Just Back: Japan's Top Hotels

Aska Wada, a luxury travel advisor with Classic Travel Service, recently visited several of the top hotels in Japan and is back with this insider’s report.

For many, visiting Japan is the ultimate bucket-list experience. Since I hold a Japanese passport, I was lucky to visit my family and these amazing properties before Japan fully opened to the world. To travel so far only to stay in subpar accommodations makes little sense though, especially when Japan is brimming with some of the best five-star luxury stays in its major cities. You’ll be in prime position to discover all there is about Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto when you book your stay in one of these spectacular hotels. 

W Osaka 

The W Osaka is a hip, fun, and cool hotel that exudes plenty of party vibes. The property boasts clean lines, vivid colors, and bold designs with 337 rooms and suites, each with spacious bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, and modern conveniences. Hotel staff’s friendly demeanor and impeccable knowledge of the room were key as they explained the intricacies of my room and design. 

As for the location, you can’t find a better five-star stay in Osaka. You’re right in the middle of downtown “Minami,” an area that features outstanding restaurants, boutiques, and department stores. It’s also just steps away from Dotonbori with its pulsating nightlife and local dining. There’s a reason they call Osaka the “Kitchen of the Nation,” and from the W Osaka, you’ll be well-poised to discover it all. Once you’ve tasted plenty, don’t miss the nearby Osaka Castle. You can even start with the breakfast at the hotel before you set off, which was fantastic. The fresh-baked bread, pastries, and just-squeezed juices certainly fueled my spirits and had me ready to start my day. 

W Osaka
Bath with a view: W Osaka’s bathrooms have custom-designed rain showers with floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the city skyline. (W Osaka)

The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo 

Surrounded by foreign embassies, high-end shopping, and attractions you don’t want to miss, The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo certainly has a superb location. For the utmost in opulence, you’ll want to stay on the Club Floor as I did for an incredibly spacious room with a stunning view of downtown Tokyo.

It’s really worth it to splurge for the Club floor as the Club lounge gives you unparalleled service for both checking in and checking out. I felt like I had more privacy and it had a more relaxed feeling. The Japanese suite room was a unique experience that made me feel as though I were staying in one of those traditional Japanese ryokan though with all the luxuries of a Western-style hotel. 

The towering hotel truly provides it all along with some breathtaking views that span from the National Stadium to Mt. Fuji. You’ll be astoundingly close to all the areas for easy exploration of Roppongi Hills, Minato Ward, Ginza, Akasaka, and Shibuya. 

Inside the hotel, I regret that I didn’t have the chance to try its Japanese restaurant, though the space looked beautiful. The next time I’m here, I’m eager to try it out as I really like the idea that it has a few rooms for different types of food. 

Japanese Suite
The Japanese Suite room at The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo gives the feeling of a traditional Japanese ryokan though with all the luxuries of a Western-style hotel.  (The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo )

AMAN Tokyo

If you’re looking for something a bit more tranquil in the midst of Tokyo’s unending vibrant buzz, look no further than AMAN Tokyo. This is where you’ll be treated to pure tranquility even in this busy Otemachi business area. As soon as you step into the 33rd-floor entrance lobby, you’ll feel worlds away from the city. The rooms are simple yet elegant, and incredibly spacious. Everything here is inspired by Japanese tradition with washi paper doors, engawa platforms, ikebana displays, and ryokan-style rooms that have every attention to detail awaiting your pleasure. 

Make sure you book a room facing the Imperial Palace and Gardens if you can, especially during cherry blossom season to get the most immaculate view possible. Spend your time unwinding in the spa, or venture just footsteps out the door to discover the palace and grounds. The five-line Otemachi subway station connected to the Otemachi Tower can take you to the other places you want to explore, and of course, the hotel can help you arrange an itinerary of the area so you don’t miss a thing. 

Aska Wada, a luxury travel advisor with Classic Travel Service
Wada at The Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo (Courtesy Aska Wada)

AMAN Kyoto

If Kyoto is where you will travel in Japan, you should not miss the chance to stay at AMAN Kyoto. It’s only a short taxi ride from Kinkakuji and sits upon 80 acres in a hushed, tranquil forest. You’ll find that blissful ryokan style here melded aptly with contemporary touches. I was absolutely amazed by the stunning landscape and felt content staying in the resort, enjoying nature from gazing outward. The rooms are incredibly spacious with plenty of light, making it a wonderful place to decompress. 

Naturally, the hidden gardens of AMAN Kyoto are the prime starting point to explore Japan’s ancient imperial capital. From here, you’ll easily be able to discover nearly 20 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Pro Tip: Take advantage of this five-star hotel’s connections to get you access to temples as well as embark on cultural encounters, which are not offered to most other travelers. 

Park Hyatt Kyoto

Park Hyatt Kyoto opened in the middle of the pandemic in 2019 and still exudes that new luxury feel. With only 70 rooms, it has that intimate feeling and since it’s set in the center of a historic area within a property owned by Kyoyamato, it’s worth the stay. The distinctive culture of Japan’s ancient vibe melds astoundingly well here amid the iconic landmarks, temples, and spiritual gardens. It’s a hillside retreat that is both modern and classic all at once with an indulgent spa as well as signature restaurant that offers authentic Japanese Kaiseki cuisine in the historic teahouse. 

Here, you’re close to Kodaiji Temple, the Higashiyama landscape, and the Yasaka Pagoda. While the luxury bubbles over in this calming retreat, you still have the perfect sanctuary from which to reside while you get to know a true Kyoto experience. 

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto 

For one final bit of opulence while in Kyoto, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto is an ideal place to stay. The site upon which it sits was favored by Japanese nobility and the hotel carries on the legacy of luxury, set against a stunning backdrop of the Kamogawa River. The spa rituals offered here are in line with Japan’s wellness traditions and the indulgent cuisine is sure to sweep you off your feet.

My room featured floor-to-ceiling windows facing the river, giving me a sublime view. I recommend them for anyone traveling to Japan to see the cherry blossoms. The Italian restaurant served up a great ambiance as well as excellent food, and the staff was impressive and welcoming. What I loved was that this property was completely different from Ritz-Carlton’s other hotels, blending in well with Japanese architecture and design in the most seamless of ways. 

Ritz-Carlton Club
The Club Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo has a reception area, garden terrace, dining room and a library lounge.  (The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo )

Nearby The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, you’ll be able to walk to Gion, the finest shopping and entertainment district in the region. You can explore by foot or ride in a rickshaw. Nishiki Market is another attraction you’ll want to make time to see, though a bit further, the Bamboo Forest and other iconic destinations await. In true Ritz fashion, you can have experiences arranged for sushi or becoming familiar with the fighting moves of a samurai warrior.

For all of these five-star hotel experiences, it is important to note that these hotels will go above and beyond in helping you enjoy the property as well as surrounding areas. Tempting as it was to spoil myself in luxury from sunup to sundown in each of them, I am glad I teared myself away for at least a brief spell to see what made each of these Japanese cities so special. 

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