Japan Is Finally Open to Travelers Again. These New Luxury Hotels Will Let You Visit in Style.

The country reopens its doors to travellers, with a host of new ryokans and skyscraping hotels ready to welcome us back.

By Michelle Gross 13/10/2022

A small, largely off-the-grid hot spring town best known for churning out some of the country’s best wasabi along Japan’s Izu Peninsula, Shuzenji was gearing up to host a series of cycling events for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics when I happened to pass through on my way back from Mount Fuji in February 2020. A month later, Japan closed its doors for the next two and a half years, and I haven’t stopped thinking about that town: What did they end up doing with all those Tokyo 2020 flags lining the lampposts and storefronts? And why on earth didn’t I try that wasabi ice cream when I had the chance?

So when the news broke that Japan would reopen to travellers from 68 countries including the US, UK and Canada visa-free on October 11, anticipation to return for both first-time travellers and Japanophiles like myself started to mount.

“Since the reopening was announced a few weeks ago, our phones have been ringing off the hook,” says Catherine Heald, CEO of luxury Asia tour operator Remote Lands. “Two and a half years of pent-up demand for luxury travel to Japan has come roaring back.”

Yet it will take some time for numbers to approach pre-pandemic levels. “It felt like I was going back in time to my first trip to Japan in 1989,” says Heald, who recently returned from the country. “With very few tourists, we had the temples and gardens to ourselves, and dinner reservations at coveted restaurants like Jiro were a breeze.”

Recent post-pandemic travel requirements to Japan included booking through a government-approved tour operator and obtaining a visa and ERFS certificate. But with the relaxing of these mandates, some are anticipating a golden age of travel to the country.

“The rest of this year offers a rare chance to experience Japan before the crowds return in 2023,” says InsideJapan’s Jeff Krevitt. “Japan is always magical, but if you’d like to have the magic all to yourself, 2022 and early 2023 could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Aside from the lack of crowds, there’s also a slew of new openings to explore—from hot spring hotels in Hokkaido to towering skyscrapers in Tokyo and contemporary ryokans in Kyoto. We’ve rounded up some of the splashiest ones to bookmark for your next visit.

Reach for the stars in Tokyo

The façade of Hoshinoya Tokyo

The sky’s the limit when it comes to luxury hotels in the capital. Occupying seven floors of a brand-new ultra-skyscraper in Ginza, the hotly anticipated Bulgari Hotel Tokyo is arriving in early 2023 with 98 rooms and suites. In the meantime, the sleek Tokyo Edition Toranomon in the bustling Roppongi district—Japan’s first Edition property—has two of the sexiest new spots in town: book a table at The Jade Room and Garden Terrace, then grab a classic cocktail at Gold Bar. Then later this year, Tokyo Edition Ginza will open in the popular Chuo Street shopping district with 86 luxury rooms and suites. Ryokans, or Japanese inns, are a more traditional alternative to skyscraping resorts; for an urban ryokan experience in the heart of the city, check in to the beloved Hoshinoya Tokyo. You’ll receive a complimentary kimono to wear around the property upon arrival—just don’t forget to take your shoes off before you set foot on the scented tatami mats.

Haute spring hotels from Hakone to Hokkaido

An onsen-style soaking tub at Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Set between Tokyo and Kyoto in Hakone National Park, Gen Hakone Gora, a.k.a “The Gen,” reopened this year after undergoing major renovations that transformed the former ryokan into a luxury six-key boutique stay. Each of the spacious rooms comes with its own balcony-side hot springs, perfect for soaking up the scenery of Hakone and Mount Fuji in the distance. Kai Poroto opened earlier this year on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, blending local culture and architecture inspired by the indigenous Ainu people. The 42 rooms offer views over the lake, and the on-site onsen is filled with a rare type of Shiraoi water brimming with organic materials derived from plants. Venture north into the mountains of Hokkaido and you’ll land in Niseko Village, where snowbirds will love Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. The first Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Japan—and only the fifth in the world—with just 43-rooms and seven suites set directly at the base of Mount Niseko Annupuri, the hotel opened in 2020 and still has that new-hotel glow (not to mention a world-class spa and onsen at Spa Chasi La Sothys).

Ultra-luxe stays in Kyoto

The restaurant Singular at Kyoto’s Garrya Nijo Castle

The cultural heart and tourist hub of Japan, Kyoto has lately seen some\of the country’s most exciting new hotel debuts. The first Asian addition to Hilton’s luxury line of LXR Hotels & Resorts, Roku Kyoto opened at the end of 2021. The 114-key retreat includes on-site fine dining, a dreamy riverside terrace and ROKU Spa and onsen, making this modern mountainside oasis a luxurious one-stop shop. If it’s a traditional ryokan you’re after, the Shinmonzen opened on a sleepy street in the Gion district, and with only nine luxurious yet minimalistic suites overlooking the river offers a true sense of place within this historic city. Bringing some fancy French allure to , Fauchon Hotel Kyoto also opened last year with 59 rooms and suites—with pretty pops of pink, it’s every bit as fabulous as its Parisian predecessor.

Across from Kyoto’s early 17th-century Nijo-jo Castle and through Kajiimiya Gate lies Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto, one of Kyoto’s most sophisticated stays, infusing Japanese touches like a traditional afternoon tea ceremony and morning breathing sessions with 161 contemporary rooms—each with stone bathtubs and some with their own natural onsen. The retreat also has two signature restaurants and an elegant garden bar, but perhaps the most stunning feature is the dramatic ground-floor thermal spa. Just around the moat from the Mitsui, Garrya Nijo Castle Kyoto is the first of Banyan Tree Group’s wellness-centric hotels in Japan. Featuring 25 rooms, seasonal French fare served at the restaurant Singular, and a Wellbeing Room for restorative exercises and yoga, this tranquil retreat is in the heart of Kyoto.

Island hopping across Japan

Treeful Treehouse EcoResort

In the middle of a forest in Okinawa, the completely sustainable, carbon-negative Treeful Treehouse opened last year with two design-forward treehouses that have been seamlessly integrated into nature. Built along the Genka River, Aero House and Spiral Treehouse both have sweeping 360-degree treetop views and swoon-worthy interiors. Aman founder Adrian Zecha debuted a new concept last year on the Seto Inland Sea island of Ikuhi: Think of Azumi as a modern ryokan, combining traditional sensibilities with global standards. Over on Awaji Island, off the coast of Kobe, Zenbo Seinei opened this spring with plenty of Zen vibes, natural hot springs, yoga, tofu-based dining and wellness offerings that include calligraphy courses, aromatherapy sessions and yoga. Fukue Island’s okcs Retreat Goto ray has 26 guest rooms, all of which face the ocean and come with open-air baths. Don’t miss a treatment at the spa, which combines Western hydrotherapy with age-old Eastern practices.

On Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, Hoshino Resort Kai Yufuin opened just outside of Beppu this summer 45 rooms, each with its own individual hot springs surrounded by the nature of Mount Yufu. And for one of the most unique retreats in Japan, guests can book the iconic Hirado Castle in Kyushu’s Nagasaki Prefecture. Originally built in 1559, the historic castle sits at the base of Japan’s oldest trading port in the northernmost tip of Nagasaki. It’s also World Heritage Cultural site, making Japan’s first-ever castle stay a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

ADVERTISE WITH US

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

Click here to subscribe to Robb Report ANZ.

Click here to subscribe to Robb Report ANZ.

 

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected