Sublime ryokan

Japan’s top luxury ryokan stays embody comfort and authenticity.

23 February 2023


Experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle at a luxury ryokan which are usually characterised by Japanese style baths (onsen), historical architecture, futon beds and local cuisine. Ancient customs meet contemporary convenience and sophisticated style at these Japanese ryokans.


Sowaka, Kyoto

The location of Sowaka like any luxury establishment is key and this is the pick of Gion locations with Ishibe Alley practically next door.

Walking here is perfect for those who aspire to the heights of the movie world with its traditional tea houses, salons, restaurants and houses. Kodai-ji Temple is a mere five-minute stroll and the major shopping street is a stones throw from the Temple.

Then you can come home for a night cap in my favourite room of the hotel – the hidden whisky bar which lies behind another sliding wall on the ground floor. It’s very Bond although I could see Agent 99 in here looking glam whilst Maxwell Smart was bashing his nose into a wall that wasn’t a door.


Bedrooms and suites at Sowaka Kyoto are discreetly arranged among green courtyards, with long corridors designed to evoke Kyoto’s alleyways. Traditional ryokan elements such as paper sliding doors are interwoven with modern comforts. Think handmade cedar wood speakers and cushioned, cashmere mattresses.

Every considered detail showcases local customs, and bath amenities are made with Japanese camelia oil. No less, the hotel’s water is drawn from its own underground spring.


Zaborin, Hanazono

Made up of 15 luxurious villas, Zaborin is a private escape nestled in a birch forest in Hanazono, Hokkaido. Each guest suite (villa) has its own private indoor and outdoor hot spring bath, one of which is on the stunning balcony. Zaborin offers award-winning kita kaiseki cuisine which is a northern interpretation of the ancient traditional Kyoto kaiseki dining, celebrating local produce and seasons.


Gora Kadan, Hakone

Gora Kadan in Hakone is on the grounds of a former summer villa belonging to the Imperial family. This luxury ryokan is a stunning place to dip into the hot-spring waters of Hakone and enjoy the surrounding nature. It’s a boutique ryokan of only 39 rooms in the hot spring town of Hakone. Gora Kadan’s most luxe rooms offer outdoor spaces with open-air hot spring baths.

Outside your room, you can soothe yourself among the surrounding nature or even reserve your own private session in the ryokan’s steam room which is nestled in the gardens.


Hoshinoya Kyoto

Accessible only by riverboat for the ultimate experience, Hoshinoya Kyoto is located on the Hozu River and offers guests a tranquil private hideaway. You’ll enjoy views of the forest and river from the verandah of your room and experience meals prepared by Michelin-starred chef, Ichiro Kubota.


Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki

Situated on the banks of the Kurashiki River and in the heart of the Bikan Historical Quarter, Ryokan Kurashiki has only eight rooms and is filled with homely old-world charm while offering the ultimate in comfort and a sense of luxury.

Ryokan Kurashiki, built from an old sugar storehouse, is a small luxury inn that has welcomed celebrities from abroad and home with its warm hospitality of proprietress and staff. Elegantly furnished rooms using old-house structures create a warm folk-art ambience, which is different from conventional Japanese ryokan.


Beniya Mukayu, Yamashiro Onsen, Kanazawa

South of Kanazawa and tucked in the hillside of Yakushiyama on the site of a former Yakuoin Temple is Beniya Mukayu, Yamashiro Onsen. The ryokan’s Japanese-style rooms feature their own private open-air baths overlooking the ornamental garden. Guests can also dine at the ryokan’s onsite restaurant serving kaiseki cuisine.



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