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12 Best Hotels Designed By Famous Architects in Japan

Article | June 5th, 2021 | Lukas Leiffer
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The natural wonders, the unique cuisine, the safe environment, and most importantly, the hospitable people. These are just a few reasons that make Japan one of the best places to visit in Asia. If you plan on visiting Japan anytime soon, then you’re in for a treat. Japan’s advantage is its location. The archipelago has incubated a culture so diverse that you’ll find even more variations within it. As a result, you’ll find that Japan offers something new to its tourists every time they visit one of its over 6000 islands.

While traveling, one has to determine where they’ll be staying, as it is one of the factors that impact your itinerary. Not to worry, Japan has a multitude of hotel types to choose from, like business hotels, capsule hotels, hostels, minpakus (A family-operated Airbnb), minshukus (Like an inn or lodge), and Ryokan (family resorts).

Generally speaking, your budget determines your stay in Japan. You’ll need to account for the services you need as well as the number of people traveling with you. Here, we explore some of the best hotels designed by famous architects to highlight what kind of accommodation you can expect.

1. ONE NISEKO RESORT TOWERS

Let’s kick off our list with One Niseko. It’s a resort hotel that was designed by the famed architect, philosopher, and writer, Kengo Kuma, who’s also the designer of the Japan National Stadium for the 2020 summer Olympics.

The visionary architect imagined One Niseko to blend in with the surrounding natural beauty of Niseko, Hokkaido. The hotel can be seen from afar, towering between the ridges of Mount Niseko Annupuri. Guests can enjoy a luxurious stay with a breathtaking view of the mountain. In the summers, lush green pastures greet guests as they make their way to the hotel. But in the winters, its beauty is further amplified by the majestic snowy wonderland, making it look like a castle in the mountains.

Each room showcases a minimalist Ainu design that’s full of warmth and comfort. They also come equipped with modern amenities like Wi-Fi, television, washer/dryer, ironing table. Additionally, the hotel boasts a trendy bar, restaurant, and café. Plus, it’s 10 minutes away from the Niseko Moiwa Ski Resort. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, get rental ski equipment from the hotel, go skiing, come back for a massage or enjoy a bath in hot spring water, and rest comfortably in their rooms, all in one day.

2. BENIYA MUKAYU

The Yamashiro Onsen in Ishikawa prefecture is a town best known for its hot springs that date back over hundreds of years. On the foothills of Yakushiyama hills, overlooking the city of Kaga, you’ll find Beniya Mukayu. It’s a traditional Japanese Ryokan that truly captures the essence and history of the area.

Beniya Mukayu’s designer, Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama, took his inspiration from Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi when designing this place, making it a haven that exemplifies co-existence with nature, free from excess. As a result, all 17 rooms feature a minimalist contemporary design with no extra decoration. The main focus of this hotel is to allow guests to have a place of peace and tranquility where they are free to let their mind room. The spacious rooms are equipped with large windows that allow light to flood them and display the majestic views of the mountain garden.

You can relax here completely, enjoy the open-air baths, take part in refreshing tea ceremonies, experience the Yakushima relaxation treatments, or marvel at the delicious Kaiseki cuisine. Plus, the shuttle service nearby can easily transport you to nearby towns where you can enjoy a night out and come back for a light read in the hotel’s library before you sleep.

3. KAWANA HOTEL

Located near the coast of the Izu peninsula with a wonderful view of Mount Fuji across the bay, the Kawana hotel has a long history of hospitality. Designed by Teitaro Takahashi as a villa for Japanese entrepreneur Okura Kishichiro, the lodge is now a heritage hotel with a history of hosting important political figures, celebrities, and athletes.

The hotel’s white walls with red Spanish roof tiles contrast with the surrounding lush green pastures, giving it a stylish and timeless appearance. On the inside, the large fireplace and chandelier give a retro charm, resembling a Showa mansion.

Guests come here for the luxury experience, staying in one of the 100 rooms, a common spot for Tokyo elites. But, the main attraction is its two world-class golf courses that have attracted athletes from all over the world. They get to experience the rich beauty while enjoying their favorite pastime.

1. SANYO-SO

Like the Kawana Hotel, Sanyo-so also has historical roots, serving as the residence for the eldest son of Yataro Iwasaki, the founder of the Mitsubishi conglomerate, then known as Mitsubishi zaibatsu. The place goes back to 1929 where it was intended as a villa for Hisaya Iwasaki. In 1947, the villa was opened to the public as a Ryokan with 15 buildings. Since then, it has changed ownership, and in 1988 it was further expanded to 37 buildings showcasing the final work of the late architect, Togo Murano.

Sanyo-so is situated at the foot of Mt. Genji in Izu Nagaoka, Shizuoka Prefecture. It features a large Japanese garden and a sukiya-zukuri architecture style, displaying the refined taste of the Showa era. It is designated as a cultural property.

The Ryokan offers a perfect retreat for weary travelers, offering facilities such as a bath, an open garden, and lounging. You can rest in one of its spacious buildings and enjoy the serenity of the surrounding natural wonders while you sip on warm tea.

5. HOTEL KEY FOREST KITAMORI

Key Forest is perhaps the most unique hotel on this list. Designed by Atsushi Kitagawara, the hotel is part of the Kobuchizawa art village. The artistic vision certainly shows with the building’s irregular geometric design, matching polygonal windows, and protruding sharp edges. The modern concrete building sits between the dense forests of the Yamanashi prefecture.

Inside, all 6 guest rooms showcase a novel design. Each room is designed differently, made by taking inspiration from nature, such as the sun and wind, without compromising on comfort. The philosophy arises from Kraftwerk – each guest can imagine their own complex and vivid experience.

It is recommended for travelers who’ve come to experience the Kobuchizawa art village and its accompanying resort and spa. It fits perfectly with the theme as a relaxing space full of art.

