The World’s Oldest Hotel 

For a slice of history in Japan, look no further than Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. Founded in 705 by Fujiwara Mahito, the son of an aide to Emperor Tenji, this traditional inn was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest hotel in the world in 2011. Despite the fact that it was renovated in 1997, you can still feel the more than 1,300 years of history when visiting there. It has welcomed many distinguished guests over the years, including the likes of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Takeda Shingen and, more recently, Emperor Naruhito. As well as its history, the hotel is also famous for its therapeutic hot spring water sourced directly from the local Hakuho Springs. Keiunkan was continuously run by 52 generations of the same family until 2017.  

Kaijyu Yagura

A Night at a Castle  

Another accommodation steeped in history is Kaiju Yagura in Nagasaki Prefecture. It’s one of the five turrets of the imposing Hirado Castle and was converted into a luxury hotel in April 2021, though just a single group of up to five people can stay per night. As well as a spacious living room with a tatami mat and an elegant bedroom with paintings adorned by artist Takahide Komatsu, there’s also a spectacular bathroom surrounded by three glass walls. Guests have exclusive access to the castle’s main tower museum after hours and can try some cultural experiences, such as a ritual folk dance known as Hirado Kagura. A night at Kaiju Yagura will set you back somewhere between ¥400,000 and ¥671,220 a night per couple or group, depending on whether you wish to eat there or not.  


Book and Bed

Surround Yourself with Books  

At the other end of the price spectrum is Book and Bed Tokyo, a capsule hotel where guests are surrounded by, yes, you’ve guessed it, books. A mini haven for bibliophiles, there are, according to the website, around 4,000 titles to choose from in various languages. Originally opened in Ikebukuro in 2015 by architecture company, Suppose Design Office, the idea, according to founders Makoto Tanjiri and Ai Yoshida, was to create spaces that were as enjoyable as they were useful by eliminating the barriers between architecture and design. The current Tokyo hostel is conveniently located in Shinjuku, a short walk from the station. There’s also a Book and Bed in Osaka’s Shinsaibashi district. The interior at the two places is delightful and both locations are certainly Instagrammable, but don’t expect them to be overly comfortable. 

Benesse House Oval at Naoshima (Photo © of Tadao Ando)

A Museum Sleepover  

For art lovers visiting Japan, a trip to Naoshima is a must. Along with Teshima and Inujima, the picturesque art island draws tourists from all over the world and is particularly famous for Yayoi Kusama’s iconic red and yellow polka-dotted pumpkins. Approximately 20 minutes by ferry from Uno in Okayama Prefecture, many people choose to spend a day there, but to fully appreciate all the museums, galleries and outdoor exhibits, it’s highly recommended to stay a night at the beautiful Benesse House. There are four separate hotel buildings to choose from: the Museum, Oval, Park and Beach, all of which were designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Tadao Ando. Each place boasts its own unique artwork and style, as well as some delightful views of the Seto Inland Sea. For guests staying there’s also 24-hour access to the museum.  

Kabukicho Crossing with Hotel Gracery in the background | Photo by Richie Chan via Shutterstock

Wake up Next to Godzilla  

Located in the heart of the lively Kabukicho district, Hotel Gracery is arguably the most famous hotel in Shinjuku despite only having opened in 2015. The 30-story accommodation boasts close to 1,000 rooms, including six with a spectacular view of Godzilla’s head, which has been placed on the eighth floor of the hotel. It makes for quite a sight. Fans of “the king of the monsters,” though, might be more interested in the one-of-a-kind “Godzilla Room” on the top floor. Adorned with classic posters and an ominous giant claw over the bed, it’s the ideal setting for fans of the kaiju series as they also get to take home some original Godzilla merchandise. There are many other hotels in Japan with famous character-themed rooms, including several dedicated to Hello Kitty.  

Henn na Hotel

A Robot Revolution  

In May 2015, Japan established the Robot Revolution Initiative (RRI) with the aim of taking robotics in this country to the next level. Two months later, Henn Na Hotel, the world’s first hotel to be staffed mostly by robots, was opened in Nagasaki. As well as a realistic-looking humanoid and two multilingual dinosaurs greeting guests at reception, the accommodation also featured a slow-moving porter robot and inside the rooms, a cute electronic creature called Churi-chan who could change the temperature and turn the lights on and off. An immediate hit with both domestic and international travelers, Henn Na Hotels soon spread nationwide and even globally. There are now 20 of them scattered around Japan. In 2021, the hotel chain opened its first accommodation abroad, starting in Seoul and then later in New York. 

Hoshino Resorts Tomamu Ice Village

A Room Made Entirely of Ice  

Part of Hokkaido’s world-famous powder belt, Hoshino Resorts Tomamu is an extremely popular winter getaway destination for skiers, snowboarders and even those who want to spend time away from the slopes. It boasts luxurious places to stay, including the Tower, two high-rise buildings with spectacular views of the surrounding area, and Risonare, which featurtes series of spacious suites with observation jet-baths and saunas. For those wanting something a bit more adventurous, however, the Ice Hotel is worth trying. Part of the magical Ice Village, it’s open for a limited time between January and February. Though it reaches as low as -30 degrees Celsius outside, it’s around -3 degrees inside the room and there’s a sleeping bag to help keep guests warm. There’s only one room, accommodating up to two people, plus a child and dog.

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