For those looking to experience a mix of tradition and luxury in Japan, it’s important to choose the right location and accommodation for your getaway. Traveling to Japan has never been easier, as American Airlines has recently launched non-stop flights from New York’s JFK airport to Tokyo Haneda, making it the only airline to run this service. This is along with their already existing direct flights from Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as Japan Airlines direct routes from San Francisco, Vancouver, San Diego and Boston. Because it’s a long flight, first class is recommended, as you can recline your seat into a six foot, six inch fully reclined bed, enjoy gourmet meals as well as traditional Japanese delicacies and sip a wide variety of libations from all over the world. Luxury amenities also enhance the flying experience with a quilted bed topper, soft duvet, cozy slippers, comfortable pajamas and a toiletry kit of necessities.
Tokyo is a full of worthwhile offerings for luxury travelers. That being said, the islands of Okinawa are easily accessible from the port by ferry or by flying Japan Airlines, and will allow travels to experience a mix of city, nature and tradition in one trip. And to ensure you make the most of your time in each area, here are three must-stay accommodations in each area.
The Shangri-La hotel chain is known for its world-class properties, and the Tokyo property is no different. As soon as you step inside the grand entrance you’ll notice the ornate chandelier and traditional artwork behind the front desk, one of over 2,000 pieces around the hotel. The property boasts a range of room classes, from expansive rooms with aerial city views to the over-the-top Presidential Suite which features an expansive living room with plush furniture and a bathroom with an over-sized tub, hammam and a gym. Choose from one of the two fine dining restaurants, the Italian-themed Piacere or the traditional Japanese Nadaman, which is well-known for its fresh sushi and seasonal menu. While you can relax in the health club, whirlpool, steam shower or heated indoor swimming pool, a visit to CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La is a must, as the treatments are based on traditional Japanese rituals. We recommend the “Kisetsu Ritual”, as treatment based on the country’s special appreciation of the changing seasons.
Tradition-meets-luxury takeaway: Head to their lounge for a taste of Tokyo’s world class handcrafted cocktail culture. Try the sweet tasting “Kyoakane”, a blend of Hibiki 17y whiskey, plum liqueur, cranberry juice, honey and fresh lemon juice or opt for one of their many martinis like the “Tea Martini” made with vodka, tea liqueur, chambord, iced tea, fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup.
Located just one hour from Tokyo via the bullet train, HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is a luxury Onsen that immerses guests in nature, tradition and nourishing natural hot springs. Their mission is to help guests discover traditional japan while also enjoying luxurious modern amenities. Bathe in the natural hot springs, the property’s signature offering, which have been used for their healing and curative properties since 1914. The rooms themselves are villa-style, each offering views of hot springs, rivers, forests, mountains or an onsite traditional Japanese garden. Typical eco-friendly activities offered include visiting a wild bird sanctuary, hiking to waterfalls, trekking at twilight, horseback rising and watching snow monkeys bathe in the hot springs at Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park. For something more traditional, take part in creating Japanese handicrafts, do health-promoting breathing exercises in their Japanese tea house or tour the Nagano Zenkoji Temple. Their food and drink program also introduces guests to local flavor, with traditional cooking methods, local ingredients and seasonal dishes like Murayama Wase Gobo burdock tofu topped with local Wasabi of Azumino, grated green radish and Shungiku garland chrysanthemum topped with salmon roe and Azumino Pork wrapped lotus root topped with chili and pepper sauce.
Tradition-meets-luxury takeaway: Head to their spa for an experience in culture and pampering. Their “Jun Facial Treatment” includes a neck and scalp massage and uses sake to nourish the skin, while their “Meditation Bath” allows you to experience their signature hot springs through a Bath Yami in the dark and Bath Hikari in the light
Located on the traditional Taketomi Island, HOSHINOYA Okinawa is a must for those looking to experience pure luxury in a traditional setting. The island itself is known for its rich culture and unique traditions, and although HOSHINOYA Okinawa is the only luxury resort on the island, it’s also very traditional. While you’ll be able to savor world-class amenities like an enormous heated pool, an organic spa, lookout points and innovative cuisine, the property resembles the local village with coral wall-rimmed villas each done in a Ryokan style. Tatami flooring, plush futon bedding, a shoji sliding wooden door with a paper screen and a gajoni living room allow for comfort in a zen space, while an over-sized stand-alone tub, bath herbs and floor-to-ceiling windows immerse you in pure tranquility. In the restaurant, try your first ever Ryukyu Nouvelle dish, a style of food created by blending French techniques with local ingredients, many of which come from their onsite herb garden. Some menu items may include local Ishigaki Miya pork with a foie gras croquette, fresh fish with eggplant tartare and a drop of fresh ginger root or over-roasted Ishigaki beef lightly dressed in fumet broth a bearnaise sauce. In the spa, treatments use only local ingredients from islands like hibiscus, seaweed, sea salt and sea mud. We recommend the “Invitation From The Flowers” oil treatment, which uses thermal water and hibiscus to balance and replenish skin. Back in the room, sleep well knowing you’re protected by a rooftop shiisa, an animated lion statue there to ward off bad weather and bad luck.
Tradition-meets-luxury takeaway: In order to relax like a local, take part in some of their onsite exercise classes, like Tin Nu Deep Breathing, or “Breathing of the Sky,” by the pool under the stars at night or Yonna Deep Breathing on the beach.