It’s a story building comes with an accessible terrace roof where guests can view the natural landscape. It even includes a reception room, a whisky bar, and a restaurant. Guests can go out for a hike in the woods, enjoy horseback riding, or entertain themselves with a round of golf as well.

6. ATAMI KAIHOUROU

On top of a hill in the city of Atami, Shizouka, lies the epitome of craftsmanship and luxury, the Atami Kaihourou. Designed by Kengo Kuma, the building is nothing short of artistic wonder. The artist envisioned for the hotel to feel as though guests were staying close to the sea while on top of a hill. Hence, a lot of glass was used for its construction. Coupled with the water balcony, the hotel captures the essence of the surrounding forest successfully while holding true to its theme.

The hotel only has 4 guest rooms, but they display the height of luxury combined with a modern aesthetic and transparency to the surrounding landscape.

7. GRAND PRINCE HOTEL KYOTO

If you’re visiting Kyoto, then get ready to experience the traditional side of Japan. The city is home to many Buddhist shrines and temples, a conserve of Japanese cultural roots.

You’ll certainly have a long list of places to visit, so get ready for a long trip. Thinking about accommodation? What better place to stay than the Grand Prince Hotel. It is one of Togo Murano’s creations. The hotel was designed with spacious rooms in mind, situated in an elliptical building that showcases a panoramic view of Kyoto city and Mt. Hiei.

Additionally, the hotel offers all the amenities of a city hotel including, dining, lounging, and spa. You can even rent bicycles from the hotel and navigate the city, making your trip the ideal adventure.

8. TOTO SEAWIND AWAJI

Simplicity and being one with nature define the TOTO Seawind Awaji Hotel in Awaji, Hyogo prefecture. The hotel is positioned on a steep slope overlooking Osaka Bay. As a result, it holds true to its name and experiences sea winds that gently caress the modern concrete structure as they pass through.

It was created by the Pritzker Prize holding architect, Tadao Ando, who envisioned the structure to gel neatly with the surrounding landscape. His unique design is not only limited to the exterior but also incorporates natural elements in the interior, like natural scenery paintings that spread all over walls. The hotel also boasts a restaurant with a full ocean view, ideal for a romantic getaway. The rooms are cozy yet functional, providing ample space and lighting.

9. UMITSUBAKI HAYAMA

In the southwestern seaside area of Shirahama, Wakayama prefecture. lies Umutsubaki Hiyama. Like the Seawind Awanji, it too is a place that overlooks the sea.

Its designer, Yoshiji Takehara, made it as a classic Japanese style Ryokan that is also environment friendly. It only has 6 rooms, but they all exhibit a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. But that’s not even the best part. The warm, tropical climate in Shirahama is what attracts visitors to this place, allowing it to remain functional all year. Moreover, it lets guests enjoy swimming with tropical fish.

Nearby, you’ll find the historic Tsubaki Onsen, where guests can relax in the hot springs. It is also a resting place for pilgrims of the Kumano Kudo – a circular pilgrimage of those that hold the Shinto faith.

10. SETOUCHI RETREAT AONAGI

500 of Japan’s 6000 islands lie in the Seto inland sea. One of them is Shikoku Island, where Ehime prefecture is home to the Setouchi Retreat Aongi. Designed by Tadao Ando, and in line with his style of placing structures on a hill, this too overlooks the Seto Inland Sea while blending with surrounding nature.

The retreat is a full-fledged small hotel with 7 suites. In addition, the hotel overflows with luxury, offering guests amenities like a spa and sauna, hot spring Jacuzzi, and an art gallery. Plus, its two pools, one of which is an infinity pool, seems as though it’s a continuation of the Seto Inland Sea.

The interior is raw and lean, intended for travelers to enjoy the beauty of nothingness while seamlessly integrating with nature.

11. HYATT REGENCY FUKUOKA

Like the Grand Prince Hotel in Kyoto, the Hyatt Regency is a city hotel located in Hakata, Fukuoka prefecture. This is the only hotel on this list that showcases the work of an American architect, Michael Graves.

With 246 rooms, it’s a huge hotel that sits neatly within the city, overlooking the intersection of the Hakata and Naka rivers. Depending on which room you stay in, you can take in the eye-catching cityscape. It’s a completely modern hotel, bringing an international feel to Japan, perfect for travelers who want to remain familiar with their surroundings.

In addition to relaxing in the hotel’s many amenities, like the aromatherapy facility, the hotel is connected to Canal City Hakata, an entertainment and shopping complex showcasing numerous shops, a cinema complex, a theatre, and a host of restaurants. In turn, giving guests the convenience to experience a fulfilling holiday.

12. TAISHOYA

Designed by the late Junzo Yoshimura, a leading Japanese architect who’s also famous for working on the Imperial Palace. Taishoya manages to capture the essence of traditional Japanese Ryokan, making it a place of comfort, relaxation, and healthcare.

Travelers visit Taishoya mainly for the Ureshino Onsen’s spring water, as it contains high levels of sodium which beautifies one’s skin. Fortunately, the old-established Ryokan situated in the center of Ureshino Onsen, Saga Prefecture, gets the spring water directly from the source and into open baths for guests to enjoy.

The guest rooms, as you’d expect, are classic Japanese style but are arranged in a way to surround the beautiful Japanese pond garden outside. Plus, the large windows open to the beautiful majesty of the surrounding greenery. The food here is to die for. The hotel caters to guests providing kaiseki-ryori, prepared with plenty of seafood from Ariake Sea, and premium-quality beef.

In addition, there are many sightseeing opportunities nearby, like the Toyotamahime Shinto Shrine, Zuiko-Ji Buddhist Temple, and Todoroki Falls.


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