum and hotel.

In recent years Naoshima Island has become a mecca for art lovers from around the world, and there’s no better place to stay than Benesse House. In addition to the museum on site, enjoy ocean views, fine Japanese and French dining, and the island’s other excellent museums and galleries.

With The Style Fukuoka

With The Style Fukuoka Japan

With The Style Fukuoka

Fukuoka is a friendly and cosmopolitan city in western Japan, and home to the aptly-named With The Style Fukuoka.

Despite Fukuoka’s relaxed yet dynamic vibe, friendly people, and amazing food, most travelers never make it to this pleasant city. But if you do, we recommend this boutique 16-room “urban resort.”

Hotel Cycle

Hotel Cycle is a unique 28-room hotel located within Onomichi U2, a renovated seaside warehouse in the charming coastal town of Onomichi.

Onomichi U2 shop and restaurant Onomichi Japan

Photo: Tetsuya Ito / Courtesy of DISCOVERLINK Setouchi

Along with perks like cycle-through check-in, Hotel Cycle offers simple but stylish rooms featuring an attractive mix of modern design and local touches.

Our Favorite Luxury Ryokans

Gora Kadan Hakone Japan

Gora Kadan

We don’t recommend leaving Japan without experiencing the magic of a ryokan (Japanese-style inn).

Staying at a ryokan is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in Japanese culture.

You’ll get the chance to leave your western clothes behind and wear Japanese robes (yukata), and in the evening enjoy a spectacular multi-course kaiseki meal featuring the best local and seasonal ingredients.

Kaiseki japanese food ryokan kurashiki

Kaiseki cuisine at Ryokan Kurashiki

A ryokan stay allows you to experience Japan’s legendary hospitality, and the luxurious properties below are some of Japan’s best:

  • Beniya Mukayu: Incredible style, natural hot springs, and top cuisine.
  • Gora Kadan: Hakone’s most famous luxury ryokan, a premier ryokan experience.
  • Ryokan Kurashiki: The finest traditional hospitality and kaiseki cuisine, in the charming town of Kurashiki.
  • Takefue: Stunning natural beauty and hot springs in remote and picturesque Kurokawa Onsen, Kyushu.

Looking for more options? See our article featuring some of Japan’s best luxury ryokans.

Takefue Ryokan Kurokawa Onsen

Takefue Ryokan

Hopefully this has helped you decide on some great hotels and ryokans for your trip to Japan!

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Japan is home to some of the world's best boutique & luxury hotels. See our list of the best hotels & ryokans in Japan to help you decide where to splurge!
About Andres Zuleta

Andres is the founder of Boutique Japan.

Unlike a lot of travel companies, we don't work from a cubicle!

In 2005, I first moved from New York City to Tokyo to study Japanese, and living in Tokyo changed my life, leading me to want to dedicate my life to helping others really experience Japan, the way I have been able to do so!

  • Alfred Harding

    Which hotel has better service? St. Regis, Osaka or Ritz Carlton, Kyoto?

    • Alfred, that is pretty much an impossible question!

      The St. Regis Osaka has been around longer, and the team there is outstanding. The Ritz just opened less than a year ago, but they are already doing an amazing job and it’s already become the best luxury hotel in Kyoto city center.

      If you’re thinking of deciding between the two based on service, I would suggest instead deciding based on where you’d like to be based, as Osaka and Kyoto could not be more different from one another.

      If you have the chance, I recommend staying at both.