When traveling in the Japanese countryside, there is perhaps no more immersive experience than staying at one of Japan’s best ryokans.
If you are blessed with a long holiday and want to experience a variety of rural ryokan (traditional Japanese-style inn) stays, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in our Luxury Ryokans & the Japanese Countryside itinerary.
But what if you’re a bit shorter on time, and only have 1 or 2 nights to spare in between visits to Tokyo and Kyoto? To complement days of exploring Tokyo and strolling the backstreets of Kyoto, there is nothing more relaxing than a short escape into the Japanese countryside.
Luxury Ryokans Near Tokyo and Kyoto
Here’s the thing: Japan has countless beautiful and authentic ryokans, but not all are convenient for travelers en route from Tokyo to Kyoto (or Osaka) or vice versa.
So we curated this short list of our favorite luxury ryokans, especially for travelers with discerning taste but a limited amount of time. After all, if you’re strapped for time, traveling to a remote corner of Japan may not be the best use of your efforts – and may leave you with little time or energy to enjoy the destination or the journey!
The carefully selected properties below are perfect if you want to stay in one of Japan’s best ryokans, without too much of a detour from the Tokyo-Kyoto path.
They’re located in a small handful of picturesque areas of Japan — including the Izu Peninsula, Hakone National Park, and the lovely Hokuriku region (home to Kanazawa) — that are relatively easy to reach and combine well with the Kanto and Kansai regions (where Tokyo and Kyoto are located, respectively).
Some are slightly more remote than others, but all are well suited to short stays. You’ll have time to kick off your shoes, settle into the gentle pace of the countryside, and spend a peaceful day or two in bliss as you soak it all in.
Most importantly, each of these luxurious ryokans offers wonderful Japanese hospitality, soothing onsen (hot springs), and impeccable kaiseki cuisine featuring seasonal and local specialties.
So relax, kick back, and enjoy this list of rejuvenating ryokans for your next Japan trip!
Luxury Ryokans in the Izu Peninsula
The Izu Peninsula (Izu Hanto in Japanese) is a rugged and beautiful area located just a couple of hours southwest of Tokyo, a very easy journey via Japan’s wonderful rail system.
The whole of Izu is blessed with pristine forests, stunning coastlines, and more than its fair share of gorgeous ryokans and onsen.
Izu is just slightly more of a detour than Hakone (more on Hakone below), and makes for a perfect rural retreat en route between Tokyo and Kyoto. If you can afford to spend two nights here it is worthwhile, but even with one night you can have a wonderful experience.
Plan on about 2 hours from Tokyo by train, and about 3 hours 30 minutes from Kyoto by train and shinkansen (bullet train).
It’s worth highlighting that, since Izu is less known than Hakone, you can expect a slightly more off-the-beaten-path feel than you would likely find in Hakone.
Some of our favorite luxury ryokans in the Izu Peninsula include:
- Asaba: A historic and luxurious ryokan renowned for its beautiful rooms, soothing onsen, and warm service, located in the hot springs village of Shuzenji Onsen.
- Yagyu no Sho: Another wonderful luxury ryokan in Shuzenji, boasting wonderful onsen and fantastic kaiseki cuisine.
- Hanafubuki: While not quite as luxurious as Asaba and Yagyu no Sho above, this is an excellent high-end ryokan with great service and an unparalleled variety of private onsen options.
Luxury Ryokans in Hakone
The Hakone region is a well-known national park area full of ryokans and onsen, and on clear days offers stunning views of Mount Fuji.
Because of its convenient location — and its relative proximity to Fujisan — Hakone is almost always the first place travelers ask us about when considering a ryokan stay. (It’s also featured in our 8-day “Japan Essentials” sample trip.)
As with the Izu Peninsula above, Hakone is a perfect stopover for one or two nights if you’re traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto or Osaka.
Plan on about 90 minutes by rail from Tokyo, and about 2 hours 30 minutes by bullet train to Kyoto.
If there is a drawback to Hakone, it’s that its fame and convenience make it a very popular (and often crowded) destination for travelers from around the world, as well as from within Japan.
Befitting an iconic onsen destination, Hakone has too many excellent ryokans to name. Some of our favorite luxury ryokans in Hakone include:
- Gora Kadan: Gora Kadan is one of Japan’s best-known luxury ryokans, and offers several stunning Japanese-style suites featuring private open-air baths.
- Gora Hanaougi: Another luxury ryokan located in Hakone’s Gora area, Gora Hanaougi is a small ryokan where each room boasts its very own private open-air bath.
- Yamanochaya: Also written Yama no Chaya, this high-end ryokan is conveniently located in the Tonosawa area, near Hakone-Yumoto.
Luxury Ryokans in Hokuriku
Maybe you’ve never heard of Hokuriku, but if you’ve been doing research for your Japan trip you may have heard of the historic city of Kanazawa.
Located in central Japan’s Hokuriku region, Kanazawa is one of Japan’s most worthwhile destinations.
Hokuriku is blessed with scenic coastal and mountain landscapes, a rich traditional culture, and some of the best food you’ll find anywhere in Japan (including several of Japan’s best sushi restaurants).
Hokuriku is a bit further geographically than Izu or Hakone (see above), so we typically recommend visiting for 2 nights or more (while not impossible, 1 night would inevitably feel rushed). Kanazawa, and Hokuriku in general, forms an elegant triangle with Tokyo and Kyoto, and the three make for an ideal itinerary.
To reach Kanazawa, plan on a bit over 3 hours from Tokyo on the magnificent Hokuriku Shinkansen. If possible, we recommend splurging on Gran Class, a particularly luxurious class of service only available on very few trains in Japan. Kanazawa is just over 2 hours by express train from Kyoto.
Some of our favorite luxury ryokans in the Hokuriku region include:
- Beniya Mukayu: Located in the Kaga Onsen area outside of Kanazawa proper, this is a boutique ryokan with excellent food, where each guest room has its own private open-air bath.
- Kayotei: Also located in the Kaga Onsen area, Kayotei is a wonderful traditional ryokan with warm service and fantastic food, not to mention soothing onsen.
- Asadaya: A small and intimate luxury ryokan in the heart of Kanazawa, with impeccable service and cuisine.
More Luxury Ryokans & Hotels in Japan
We hope our lovingly curated list of ryokans near Tokyo and Kyoto helps you experience the best of Japan luxury travel during your visit to this beautiful country.
For even more ryokan and hotel inspiration, don’t miss our extensive post on Japan’s best luxury and boutique hotels and ryokans.