8 Classy Hotels in Kansai for a Luxury Stay
The Kansai region of western Japan is the country’s cultural and historical heartland. It consists of the six prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Shiga, Nara, and Wakayama. With a wealth of national treasures and World Heritage Sites, it continues to thrive as one of Japan’s top tourist destinations. In this article, we’ll introduce our picks for the best Kansai hotels, inns, resorts, and more. Whether you’re seeking scenic views, scrumptious food, or opulent hot springs, we’ve got your Kansai accommodation sorted!
Apr 25 2022 (May 17 2022)
Hotels in Osaka
Osaka, Japan’s ancient commercial hub, offers visitors one-of-a-kind dining, shopping, and sightseeing experiences. The iconic Dotonbori area brims with a sea of flashy billboards, like the famous giant crab, flaunting its renowned cuisine culture. Further onwards is Osaka’s main street of Midosuji, which is lined by high-class boutiques and department stores.
Naturally, you’ll need at least a few days to explore every one of Osaka’s amazing destinations. Must-sees include the majestic Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan, and the Umeda Sky Building, which was voted one of the “Top 20 buildings around the world” by The Times.
1. InterContinental Osaka
The 5-star InterContinental Osaka is a part of the brand-new Grand Front Osaka development area, just a 5 min walk from Osaka and Umeda Stations. Many of its 272 rooms are over 50m² in size, giving guests a real sense of freedom and space. For longer stays, we recommend the upper-level residences, which include a dining room, kitchen, tableware, and a washing machine. Packed with amenities, the InterContinental Osaka is a great place for large groups to spend time in Osaka whilst feeling at home.
Unlike most high-class hotels, InterContinental Osaka is equipped with large shared Japanese-style bathtubs reminiscent of a hot spring resort! The hotel also has a spacious pool, gym, and beauty salon with treatments based on eastern teachings. After a long day of traveling and sightseeing, a paradise of relaxation awaits inside the walls of InterContinental Osaka!
Hotels in Kyoto
Prior to the modernization of the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Kyoto diligently served as the political and cultural center of Japan for more than 1,100 years. Today, it hosts a multitude of historic buildings, temples, shrines, and other scenic locations bursting with Japanese charm.
While each season offers a unique beauty, Kyoto is particularly popular during the cherry blossoms of spring and the fiery foliage of fall. During these periods, many shrines and temples will hold after-dark light-up events transporting visitors to another world. With this in mind, we think the best Kyoto hotels are those in urban areas with easy access to night-time hotspots designed to represent the best of Japanese aesthetics.
2. The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu
The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu was built from a repurposed elementary school originally constructed in 1933. Embracing calming Japanese aesthetics, it offers guests the chance to prepare their own matcha green tea in the lounge - an unmissable Kyoto experience! The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu also presents incredible views of Kyoto’s iconic Hokan-ji Temple and the Yasaka Pagoda. A perfect pairing for the tea and complimentary Kyoto confectionery!
Many guestrooms look out onto the temple and pagoda, with the largest and most scenic being the 136.3 m² “Panoramic Suite.” The bathrooms are fitted with glass, allowing guests to soak while relishing the views.
Situated in the heart of the popular Higashiyama area, guests can enjoy quick and easy access to historical Kyoto sites like Kiyomizu-dera and more. At night, one can stroll and admire the illuminated trees, or wake up early and beat the crowds to see Kyoto in peace!
3. Kiraku Kyoto Aneyakoji
Right next to the famous Nijo Castle, Kiraku Kyoto Aneyakoji is an inn built from a 90-year-old traditional townhouse given new life with modern sensibilities. Guests can rent out the entire facility (up to five people), ensuring total peace and privacy.
Upon entering, guests will be greeted by the spacious, long interior and soft glow of Japanese “washi” paper typical of traditional Kyoto townhouses. The inn boasts ensuite bathrooms and an outdoor bath facing a traditional Japanese dry landscape garden. The bath is the work of a famous designer, and is intended to be both functional and artistic.
The upper level has see-through floors, which can be a little daunting to walk on! The rooms were inspired by the aesthetics of the Japanese tea room, making it the perfect space to relish a bowl of matcha. The inn’s exquisite breakfast is delivered straight from a long-established Kyoto restaurant, giving guests the rare opportunity to try traditional vegetarian Buddhist cuisine made with grains, beans, and vegetables.
