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Exquisite Stays

Be it modern accommodation in Tokyo or an ancient castle-cum-hotel in Kyoto, the theme of superlative service runs throughout the country

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Japan is awash with a cornucopia of high-quality deluxe hotels across the country – from traditional ryokan inns with immaculately restored sukiya-zukuri, the traditional teahouse-style architecture, to sleek modern spaces with glass walls and minimalist interiors in cloud-brushing skyscrapers.


Yet despite the wide spectrum of accommodation styles, there is perhaps one ingredient that underpins a stay in any hotel in Japan – an unwavering next-level attention to detail, service and hospitality, otherwise known as omotenashi.


Azumi Setoda


Among the many places where this can be experienced is Azumi Setoda, an exquisitely crafted new hotel on Ikuchijima, a small island famed for its citrus fruits in the Seto Inland Sea in Hiroshima Prefecture.


Inspired by the idea of a modern take on a traditional ryokan inn, this is the brainchild of Adrian Zecha, the founder of the sleek Aman Resorts, alongside local partners Naru Developments. Kyoto architect Shiro Miura balances a traditional Japanese aesthetic with a contemporary, minimalist atmosphere in the 22 guestrooms, which span a compound dating back 140 years, formerly home to an influential local.


Ozu Castle


For a different type of stay, Ozu Castle in Ozu –  known as “Little Kyoto” – in Ehime Prefecture, offers the rare (and uber-luxurious) experience of stepping back in time during an overnight stay.


The historic tiered castle – which dates back centuries but was rebuilt in 2004 – enables guest to authentically experience the luxury-laden life of a 16th-century lord, with every imaginable treat laid on – from a welcoming troop of flag-waving samurai to horse rides in samurai armour plus traditional dance performances at dinner.


Nearby, Garyu Sanso Villa (hero photo), a beautiful example of true Japanese architecture, is perched on the cliffs overlooking the Hiji River, a perfect position to enjoy a traditional matcha tea and explore exquisite gardens, with fantastic views.


The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko


Meanwhile, nature is the scene-stealing protagonist at the The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, a sleek modern hotel that sits on the scenic shores of Lake Chuzenji in the temple- and forest-packed Nikko region of Tochigi Prefecture, just north of Tokyo.


Here, visitors can enjoy restorative hot spring onsen soaks and boating activities – or simply soak up the beautiful panoramas from their serenely designed deluxe guest rooms, many with a lakeside engawa-style porch, complete with a bathtub.


Aman Tokyo


Tokyo may not immediately come to mind as a temple to serenity – yet this is precisely the atmosphere that prevails at the Aman Tokyo, a peacefully luxurious hotel that spans the upper levels of a skyscraper in the Otemachi district.


In addition to sharply executed gourmet cuisine and a wellness area with deeply restorative quality treatments, the guest rooms are a highlight: here, amid the clean minimalist lines and warm materials impeccably designed by Kerry Hill, guests can relax among the clouds while soaking up views across the endless panorama of Tokyo.

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