This October, I learned first-hand, when I literally stayed overnight at the newly reopened 150-room Tokyo Station Hotel (www.thetokyostationhotel.jp). I had the almost eerie pleasure of looking out through my guest room window right into the main train station hall! (Only select rooms have this view.) Here, I could watch passengers scatter to and fro during the day or look down after midnight into a quiet, empty, newly restored architectural marvel, designed by famed Meiji architect, Kingo Tatsuno nearly 100 years ago. The hallways are long and narrow, but the location cannot be surpassed. Facilities include restaurants, bars, lounge, banquet rooms, business center, fitness club and spa. Prices are competitive, the staff speaks excellent English, and what could be more romantic than staying in this majestic red brick, landmarked building just steps from the Imperial Palace?
Outside of Tokyo, another company has been reopening and rebranding historic properties across Japan. Since opening his first HOSHINOYA on the grounds of his family’s 150 year-old mountain retreat in 2005, Mr. Yoshiharu Hoshino has expanded his Hoshino Resort empire (global.hoshinoresort.com) to include 28 newly opened or rebranded and refurbished upscale accommodation facilities. These boast some of the most historic and luxurious traditional ryokan (inns) in Japan, now branded as Hoshino KAI - meaning spirit - properties. Currently these are: KAI Aso on Japan’s southern-most island of Kyushu, KAI Atami) about 1 1/2 hours south of Tokyo on the Izu Peninsula, KAI Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture commuting distance to Tokyo. KAI Ito less than 2 hours south of Tokyo, KAI Izumo in Mie Prefecture about two hours from Kyoto near Japan’s second most important Shinto Shrine, KAI Kaga, at a hot spring resort near Kanazawa along the Japan Sea Coast KAI Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture near National Treasure Matsumoto Castle, and KAI Tsugaru in Aomori Prefecture in the northern Tohoku region on the northeast tip of Honshu. Hoshino Resorts has also added its own unique touches, such as signature spa treatments. KAI Kaga, for example, located in a region famous for its maki-e gold leaf inlaid lacquer-ware, offers a special gold-leaf facial, and resorts at the foot of volcanic Mount Asama, Aso, and Fuji offer massages incorporating mineral rich hot spring water and natural mountain plant oils.
As far south as you can go and still be in Japan is the Okinawan archipelago. The Prefecture capital city, Naha, on Okinawa Main Island, is home to the first DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (www.doubletree.hilton.com) in Japan. The 227-room hotel, which opened in May 2012, is just ten-minutes by monorail to the airport and just a ten-minute walk to Kokusai-dori, Naha’s biggest street.
A second Hilton branded hotel, the Hilton Okinawa Chatan (www.hil tonokinawachatan.com) is currently under construction just 12 1/2 miles from Okinawa Airport in Mihama. Facing the Mihama American Village, one of the largest shopping complexes in Okinawa, and just a two-minute walk to the beach, this 346-room urban resort will open in September 2014.
On the other side of Okinawa Island, in the city of Nago, the 97-room Ritz Carlton Okinawa (www.ritzcarlton.com) opened in May 2012 as the luxury chain’s first resort property in Japan. It is situated within the premises of the Kise Country Club and surrounded on three sides by its 18-hole golf course overlooking the ocean.
From Okinawa island hop on another just-under-an-hour flight south, and you’ll end up on the island of Ishigaki, a semi-tropical oasis just an hour flight north of Taiwan. In fact, Ishigaki is scheduled to open a new airport on March 7, 2013, which will offer direct international flights to Taipei. Ishigaki is the center point of the Yaeyama islands - a small cluster of islands within the southern Okinawan chain that is a ten-minute high-speed boat ride to the three-mile-square environmentally protected island of Taketomi. Taketomi is the site of Hoshino Resort’s newest flagship HOSHINOYA Okinawa, which opened as 48 independent luxury villas on a 16 acre property built to match the traditional style of the homes in the nearby village, just a buffalo cart ride away.
For more information, contact the Japan National Tourism Organization in New York at 212-757-5640, Los Angeles at 213-623-1952 or online at www.japan travelinfo.com