Hotels in Hyogo
Hyogo Prefecture has it all: vibrant harbor towns, tranquil hot springs, majestic castles. In the south is Kobe, the beating heart of Hyogo, which flourished after the opening of its port in 1868. With a long-standing history of international intermingling, this cosmopolitan city offers the best shopping and urban sightseeing in the prefecture, with plenty of esteemed restaurants to dig into the world-famous Kobe beef. Afterwards, visitors can take a 40 min limited express train to the World Heritage Site of Himeji Castle.
In northern Hyogo is Kinosaki Onsen, a hot spring resort town with over 1,300 years of history. Awarded two stars by the 2013 Michelin Green Guide Japan, it remains one of Japan’s most well-loved hot spring destinations. Kinosaki Onsen is centered around a gentle river criss-crossed by stone bridges and lined by drooping willow trees. Guests can stroll through this idyllic streetscape and hop between the seven hot springs open to the public.
4. Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland
Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland was the first Japanese high-class hotel registered by global hotel brand group “Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH).” The hotel accommodates guests in gorgeous rooms with elegant European interiors and spacious terraces to feel the soft sea breeze.
No trip to Kobe is complete without a hefty helping of Kobe beef! Luckily, Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland hosts two restaurants serving this delicacy: one specializing in authentic French cuisine, and the other grilling up teppanyaki dishes. Starting from genuine beef, the guiding philosophy of both eateries is the importance of local ingredients.
The round, scenic bath pictured above is available in most rooms, with an additional rose petal service available for a fee. Just picture yourself unwinding in the bath with a drink, absorbing the breathtaking views of Kobe - there’s truly no better way to rest up after a day of traveling!
5. Nishimuraya Honkan
Founded 160 years ago, Nishimuraya Honkan is a member of Relais & Châteaux, an organization of luxury hotels and restaurants only accepting the world’s top facilities. Popular with domestic and international travelers alike, this high-class “ryokan” inn is the perfect place for those seeking a stay amongst traditional Japanese architecture.
Guests are free to explore the Japanese garden, which exhibits verdant spring greenery, autumn foliage, winter snowscapes, and other seasonal displays of nature. While Kinosaki Onsen is most famous for its public bathhouses, Nishimuraya Honkan gives them a run for their money with its own three large baths all fed from the same hot spring source as Kinosaki Onsen. There are also four rooms with outdoor baths for a soak in private.
Dinner is Tajima beef, the precursor to Kobe beef, complemented by seafood from the Sea of Japan and other local, seasonal ingredients. In winter (early November to the end of March), guests can also feast on succulent and sweet Matsuba crab. Breakfast and dinner are served inside the guest rooms, allowing the tastes of Hyogo to be savored in private.
The Hiratakan section of the inn was built by a master of the “sukiya” style of architecture, which evolved from tea ceremony rooms and emphasizes simplicity and harmony with nature. While modest at first glance, these rooms represent the height of sophistication with amazing views of the surrounding natural landscapes.
Hotels in Nara
Alongside a hoard of national treasures, Nara Prefecture holds the record for the most World Heritage Sites in Japan. Prior to 794, when Kyoto became the capital of Japan, Nara served as the country’s political and cultural center, as well as the end of the legendary Silk Road.
Nara’s tourist attractions can be found in four primary areas. First is Nishinokyo, home to Yakushi-ji and Toshodai-ji temples, both World Heritage Sites. Further east is Nara Park, known far and wide for its population of friendly deer. The massive 660 hectare park also hosts the World Heritage Sites of Todai-ji Temple, known for its giant Buddha statue; Kasuga Shrine, famed for its exquisite vermilion corridor; and Kofuku-ji Temple, along with several other notable gems.
The Ikaruga-Imaicho area of Nara is where you’ll find Horyu-ji Temple, the first World Heritage Site registered in Japan and the oldest surviving wooden structure in the world. Finally, there is Mt. Yoshino, a haven for natural sightseeing peaking in spring with a profusion of cherry blossoms. Mt. Yoshino is also part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range World Heritage Site.
Asukasou is a traditional ryokan inn just a 5 min walk from Kofuku-ji Temple and Nara Park, and an 8 min walk from Kintetsu-Nara Station, making it the perfect spot for Nara sightseeing. When staying at Asukasou, make sure to ask for a room with a view of Kofuku-ji’s five-story pagoda. From the windows, guests can witness jaw-dropping beauty as the color of the sky changes over Kofuku-ji, a view practically unchanged for over 1,000 years.*
*Originally constructed in 730; rebuilt in 1426.
The pagoda can also be taken in from the open-air bath on the top floor. Those uncomfortable about sharing baths with strangers can reserve a private bath for themselves. The pagoda is lit up from sunset to 10:00 pm, allowing its beauty to be enjoyed well into the night.
Dinner at Asukasou is largely served inside the rooms and consists of local seafood and seasonal ingredients served “kaiseki” style in visually pleasing multi-dish courses. For mains, guests can choose between rich Japanese Black beef served “saikyo-yaki” style (pickled overnight in white miso then grilled) or sweet spiny lobster sashimi. Chagayu, a traditional Nara dish of tea gruel, is served for breakfast. Chagayu made from roasted green tea has a simple, hearty flavor with wonderful aromas sure to tease the appetite.
Hotels in Shiga
Shiga Prefecture encircles Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, and is chock full of historic points of interest like Hikone Castle, a registered national treasure; Hieizan Enryaku-ji monastery, another World Heritage Site; and Omi Jingu Shrine.
We recommend strolling the Hachiman-bori Canal, which will take you deep into the historic townscape of Omihachiman. Downriver boat cruises are also available for an even more memorable experience. The history of Omihachiman stretches back to the latter half of the 16th century, and the rustic merchant houses on Shinmachi Street near the canal were built between the late 18th and early 19th century. They remain perfectly preserved in their original forms to this day, which has made Omihachiman a popular location for filming historical dramas.
7. Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho
Have you ever walked through an enchanting, traditional townscape and wished you could live there? At Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho, you can! At least for a little while. Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho is made up of seven renovated Japanese-style homes built over 100 years ago, seamlessly merging traditional architecture with a modern interior. Five of the seven houses can be rented out completely, allowing one to spend their time in Shiga in the utmost style and luxury. Each house features a slightly different interior, so take the time to choose one that suits your tastes.
Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho also offers a handy sightseeing concierge service at the check-in area, along with night-time room service delivering wine, snacks, and light meals. The Japanese-style breakfast, which needs to be reserved in advance, is made from organic ingredients, giving one the energy necessary to conquer the day.
Hotels in Wakayama
Wakayama Prefecture is home to many world-famous destinations like Mt. Koya, Kumano-Nachi Taisha Shrine, and Nachi Falls, which are all part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range World Heritage Site. The area’s ancient trails, which predate written history, exude a mystical aura drawing in adventurous travelers from across the globe.
Shirahama and Kushimoto (in the south of the Kii Peninsula) are well-established resort towns boasting picturesque white sands and blue seas. Along with swimming, the waters here are also coveted diving spots said to be the world’s northernmost habitat of table corals.
Sitting upon the tip of a cape overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Kaishu is most famous for its open-air hot springs with glorious coastal views. Alongside the large communal bath, there are three smaller open-air baths on the path leading down to the sea, which can be rented for a private bath with a view. Guests can choose between a hinoki cypress, stone, or rock bath - but be sure to try and hit all three!
Dinner at Kaishu is served kaiseki style and features seasonal ocean bounties like tuna brought over by the Japan Current, as well as meat dishes of premium Kumano beef and more. If you’re still hungry post-dinner, the lounge serves free ramen noodles after 10:00 pm, which will fix you right up after a long day of swimming!
Explore Japan’s Cultural Heartland in Luxury!
Packed with World Heritage Sites, national treasures, traditional cultures, and more, the heart of Japan continues to beat in Kansai. To see everything this diverse land has to offer without rushing and getting tired, we recommend booking a longer stay at a top-tier hotel or inn. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, shopping, or food, we have no doubt our picks for the best hotels in Kansai will help take your travels to the next level!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.