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When we looked at the Ritz-Carlton Okinawa last October, we mentioned that a fourth Japanese property was in the works in Kyoto, the country’s former imperial capital and home to no less than 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Now, the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto is confirmed as opening on February 7, 2014, alongside a host of other new hotels being announced. We’ll give you a breakdown of what’s happening below.
Billed as an urban resort, the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto will have 136 rooms on the banks of the Kamogawa River, with views of the Higashiyama Mountains. Traditional Meiji house and courtyard architecture is incorporated into the building’s structure, and the hotel will have four dining options, as well as meeting facilities and a spa.
Design Hotels opened their second member hotel in Tokyo (the first is the Park Hotel Tokyo) in August: The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon. We’re excited about this. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s a given that it's a sleek and 'purty' hotel with some great design features, but also because it's located on the edge of one of the city’s oldest heritage districts known as Asakusa, and the thriving, dizzying modern metropolis.
On one side you have the Kaminarimon entrance gate (Thunder Gate), which stands approximately 38 feet high by 38 feet wide, and, on the opposite end of the scale, there’s the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest freestanding broadcast tower in the world at 2,080 feet.
To make the most of this amazing view, the hotel has its minimalist lobby on the 13th floor (we hope none of you are toooo superstitious). There is also a 14th-floor terrace that’s open 24/7 to take in the scene.
If you equate urinal cakes, public parks, and the sound of toilets flushing with the pinnacle of luxury, then, boy, does Japan have a hotel for you.
Artist Tatsu Nishi (the same man who recently created a living room in the middle of New York's Columbus Circle) has built a one-room hotel inside a public toilet in Osaka's Nakanoshima Park. He's calling it "Nakanoshima Hotel." And before you go thinking it's just some fanciful, high-concept, bunch of art baloney, keep in mind that this is an actual hotel that costs 10,000 yen ($125) per night, and includes a proper bed, shower, and separate bathroom for hotel guests.
There's even a desk! Because, after all, everybody does their best thinking in the bathroom.
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We've had our fair share of Japanese hotel adventures, though we never quite tire of hearing about the country's unique taste in budget accommodations. Starting at around $38/night, these places are ideal if you have little cash to spare but need more than just a washing machine-sized capsule.
RocketNews has put together a handy list of the best amenities offered at Japanese budget hotels, explaining in 26 concise bullet points all the useful little extras that get thrown in, like free internet, free toiletries, free water, hand-written notes from housekeepers, pillow menus, origami souvenirs, and air purifiers. Oh yeah, and high-tech toilets.
Which got us thinking...where in the US can we find similar types of amenities?
It’s a year of anniversaries for The Ritz-Carlton in Japan: the group’s first hotel opened 15 years ago in Osaka, and five years ago Tokyo was added to the list. Just as celebrations are happening to mark both occasions, the urbanites that love these two city hotels have an alternative when looking for a weekend escape,The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa, which opened this past Spring.
Okinawa prefecture consists of hundreds of the Ryuku islands, which stretch over an area of 620 miles south of Japan’s main islands all the way to Taiwan. Part of the Kise country club, The Ritz-Carlton raises the bar for luxury on Okinawa Island, adding a chance to play golf and hit up the spa to the area’s beaches and diving options.
Did you know that fifty minutes outside of Nagasaki, Japan, there is a resort the size of Monaco that is modeled after a 17th-century Dutch town? Complete with windmills, canals, fields of tulips, and an exact replica of the residence of H.M. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, built with special permission from the Dutch Royal family?
Named "Huis Ten Bosch" (after the Queen's residence, which translates as House in the Forest), the resort was built in honor of the shared history between Nagasaki and the Netherlands, dating back to the arrival of a Dutch ship called "De Liefde" (The Love) in 1600.
Centuries later, the resort / theme park was built on reclaimed land, much like parts of the country it was modelled after. Hundreds of thousands of trees and flowers were planted to regenerate the area, with sustainability and environmentalism still a major focus today. You can stroll around cobble-stone streets, or go native and take a bike, stopping by one of the museums before getting a spa treatment on your way to an afternoon bit of theatre.
In Japan (where else?), it's now perfectly acceptable to book a hotel room for your sheep when you go away. We recently received an announcement about a new 30-room hotel, called simply "Hotel Sheep Guest House," opening in Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, about two hours south of Tokyo.
Surprisingly, unlike doggie boarding houses, or human hotels that are pet-friendly, this Japanese hotel strictly prohibits all other animals, meaning at any given moment its rooms are full of only sheep. How incredible! This is exactly the kind of place we'd like to visit when we're having an off day. Cuddling with all those sheep, ordering room service, maybe even watching a movie (Shrek somehow seems appropriate) would be like a hotel dream come true.
Cleaning up after them is another story.
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The all white church, or rather chapel, is used most during weddings but we're guessing if you needed a moment to talk to the man upstairs during your hotel stay, you could pop in for a quickie prayer session too.
Rates at the Westin in Japan's "City of Trees" start at around $229 a night.
Believe it or not, this shot of the Shinkansenthe Tokyo bullet train (versus a regular, slow train)was taken from 33 stories above the tracks, from our room at the Park Hotel. We've already showed you all around inside the place, but the magic of the property isn't just its affordable rates (for Tokyo!) and up-and-coming location surrounding by the big media skyscrapers in Shiodome, but its views.
Looking down, it's thisthe bullet train tracks and a reminder of that fact that this capital of Japan is always on the move. Looking up and out, it's this, a glittering still shot you otherwise only see on postcards.
Rooms at the Park Hotel average $250 per night, but a $12 upgrade scores you the prime views.
Before you can step into the preserved 1960s modernist environment that is the grand lobby of the Hotel Okura Tokyo, you first must arrive. For many that means being driven up and around to the hotel's off-the-street- entrance, where there'll be one valet for each door that needs opening, and more still to whisk away your bags.
Anyone who has experienced classic 5-star service at a Japanese hotel can tell you that this is par for the course; the need to touch anything mundanedoors, luggage, room keyscan be erased completely by some attentive hotel staffs, and if you chose to stay at the Okura then you likely already know this.
This attention to detail, which starts at the arrival of your car, continues all the way through to the teacakes served at the hotel's patisserie. Essentially it's the art of perfection at practice.
Back in December of 2009, a new sort of hotel opened in Japan. It's a capsule hotel sure, but it's one unplagued by shochu-swigging salarymen who rent capsules by the month. It's called 9Hours Hotel and it prides itself on being technologically up-to-date, very clean, very design-aware and yet completely affordable.
We've got an upcoming trip to Japan and we were totally psyched at the idea of sleeping there, until we discovered that the 9Hours is not in Tokyo as we thought, but in Kyoto and it's the only one of its kind. Sad face!
Why is Tokyo lacking the 9Hours love? Perhaps it's because the city is already well-stocked with capsule hotels, skyscraper Western hotels and family-owned ryokans that the 9Hours crew decided to try their luck outside the most obvious metropolis.
Hilton Hotels is adding more international properties to its brand than the Jolie-Pitts are adding kiddies to its clan. The company recently debuted three new hotels in far-flung locales like Japan, China and Poland.
Check after the jump for more on the new hotels.