The Dreamiest Ryokans in Japan to Check Out Now
Aside from cherry blossoms, themed restaurants, and karaoke, Japan is celebrated for its remarkable hospitality. Omotenashi, the golden standard of hosting guests, is not something you can find in a rent-by-the-hour capsule hotel. For the full experience, rest your head at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn with tatami mat flooring, simple furniture, and futon mattresses. But don’t let their simple appearance fool you—a stay is typically accompanied by multi-course kaiseki dinners, hot spring access, and a scenic rural setting. While today’s ryokans still follow this formula, some have been elevated to an ultra-luxe status, while others reimagined through a modern lens. Here are the 11 dreamiest ryokans in Japan you’ll want to visit now.
Visitors flock to the Western Kyoto district of Arashiyama for its towering bamboo grove and monkey mountain, and thankfully, HOSHINOYA Kyoto is found far away from those crowds. Tucked upstream the Hozugawa river, the ryokan-meets-villa retreat is accessible via a 15-minute boat ride from the landing at Togetsukyo Bridge. The serenity of HOSHINOYA Kyoto’s 25 rooms, clean-lined and spacious, is amplified by the transcendent “gomijizai” cuisine, which Executive Chef Ichiro Kubota created to meld his expertise in French technique with traditional kyo-kaiseki appeal.
Just one glance at Wanosato immediately evokes a mystical sense of place. The 160-year-old ryokan is comprised of several minka houses, built to resemble the appearance of praying hands with gassho-zukuri roofs covered in moss. Accessing Wanosato requires a 4.5 hour train ride from Tokyo through the misty Hida-Takayama mountains in the Japanese Alps—and it’s well-worth the journey. Swallowed by the dense forest, you’ll be rewarded by impeccable service and frozen-in-time tranquility.
Nishimuraya Honkan, Toyooka
Located in Kinosaki Onsen, one of Japan’s best known spa towns, Nishimuraya Honkan has perfected its omotenashi over seven generations of family-run management. Facilities are traditional in appearance, though showcase an outstanding attention to detail that one would expect from a Relais & Chateau property. The longer your stay, the more spectacular the kaiseki dinners get, with exquisite dishes highlighting the famed Matsuba crab of the region. In addition to Nishimuraya Honkan’s four on-site onsen, guests gain an access pass to most of the public onsen around town, which each have their own history and charm.
Located just 90 minutes away from Tokyo in the resort town of Hakone, KAI Hakone was built on a lush hillside near the banks of the Sukumo River. All rooms are considered quite spacious by ryokan standards, and are appointed with contemporary furniture and hyper-local touches such as Yosegi tableware that can only be found in this area. If you tire from the divine views of Yusaka Mountain from your terrace, the natural hot springs are just steps away from your room.
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Gora Kadan, Kanagawa
Widely regarded as one of Japan’s preeminent luxury ryokans, Gora Kadan is well-deserving of its status. In the impossibly symmetrical shadow of Mt. Fuji, this Hakone inn is also a quick zip away from Tokyo via high-speed rail. The property blends traditional and contemporary characteristics with subtle precision, in both its elegantly designed tatami mat and Western-style rooms. Gora Kadan’s enhanced wellness offerings, like Dead Sea Salt treatments and water therapy, are perfectly paired with its blissful setting.
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Guntû, Seto Inland Sea
Perhaps the most intriguing manifestation of a modern day ryokan, guntû hosts up to 38 guests on a ritzy boat that cruises along the Chugoku and Shikoku coastlines. Designed by architect Yasushi Horibe, the stylish interiors are spa-inspired with ash wood-paneled floors and ceilings and minimal décor. All of the 19 suites have terraces that look out to the ocean with Western-style beds. Guntû provides further immersion into the surrounding seascape with fishing excursions and hikes along the the Seto Inland Sea, with seasonal meals that reflect the region.
Ryokan Kurashiki, Okayama
In the beating heart of Kurashiki’s historic Bikan quarter, Ryokan Kurashiki sits on a serene canal lined with enchanting willow trees. It’s not just an inn, but also a great base to explore the nearby museums, sake breweries, and well-preserved shrines. Built originally as the home of a prominent sugar merchant, the ryokan expanded into adjacent kura warehouses to form an exclusive compound. A recent renovation upgraded the property with modern amenities, though look out for noteworthy original features like the intricate wall tiles and namako cross hatching motifs that grace the exterior.
For those seeking utter seclusion in nature, Hinanoza (which translates to a relaxing rural escape) is the ryokan for you. It’s perched on the banks of Lake Akan in the forests of Eastern Hokkaido, near four national parks home to exotic wildlife like grizzly bears and rare cranes. Suites boast locally-produced woodwork and private open-air baths where you can bathe to the sound of the ocean. Despite feeling worlds-away, it’s surprisingly convenient to reach via flights from Tokyo or high-speed rail to the Kushiro JR train station.
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