Staying at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) is an immersive cultural experience. Don traditional garments such a yukata (robes) and geta (wooden sandals). Relax with a soothing soak in the onsen (natural hot springs). Relish in the time-honored pleasure of ritual tea ceremony. Savor multi-course kaiseki meals prepared with local, seasonal ingredients.
Courtesy of Bettei Senjuan
Bettei Senjuan | Minakami, Japan
Bettei Senjuan strikes the balance between classic and contemporary. Craftsmanship is on display from the moment you arrive in the entrance hall with its ink-marbled ceiling and stainless steel tatami mat floors. The exquisite curved corridor that leads to the guest quarters is adorned with original calligraphy by Nobuko Kawahara. All 18 rooms boast outdoor baths and breathtaking views of Mount Tanigawa. Artfully presented dishes are inspired by the bounty of the region.
Courtesy of Hoshinoya Kyoto
Hoshinoya Kyoto | Kyoto, Japan
Seeking a reprieve from the hustle and bustle? After a scenic 15-minute boat ride, you’ll arrive at Hoshinoya Kyoto. Nestled in the forested seclusion of the Arashiyama district, this riverfront refuge is a steeped in heritage. Though it’s no relic. Century-old buildings are reinvigorated with sliding screens, lattice lanterns, kyo-karakami (artistic printed paper), and contemporary touches. Equally enchanting are the expertly manicured grounds. Hungry? Chef Ichiro Kubota whips up "Gomijizai" cuisine at the Michelin-starred restaurant.
Courtesy of Takinoya
Takinoya | Noboribetsu, Japan
With its gentle pace and peaceful setting near Lake Kuttara in Noboribetsu, Takinoya is the perfect place to recharge for a few days. Whether you’re relaxing in the warm mineral springs fed by the Jigokudani onsen source (long believed to ease the mind and mind), reflecting in the Japanese gardens, or sipping sake on the balcony you’d be hard-pressed not to find a much-needed dose of halcyon. Interiors are tastefully appointed with cozy furnishings and handmade accents.
Courtesy of Beniya Mukayu
Beniya Mukayu | Yamashiro, Japan
Beniya Mukayu (meaning "in the natural state") is prized for its serene atmosphere, idyllic beauty, and attentive service. Clean lines, expansive windows, skylights, and bamboo verandas bring the outdoors in. This hilltop hideaway pays homage to its history as the site of a sacred Buddhist temple—particularly when it comes to spa rituals with geothermal water and medicinal herbs. There’s also daily yoga sessions. And the staff embodies the principles of omotenashi (hospitality) and yasashi (friendliness).
Courtesy of Kazuyoshi Miyoshi
Gora Kadan | Hakone, Japan
Gora Kadan is the finest ryokan in Hakone. The former summer villa of the Kanin-no-miya Imperial family exudes an undeniable air of regality. Rooms embrace a streamlined sensibility with tatami mats, wooden soaking tubs, silk textiles, and tranquil gardens. Suites are enhanced with sitting lounges, open-air stone baths, and saunas. Also part of the royal treatment? Kaiseki breakfasts and pampering massages, both of which can be enjoyed in the comfort of your personal sanctum.
Courtesy of Nobu Ryokan Malibu
Nobu Ryokan Malibu | Malibu, California
What sets Nobu Ryokan Malibu apart? Let’s start with its enviable location. The 1950s-era motel turned intimate respite overlooks Carbon Beach. Stunning vistas, salty breezes, and the sound of the waves lapping against the sand instantly induce a sense of calm. The design is purposefully simple, a tribute to traditional Japanese inns. Think: subdued hues, teak wood tubs, artwork, fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, and ocean-view patios. Aesthetics are complemented by gracious hospitality and upscale amenities.
Courtesy of Trinette + Chris
Gaige House + Ryokan | Glen Ellen, California
A taste of Japan in Sonoma Valley? The newly revamped Gaige House + Ryokan marries Asian modernist style and wine country ambiance. Seeking solitude? Situated in a remote area on the north side of the property are nine zen suites with interior atriums. This restful retreat has multiple quiet spaces, including a meditation deck and the aptly named Sanctuary Spa. Guests can also commune with nature through the practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing).