The best hotels and ryokans in Japan range from charming traditional inns in the countryside, to stylish design hotels and some of the world’s most luxurious accommodations.
As Japan specialists, one of the “hardest” parts of our jobs is traveling around Japan to check out unique and luxurious properties around the country. This includes well-known places like Tokyo and Kyoto, and countless of our other favorite destinations in Japan.
Based on our firsthand experience, and feedback from our clients, we’ve curated this short list of Japan’s best and most splurge-worthy boutique and luxury hotels and ryokans.
Before you dive in, keep in mind that the “best” hotel or ryokan is ultimately one that matches your personal travel style. What may be the perfect property for one traveler may not be quite right for you (this is why we believe in highly personalized trip planning).
We hope our list, which features both small boutique properties and larger luxury hotels (not to mention an incredible ship), helps you decide where to stay during your Japan trip!
Originally written in 2014, this post was updated and republished on October 19, 2020.
Tokyo’s Best Boutique and Luxury Hotels
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.
The Tokyo metropolis is blessed with some top-notch luxury properties, and one thing they all have in common is impeccable service (Japanese hospitality is one of our favorite things about Japan).
Here is a short list of Tokyo’s best and most unique boutique and luxury hotels.
A minimalist’s dream, Aman Tokyo is truly a stunning property. Featuring an unbelievably spacious lobby with sweeping views over the Imperial Palace and the Tokyo metropolis, Aman’s rooms are also extremely spacious, with roomy suites and the largest entry-level rooms in the city.
Palace Hotel Tokyo
One of our perennial favorites in Tokyo, the Palace Hotel (which was beautifully renovated and reopened in 2012) features bright, elegant rooms with splendid balconies overlooking the Imperial Palace gardens. The Palace Tokyo should be a top contender for travelers seeking a luxury property not run by one of the major international hotel chains.
Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel
The Cerulean Tower has an amazing location in the heart of Shibuya. Unlike most of Tokyo’s luxury hotels, which tend to be situated in and around the Ginza/Tokyo Station sections of the city, the Cerulean Tower is conveniently located near so many of Tokyo’s “trendiest” neighborhoods, such as Naka-Meguro, Daikanyama, Aoyama, and Omotesando.
Read more about Tokyo’s best off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods.
The sleekest Hyatt property in the city, Andaz Tokyo is housed in the gleaming Toranomon Hills complex, right in the heart of the city. Enjoy beautiful city vistas (we love Tower View, but all rooms and suites feature views), and complimentary extras such as wine in the evenings.
TRUNK is about as hip as it gets. This small boutique hotel is located on a charming backstreet right in between the fashionable Shibuya and Harajuku neighborhoods. It tends to have a bit of a party atmosphere, which will come as no surprise when you pop in for a coffee or cocktail at its uber-stylish bar.
One of Tokyo’s newer boutique hotels, K5 is also one of Tokyo’s few Design Hotels members (along with TRUNK, featured above). The rooms — there are 20 in all — range from very compact and cozy, to luxuriously spacious. K5 features colorful style conceived by a Swedish design team, and a location in the very heart of Tokyo, in the sophisticated Nihombashi district.
One of Tokyo’s original boutique hotels, CLASKA is an intimate, artsy property. Each of its rooms features unique design, and the hotel also has a pleasant roof deck, art spaces, a great little boutique, and a stylish lobby/lounge. CLASKA is a little bit off the beaten path, located in the Meguro area’s interior design district, though you’re within fairly easy reach of the trendy Naka-Meguro.
Yet another beautiful luxury property, Conrad Tokyo is particularly remarkable for its one-of-a-kind views over Tokyo’s skyline and Tokyo Bay. Located in the modern Shiodome district, Conrad Tokyo also offers super convenient access to the nearby Ginza district and Tsukiji Market, along with the booming Odaiba area.
Hoshino Resorts is a major player in the Japanese accommodations world, and their Tokyo property is a stunner. Styled to feel like an urban ryokan, this is a great choice for travelers seeking a highly Japanese aesthetic when visiting Tokyo.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Legendary for its role in Lost in Translation, the Park Hyatt is a well-known option in Tokyo, especially among travelers from the United States. This is an excellent luxury property located deep in the Shinjuku neighborhood. While some travelers may enjoy the buzz of lively Shinjuku, other travelers may find it excessively frenetic. Whether you stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo or not, it’s always fun to enjoy a whisky at the New York Bar, which offers wonderful city views.
Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
No article on Tokyo’s best luxury hotels would be complete without mention of the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. One of the city’s most renowned high-end properties, the Mandarin Oriental also has a legendary concierge team (though most of the city’s luxury hotels have excellent concierge).
The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo
Located atop the Tokyo Midtown complex in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, The Ritz-Carlton is as opulent as you might expect. Since its renovation (completed in 2015), it has become a favorite of ours. It’s worth splurging on Club Floor rooms to be able to savor the Club Lounge. The surrounding Roppongi area is full of dining options, not to mention much of Tokyo’s best art offerings.
Hotel Ryumeikan Ochanomizu Honten
Another of Tokyo’s few true boutique hotels, Ryumeikan is a small hotel with impeccable Japanese hospitality. Located in the non-touristy Ochanomizu district, Ryumeikan is nevertheless quite convenient. Ochanomizu is right in the heart of Tokyo, within easy reach of most of the city’s points of interest.
Four Seasons Tokyo Hotels at Otemachi and Marunouchi
FS’ original hotel in the city, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, was always a little “controversial” to us. Some travelers praised its location and small size, but to us the location — while central — always felt too hectic to be pleasant. And while some rooms were very nice indeed, others had disappointingly uninspiring views of nearby office buildings (unlike many of the city’s high-end accommodations, it is a low-rise hotel).
On the other hand, the brand’s newest property, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, is a welcome addition to Tokyo’s luxury hotel scene. Walking distance from other top-tier hotels such as Aman Tokyo and Palace Hotel Tokyo (both featured above), this new oasis offers beautiful city views and has one of Tokyo’s very few open-air rooftop terraces.
The Peninsula Tokyo
Certainly one of Tokyo’s most famous luxury hotels, The Peninsula Tokyo is blessed with a convenient location by the Ginza district. While not our favorite hotel in the city (we tend to prefer the hotels listed above), The Peninsula Tokyo remains popular among visitors to Tokyo.
Hotel Niwa Tokyo
Hotel Niwa Tokyo is one of our favorite upper mid-range properties in Tokyo. Not quite a luxury or boutique hotel, Hotel Niwa is ideal for travelers seeking a pleasant stay in a convenient, comfortable hotel with helpful staff.
Kyoto’s Best Boutique and Luxury Hotels
Kyoto’s hotel scene is booming, with exciting new openings every year.
Here is a selection of our favorite boutique and luxury properties in the ancient capital.
Hotel Kanra Kyoto
Hotel Kanra Kyoto is a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of Kyoto, with incredible staff and service. Kanra’s rooms and suites feature an elegant blend of authentic Japanese aesthetics, along with ultra-modern conveniences. The Kanra is an excellent choice if you’re seeking a luxurious (yet boutique) experience, and prefer a Japanese hotel rather than an international chain.
Ace Hotel Kyoto
Kyoto’s modern design scene continues to experience an inspiring boom, and the Ace is a welcome addition to the city’s ever-exciting hotel offerings. The stylish common spaces, dining areas, and guest rooms exquisitely blend quintessential Ace aesthetics with brilliant Japanese design (legendary architect Kengo Kuma was a key collaborator).
Aman Kyoto is a stunning retreat in a quiet, secluded area of northern Kyoto, just a 15-minute walk from Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion). The Kerry Hill-designed pavilions feature a breathtaking blend of modern and traditional aesthetics. Wellness options include spa treatments, rejuvenating onsen — including open-air hot springs — and more.
A high-end boutique hotel with a lovely location in the backstreets of the charming Higashiyama district, Sowaka has a variety of rooms blending Western and Japanese style. Referred to by some as a ryokan, this attractive Kyoto hotel features countless ryokan-inspired elements, from its garden and architecture to its impeccable cuisine. An excellent option for travelers seeking a ryokan-esque experience with modern comforts and convenience.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto
Located along the picturesque Kamogawa (Kamo River) in the center of the ancient capital, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto elegantly infuses its highly modern property with tasteful Japanese aesthetics. In addition to its spacious and modern rooms, The Ritz has arguably the best location in the city, within easy walking distance to all of central Kyoto. We highly recommend splurging on Luxury River View rooms (or higher), as the views are worth it.
