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The best hotels and resorts in Japan and China: The Ritz-Carlton Jiuzhaigou, The Tokyo Edition, Azumi Setoda and more

The Ritz-Carlton Jiuzhaigou

In this eight-part series, we’ve scoured the globe to find 50 of the most stunning hotels to visit once it’s possible to do so. Here, discover the best in Japan and China

The Ritz-Carlton Jiuzhaigou, China

Jiuzhaigou is the stuff legends – specifically Chinese folklore – are made of, and now The Ritz-Carlton has just made itself a part of the story with its first villa-only property. Featuring 87 villas located 2,300m above sea level, the hotel looks out over the famous Jiuzhaigou Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its clear blue green waters, many stepped waterfalls and ancient forest. There’s a spa, four dining outlets and the usual facilities expected of a Ritz-Carlton property, but the locale is the true attraction here. The hotel has many activities available to its guests, including day trips to nearby Tibetan villages, treks through the national park and horseback riding under the stars.

JW Marriott Hotel Nara, Japan

To live like royalty in Nara, one can’t get closer – literally – than a stay at this JW Marriott Hotel. The property is located a stone’s throw from Heijo Palace, once the place of residence of the emperor when the city served as Japan’s capital between 710 and 794. In addition, the 158-room hotel is probably the most comfortable accommodation Nara has to offer, since Marriott claims it’s the first international luxury hotel chain to make a foray into the city. An indoor swimming pool, 24-hour fitness centre and toiletries from British brand Aromatherapy Associates complete the experience. Silk Road Dining, the all-day dining venue, is a tribute to Nara’s ancient connections to the maritime silk road.

Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Hokkaido, Japan

Only the fifth site for The Ritz-Carlton’s ultrapremium offshoot, this ski-focused resort has two mountains, Yotei and Niseko Annupuri, as its backdrop. Avid skiers and snowboarders will be kept busy as there are nearly 850 hectares of skiable terrain, including ample backcountry adventures and 70 runs. There’s also an onsite spa and onsen, a nod to the hot springs that are commonplace and a highlight in Niseko. But the resort isn’t only a popular spot during colder months; in summer, guests can take part in cycling, hiking excursions, horseback riding, visit the nearby farmers’ market or play a round of golf at one of the two 18-hole courses.

The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, Japan

There’s more to Japan than Mount Fuji. Look a little further north of Tokyo and you’ll find Mount Nantai and Lake Chuzenji nestled within Nikko National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage area is the tranquil backdrop for the 94-key Ritz-Carlton, Nikko. With light woods and clean lines, every room has a private balcony that invites its occupants to take a seat and drink in the majesty of the surrounding landscape. Notably, the hotel is the first Ritz-Carlton to have an onsen. The waters for the indoor and outdoor baths are drawn from the nearby Yumoto hot spring.

The Tokyo Edition, Toranomon, Japan

The first of two Edition hotels to be located in Japan, the Toranomon outpost is designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma. Skip the guest rooms and book one of the 22 suites, which start at 70sqm and go up to 168sqm. The Terrace Suite has an expansive outdoor terrace; come winter, huddle under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate and soak in views of the city skyline and Tokyo Tower. True to its ethos as an urban resort, you’ll enjoy facilities such as an indoor swimming pool, a jacuzzi, 24-hour gym and four dining venues, including Gold Bar that provides a modern Japanese tea service by a local tea master.

Azumi Setoda, Japan

The newest undertaking from Adrian Zecha, the mastermind behind the Aman hotels, this eagerly awaited bolthole is the first opening from the newly launched Azumi group. Perched on Ikuchijima, a postage stamp of an island in the Seto Inland Sea, the 18-suite and four-duplex retreat occupies the former 140-year-old home of one of Setouchi’s most dynamic salt farming and shipping families. Meticulously restored with the finest craftsmanship and designed as a modern-day ryokan, the property serves fresh seafood and dishes using local ingredients in a communal dining space, while the bathhouse – open also to the public – is located across the street.

Roku Kyoto, LXR Hotels & Resorts, Japan

The first Asia-Pacific outpost for Hilton’s burgeoning new luxury chain arrives in Kyoto in the third quarter of the year. Located at the foothills of the Takagamine Sanzan mountain on the northern edge of the city, the 114-room property is part of an 11-hectare neighbourhood filled with old-school tea houses, gardens and classic Kyoto architecture. You’ll be in for a treat; apart from fine dining restaurants that fuse French techniques with Japanese sensibilities, you’ll also enjoy treatments that use both Ayurvedic and Japanese elements. Don’t miss out on soaking in its natural hot springs.

Words by: Charmaine Tai, Ho Yun Kuan, Lauren Ho and Mark Ellwood

This story first appeared in the June 2021 issue. Purchase it as a hard or digital copy, or have luxury delivered to your door by subscribing here