Stretching between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese land offers a varied palette of climates and landscapes. With maples, cherry blossoms, onsen and ryokan, the “Land of the Rising Sun” appears to have been taken directly from a Hokusai print. Here the mist softens its lines and the seasons bring warmth to the vegetation with their brilliant colours. With its lush nature, tea ritual and refined cuisine, Japan captivates by its elegance and authenticity as well as by the dynamism of its major metropolises. In the prefectures of Ishikawa, Kagoshima, Hyōgo, Kyōto and Tokyo, Relais & Châteaux has recently welcomed some treasures that we invite you to discover.
Ishikawa makes the perfect destination for travelers eager to explore authentic Japanese history, traditions, food culture, and more. Its history stretches back some four centuries to the days of the Maeda Clan, whose stunning wealth and peaceful diplomacy served as a backdrop for Japan’s leading refined culture. For over 400 years, Ishikawa has been spared from the ravages of war. As a result, the remains of manors where samurai once lived, still lend their old-fashioned charm to the townscapes. This area is also home to a number of traditional crafts like Wajima Lacquerware and Kutani Porcelain, still produced by artisans with skills polished to near-miraculous levels. Ishikawa likewise boasts Japan’s richest food culture: the local Kaga Cuisine makes the fullest use of incredible ingredients from both land and sea, for meals served with a sense of traditional beauty and hospitality informed by Japan’s famous tea ceremony.
Dauntless, fascinating, gigantic and teeming with life, Tokyo shines with a thousand superlatives. A metropolis with many facets in which parks and gardens are tucked between skyscrapers, it is fuelled by its history and is home to a quarter of the country’s population. A city known for culture, shopping and entertainment, it has also made a name for itself in gastronomy, drawing its sources from the land and its richness as well as the Western culinary heritage that has given rise to it and solidified its reputation. It offers a refined, elegant cuisine that delights the palate and features an abundance of rituals. Tokyo both captivates its visitors and supplies them with unending culinary delights!
A vast territory located between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, Hyōgo (nicknamed “Miniature Japan”) is shaped by contrasting landscapes and provides diverse activities such as relaxing in hot springs, enjoying water sports and hitting the ski slopes. Open to the world by means of the Port of Kobe, this region has nevertheless remained true to its traditions (as with the puppet theatre of Awaji) and its history: it is the home of medieval Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Renowned for Kobe beef and sake, Hyōgo is a land where gastronomy is also revered. A neighbouring city of Hyōgo in the same region of Kansai, Kyōto (the former Imperial capital) is a pearl of refinement where ideas, art and culture flourish abundantly. The Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, Gion Corner, Ginkakuji Temple and the Imperial Villa of Katsura are all beautiful examples of what the architecture, traditional arts and gardens of Japan have to offer.
Located south of Kyūshū and extending from the Kirishiwa Mountains to the Satsunan Archipelago, Kagoshima offers a variety of landscapes. Facing the Sakurajima Volcano, the city of Kagoshima has been given the nickname “Naples of the East”, while the lively hot spring town of Ibusuki is located not far from it. Chiran is home to the most famous tea plantation in Japan. In the south of the country, on the mountainous island of Yakushima, cedars, ferns, majestic waterfalls, turtles and granite beaches all shape this paradise. As for its gastronomy, dried bonito (katsuo-bushi), eel, sweet potato, Kurobuta pork, Kuroushi beef and Satsuma-Dori chicken are among the culinary specialities to be sampled.
Traditional Rituals at Asaba Ryokan By Josh Rubin & Evan Orensten
A 90-minute train ride to the south west of Tokyo is Asaba, a 500-year-old ryokan in a small village known for one of the oldest hot springs on the Izu Peninsula. Since our recent visit, it has become the sole destination of our continued daydreams.
Green forests. Peaked mountains. Aromatic whiskeys. Powder snow. Delicious vegetables. Hot spring onsen. It’s impossible to list all the reasons why I always love visiting Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.