Park Hyatt Kyoto
Park Hyatt Kyoto is a luxurious oasis in the heart of the Higashiyama district, overlooking the beautiful Yasaka Pagoda and just steps from the lively Ninenzaka street. In the morning, choose between a healthy and delicious Japanese breakfast or fantastic western buffet, and in the evening visit the dining floor for sweeping views over cocktails at the bar.
Hyatt Regency Kyoto
Long Kyoto’s most luxurious western hotel, the Hyatt Regency has arguably been eclipsed in recent years with the opening of so many new luxury hotels. Yet at least for now it has continued to age well, and remains one of our favorite high-end properties in Kyoto. To be clear, the Hyatt is not as extravagantly luxurious as properties like The Ritz or Four Seasons. Regardless, it’s a classic luxury hotel deep in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district, and comes highly recommended.
Four Seasons Kyoto
Located in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district (near the Hyatt Regency), the Four Seasons is more or less on par with The Ritz-Carlton when it comes to luxurious hotels in Kyoto. In many ways the Four Seasons feels like a resort in the heart of the ancient capital, though you’re also within easy reach of so many of the historic Higashiyama’s highlights.
Machiyas (Traditional Townhouses)
A machiya is a traditional Kyoto-style townhouse, and all over the ancient capital there are beautifully renovated machiyas where you can, in effect, experience “living” in Kyoto.
Located deep in Kyoto’s outskirts, a short boat ride from the center of the Arashiyama district, HOSHINOYA Kyoto is a relaxing retreat. While not ideal for travelers who plan to spend time actively exploring Kyoto, HOSHINOYA is a beautiful, rejuvenating resort.
Japan’s Best Hotels and Ryokans (Beyond Tokyo and Kyoto)
Of course, many of Japan’s most remarkable boutique and luxury hotels and ryokans are not in Tokyo or Kyoto.
So to give you a taste of what to expect elsewhere in Japan, here is a selection of our absolute favorite hotels and ryokans around the country.
A note about ryokans: while Japan clearly has no shortage of amazing hotels, we highly recommend spending at least one night in a traditional ryokan, if you’re up for it. Staying at a ryokan is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in Japanese culture (and onsen), and is the perfect way to experience Japan’s legendary hospitality.
Ryokan Kurashiki is a small and luxurious ryokan in western Japan. The charming town of Kurashiki has a beautiful historic district, and is known for its textiles and pottery. Ryokan Kurashik is rightfully renowned for its cuisine and heartwarming hospitality.
guntû is a boutique 19-cabin cruise that leisurely traverses the scenic Seto Inland Sea. Designed by the award-winning architect Yasushi Horibe, guntû features suites with a modern Japanese aesthetic, and dining and sitting areas created to showcase the exquisite mountain views. The cruise also offers mouthwatering local cuisine, and a unique variety of non-touristy excursions oriented around daily life in the remote and laid-back islands of the Seto Inland Sea.
The place to stay on Naoshima, Japan’s famous art island. Benesse House doubles as a hotel and modern art museum, and was designed by iconic Japanese architect Tadao Ando. A must for art and architecture lovers.
The most luxurious ryokan in the quintessential hot springs town of Kinosaki Onsen, Nishimuraya Honkan is a luxuriant destination for lovers of elegant kaiseki cuisine, rejuvenating onsen baths, and top-notch traditional service.
An ultra-luxurious modern ryokan in the Niseko area of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, Zaborin features minimalist design amidst beautiful natural surroundings.
Kurokawa Onsen, deep in a remote section of the off-the-beaten-path Kyushu island, is a beautiful getaway for onsen enthusiasts. Kurokawa is home to a handful of amazing ryokans, none more luxurious than the magnificent Takefue, which features an irresistible selection of Japanese-style suites.
More of Our Favorite Luxury Ryokans
We hope you enjoyed our curated list of luxury hotels in Japan. Looking for even more luxury ryokans? Check out our article on the best luxury ryokans for a short Japan trip.
We believe your Japan travel itinerary should be a reflection of your personal sense of adventure and style, and that no two travelers (or trips!) are alike.
If you are looking to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan, we have resources that can help. Start by checking out our sample travel itineraries and learning about our process of crafting customized trips for travelers seeking unique, authentic experiences.
We hope our hotel and ryokan recommendations help you prepare for your trip to Japan!