Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is backing Japan’s tourism drive and aims to welcome 60 million in 2030, thus making tourism a central pillar of the country’s economy.
“Tourism has become a trigger for regional revitalisation,” he said in September at a meeting of his Tourism Strategy Promotion Council. “Foreign tourists seek scenery and experiences that are unique to each area, which offers great opportunities for all regions.”
Japan has plenty to offer the curious holidaymaker: a magnificent food scene, the epic Mount Fuji, numerous historical sites, renowned ski slopes, the cherry blossoms of Kyoto and, of course, the mind-blowing capital city of Tokyo.
In time for the next tourist rush, new world-class hotels are being finished.
Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi: Opening July 1, this stunning hotel facing the Imperial Palace Gardens and the Skytree Tower occupies the top six floors of a 39-storey skyscraper in the Otemachi business district. Rooms feature bespoke artwork that pays tribute to Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake while Michelin-starred chef Guillaume Bracaval is in charge at Est, a restaurant serving innovative French cuisine with Japanese precision.
Park Hyatt Kyoto: Perched high up in the Higashiyama hills, this peaceful hotel has a traditional Japanese garden and views of the Yasaka Pagoda.
Rooms and suites are found within several preserved, historic buildings including a tea room from the Edo era. Within the hotel grounds is Kyoyamato, a traditional ryotei restaurant serving authentic Kaiseki cuisine that first opened in 1877 in Osaka and moved to Kyoto in 1949.
The Park Hyatt is an ideal base for exploring the UNESCO World Heritage sites nearby such as Kodai-ji temple, the hotel is within walking distance from Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Kiyomizu-dera temple.
K5 Tokyo: Swedish firm Claesson Koivisto Rune oversaw the look of the 20 rooms, library bar, coffee shop and restaurant that are neatly stacked in a four-storey building from the 1920s.
Wedged in Kabuto-cho – home to the Tokyo Stock Exchange – the K5 is near the commercial Marunouchi district and up-and-coming Eastern Tokyo. The design combines old and new, as seen in the original concrete flooring that has been softened with traditional touches such as Japanese stucco and cedarwood.
K5 has a hipster basement taco bar, Brooklyn Brewery, plus Ao, a cocktail bar blending mixology and Chinese medicine. Caveman, meanwhile, is chef Atsuki Kuroda’s progressive Japanese spinoff of the hit Tokyo restaurant Kabi.
Five things Dubai resident Matt Fortune learned while traveling in Japan:
1. A beautiful contrast to the lightning-fast, ultra-modern bullet train is the rickety old Sagano Romantic Train, a sightseeing shuttle located about 30 minutes outside Kyoto.
Worming its way through stunning valleys and blossom tree-lined hillsides at a glacial pace, it’s a change of scenery we desperately needed after the all-out attack on our senses that was Tokyo.
2. The days of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine being a place for contemplation and reflection are long gone, as thousands upon thousands descend on its iconic Torii gates every day. But we still found a place of peace by rising early, strapping on our most comfortable shoes and taking in the full length of the majestic pathway all the way to the top of Mount Inari. The uninterrupted views over the city – and complete lack of #Influencer photographers – was wonderful.
3. Exploring Osaka’s alleyway bars was a nightlife highlight.
We needed to be brave just to pop our heads round the mostly covered and darkened doors but once inside, the excitement from locals at our efforts to immerse ourselves in their socialising culture left us as warm and fuzzy as the sake.
4. Tokyo’s coffee shop scene can run any city close. Stripped back, stylish and meticulously well brewed, we discovered a multitude of independent businesses in which to seek sanctuary from the bright lights and commuter chaos that envelops the rest of the city.
5. The miraculous way Hiroshima has rebuilt itself will stay with us.
But it’s the manner in which the horrors of 1945 have been used to create an environment for education more than simply a place of remembrance we found truly remarkable.