11 Top Japan Hotels: Traditional Ryokan, Onsen Retreats & Arty Resorts from Hokkaido to Kyoto

Planning a trip around Japan and wondering where to stay along the way? We always recommend booking at least a few nights at a ryokan for a taste of traditional living, but it’s also always a treat to splurge a little on a secluded hot spring resort if budget allows (or, for adventurous types, try one of these “extreme” onsen).

To bring you this roundup of recommended Japanese-style hotels, we’ve collaborated with Omotenashi Selection, a project that brings together traditional items and experiences from around Japan and shares them with international audiences. All 11 hotels recommended here have been vetted by the OS team, so you can rest assured you’ll be getting a fabulous night’s sleep no matter which one you choose.

The Villa Soso

The region: Kyoto
The highlight: Traditional Kyoto machiya with luxury amenities

Unlike most traditional ryokan, The Villa Soso has no formal check-in and check-out, nor does it have room keys. With a simple passcode entry, you’ll feel like you’re stepping into your own private villa. Soak in the hinoki cypress bath, gazing out over the courtyard. The Kyoto-style machiya houses have been renovated using wood and bamboo to provide a calming, quintessentially Kyoto atmosphere. Amenities are of a modern, Western proclivity to fuse the best of both worlds.

seikoudou-p.com

Kyo-machiya House Experience

The region: Kyoto
The highlight: A taste of local Kyoto life 

Kyo-machiya refers to the specific style of traditional wooden townhouses found in the central district of Kyoto. You’ll find a variety of these dotted around Kyoto’s neighborhood of Omiya-cho, each suited to different preferences and needs. Whether traveling with a large family – or even with a pet – there’s a machiya for you. Each traditional layout has been preserved and decorations include interesting combinations such as a liquid crystal TV screen installed inside an old-fashioned 1960s TV set, transporting you back to the Showa Era.

www.risshisha-group.com

Yasakahan

The region: Kyoto
The highlight: Private machiya near Yasaka, famed for its historic stone-paved alleys 

This remodeled machiya, or traditional Kyoto townhouse, boasts antique fixtures to emphasize the atmosphere of an old-school Japanese house. Rooms are fully kitted-out with Japanese decor, including a dantsu carpet and an Edo-era writing desk. You can also catch a magnificent view of the Yasaka Pagoda, letting you absorb the atmosphere of Kyoto from the comfort of your room.

yasakahan-machiya.jp

Sasara Gero Hot Springs 

The region: Gifu
The highlight: Hot spring hotel with playful twists in a historical onsen district

This hotel is constantly remodeling itself, incorporating fixtures from traditional houses and vintage furniture sourced from overseas. Guests can enjoy uniquely themed rooms such as ones designed like a traditional warehouse or furnished with Western antiques. The hotel also provides a spa, an esthetic salon and private baths. Private baths include the “root bathtub,” made using the root of a giant tree, as well as two types of bedrock baths.

www.sasara.co.jp

Japanese Cultural Heritage Ochiairo Murakami 

The region: Shizuoka
The highlight: A Showa-style ryokan that has long fascinated writers and artists  

This traditional ryokan offers both Japanese-style and Western bedding to meet the needs of each visitor. An onsite concierge service dedicated to Japanese culture is available to guide overseas guests through their stay. Concierges seek to share the charms of Japan with guests and offer personal assistance around the clock. Chefs prepare seasonal dishes with local ingredients purchased the same morning to let you enjoy the freshest meals available.

www.ochiairo.co.jp

Kaichoro

The region: Gunma
The highlight: An elegant escape with the finest marriage of food and drink

Turn doing nothing into a luxury as you look out over the town of Ikaho’s arresting landscapes. All of the eight Japanese-style rooms at Kaichoro are uber spacious and your private open-air bath lets you soak in the area’s famous hot spring water known as Shirogane-no-yu (silver water). Along with the seasonal, monthly menus, the hotel offers a range of Japanese sake and sommeliers are on hand to offer drink pairing suggestions.

www.kaichoro.jp

Bettei Senjuan 

The region: Gunma
The highlight: Unique blend of contemporary and traditional architecture 

The geometric patterns on this ryokan’s walls and ceiling are made with a technique called Edo suminagashi (traditional paper marbling) in which the pattern is made by soaking the wallpaper and ceiling boards in sumi ink. It creates a unique atmosphere, different from other traditional inns. The owners believe that experiencing ryokan at a young age is important so that ryokan culture can be passed onto future generations, so they welcome families with children.

www.senjyuan.jp

UAN Kanazawa 

The region: Ishikawa
The highlight: Art, history, tradition and nature come together at this inn

Some of the best experiences at this hotel can be found at its lounge, Hare no Ma, which means “the space between fine weather.” Here you’ll find art, exquisite dining options and local Ishikawa sake. Also try out the offered workshops including Kutani chinaware painting. Reserve breakfast in advance to try the inn’s menu specialties, including Noto bacon and rosy seabass.

www.solarehotels.com

Oyado Tamaki 

The region: Gunma
The highlight: Calm atmosphere and steamy hot springs

This inn celebrates not just the four standard seasons, but also the traditional 24 seasons of ancient Japan, by changing flowers and doll displays to match each mini-season. The owner crafts the floral decorations from the inn’s garden herself. As for the region’s Ikaho onsen, it’s famous for providing both golden and the silver hot spring water – and the inn lets you enjoy the healing benefits in two large shared bath areas and an open-air bath.

www.oyado-tamaki.com

Polaris

The region: Hokkaido
The highlight: Stargazing amidst the untouched nature of Hokkaido 

Located in Teshikaga, an area 350km east of Sapporo and far from city lights, Polaris affords a sublime view of the stars. All three rooms face east in order to offer a magnificent view over the cornfields, the mountains and the morning sunrise. The surrounding nature is not the only attraction: the hotel’s delicious meals are made using locally sourced ingredients and wild game including Ezo deer.

www.polaris-hokkaido.com

Guest House Wagaranchi 

The region: Mie
The highlight: 100-year-old house near a World Heritage site

This traditional house has been renovated to preserve its natural charm. The traditional entrance as well as the shoji and fusuma sliding doors create a nostalgic atmosphere, while the communal kitchen means guests can prepare their own meals. Nearby you’ll find the world heritage site of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. Note: There is no bath in the facility so guests are requested to use a nearby public bath.

wagaranchi.wixsite.com/wagaranchi

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