New Hotels on the Japanese Islands
Japan is a country of modernity and progress as much as it is a place of tradition and ritual with a clutch of new luxury hotels to check into in Tokyo, Kyoto, Okinawa, and Niseko.
The legendary Okura Tokyo (theokuratokyo.jp)—a favorite of the affluent old guard since first opening in 1962—unveiled an impressive rebuilding to the tune of more than $1 billion. The hotel tapped Yoshio Taniguchi, son of architect Yoshiro Taniguchi (who designed the original lobby), to design several of the hotel restaurants, the square, and the lobby. His added touch in the lobby was purposefully light, keeping the much-loved modernist landmark intact. The biggest investment went into the construction of two new towers: The Okura Heritage Wing offers garden views in a classic Japanese aesthetic with steam saunas and spa baths, and the Okura Prestige Tower is accented by refined Japanese quality with floor-to-ceiling windows of the Tokyo vista. A few miles away, the Tokyo EDITION, Ginza (editionhotels.com) will open in Fall 2021 with a more boutique vibe, offering just 80 rooms (petite indeed for this city of behemoth hotels) designed in the Marriott brand’s signature contemporary-edge style, while the Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon opened in June with 206 rooms.
Japan’s ancient imperial capital welcomed a double opening last fall when two of luxury hospitality’s heaviest hitters made debuts in the city within days of each other. First came the Park Hyatt Kyoto (hyatt.com), showing off a rare departure from the brand’s trademark city towers with a discreet, low-slung property tucked away among ancient gardens right in the heart of the historic Higashiyama district. Far from cookie-cutter, the 70-room hotel, which sits steps from such top sites as the Kōdaiji Temple and Great Buddha Hall, combines buttoned-up luxuries like an intimate bar serving the hotel’s own brand of Japanese craft gin and sake and a traditional ryotei restaurant run by a seventh-generation Kyoto family. No matter where you find yourself in the hotel, stunning views of the city, including the iconic Yasaka Pagoda, are a sure thing. In the wake of the Park Hyatt’s opening fanfare came a second opening, the Aman Kyoto (aman.com), located on 80 acres in the outskirts of town, among the foothills of Mount Hidari Daimonji. More resort than hotel—and far removed from the tourist hubbub (at times making for painfully long commutes)—the 26-suite property introduces visitors to the city’s lesser-known temples and gardens. Inside, however, you’ll find the usual fanfare Amanjunkies clamor for: understated design by architect Kerry Hill; impeccable, locally inspired cuisine in two restaurants; and an excellent spa where guests can soak in a mineral-rich onsens.
Japan’s beach paradise is feeling more and more like the Hawaii of the East thanks to the opening of two new resorts along the idyllic island’s golden sands. In July 2019, Halekulani—Honolulu’s bastion of luxury for more than a century—made the leap across the Pacific to open the 360-room Halekulani Okinawa (www.okinawa.halekulani.com), including five clifftop villas. Claiming more than a mile of beachfront along the island’s Kaigan Quasi-National Park, the resort comes with a touch of Stateside style thanks to the fresh and subtly tropical interiors of New York’s queen of hospitality, Alexandra Champalimaud. But there’s no mistaking you’re in Japan when it comes to dining; five signature bars and restaurants as well as a poolside bar and dining venues include everything from sushi to Kobe. And having opened July 2020 Hoshinoya Okinawa (hoshinoresorts.com) is Japanese hospitality hotshot Hoshinoya’s latest island foray. Located in the coastal village of Yomitan, overlooking the East China Sea, the new property takes a more traditional approach to the island life, with dark woods and clean lines in the villas and authentic experiences ranging from Okinawan and Sicilian cuisine to martial arts classes.
Skiing on Japan’s northern Hokkaido island is no longer a secret. The mythical powder paradise was once a playground only for those in the know, but today its lifts are nearly as popular as Aspen’s. Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono (hyatt.com) elevated the ski village’s accommodations when it opened in January at the foot of the Annupuri mountain ranges. Ski right out of the hotel to tackle four different ski resorts across Annupuri (Hanazono, Hirafu, Niseko Village, and Annupuri) with stunning views of Mount Yotei. Ski back in for some of Japan’s most awarded cuisine: Both Koji Mitsukawa (of Kanazawa’s one-time Michelin-starred Sushi Mitsukawa) and Hiroshi Nakamichi (whose Sapporo restaurant Moliere was awarded three Michelin stars in 2017) have opened outposts at the resort. Debuting in time for the next snowfall in December 2020 is the highly anticipated Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve (ritzcarlton.com), with unobstructed views of Mount Yōtei and a restaurant featuring Hokkaido’s freshest produce.