February 21, 2023 | 10:59
The Promise of the East: Get Your Zen Honeymoon in Reopened Japan.
Hoshino Resorts KAI Yufuin
Japan is ready for lovers. Having stuck to its strict COVID travel protocols longer than most, the Land of the Rising Sun is once again saying “konnichiwa!” to American tourists. It’s no wonder, then, that flights to Japan are among the most sought-after international departures for American travelers, with the Japan Tourism Agency predicting a big cherry blossom season in April.
Couples looking to celebrate with a Nippon pilgrimage after their wedding are especially lucky.
Historic, modern, luxurious, electrifying: Japan offers contrasts that appeal equally to those who want to enjoy a culture of history and those who want to bathe in the romance of a luxury hotel suite.
For New Yorkers looking to fly direct, a Japanese adventure begins in Tokyo, and couples hoping to be “Lost in Translation” will check into the Park Hyatt in the bustling city of Shinjuku.
Don’t be put off by its strict salary facade and administrative environment, because there is a lot of romance to be found there.
Not only is it the location of the aforementioned 2003 Sofia Coppola-directed Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray hit, but its famously sultry and atmospheric jazz lounge (where Japanese whiskey tasting is a must), in-house patisserie and sprawling suites will make you fall in love.
The top room, aptly named the Tokyo Suite, is more than 2,000 square meters of moody elegance. Amenities include a grand piano, a library, a sauna, and a hot tub — and it’ll set you back roughly $7,738 per night.
For a slightly different take on the metropolis, head to Trunk (House), which opened in 2019 but is only now getting its post-pandemic decay.
This former geisha residence—located in the artsy and historic Kagurazaka neighborhood—was transformed into a townhouse-style hotel that remains a low-key affair.
Inside, the 15-room boutique hotel showcases custom-designed pieces and artwork mixed with preserved historic elements, such as a genkan-style stone entrance hall, terrazzo floors, paper screens, wood-paneled ceilings and stained glass windows.
The feeling is residential, but the facilities are pure high-end hotels. Enjoy the tea room, garden, aromatic Japanese cypress tubs, artisanal beauty products and the “world’s smallest disco” (an in-house karaoke hangout). Even better, your stay includes a private chef and a butler. Rates start at approximately $4,616 per night.
But to really get hot and heavy with your spouse, you need to venture outside of the big smoke and soak in the hot springs.
Thanks to Japan’s volcanically active soil, there are about 25,000 hot springs across the country, pumping hot mineral water into about 3,000 establishments, according to Anette Masui, author of “Sacred Waters: A Guide to Japanese Hot Springs.”
Hot springs, or “onsen,” are especially abundant in Kyushu, the southwesternmost of Japan’s main islands. Just under six hours from Tokyo, the island is connected by an ultra-efficient and recently expanded Shinkansen bullet train, making the journey sweet and quick.
A good option is to set up a base for your onsen hopping in the resort and rice terrace center of Oita, at the foot of Mount Takasaki. Hotels can organize trips to and from the best baths, from Hell’s Onsen (where the scalding temperatures prevent bathing) to Yufuin Onsen (famous for its naturally hydrating minerals).
Its most ritzy new opening is Hoshino Resorts’ Kai Yufuin, which welcomed its first guests in August. It has several indoor-outdoor hot springs on site. Newlyweds will love the private sawtooth oak rooms with personal hot springs.
Designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, this 45-room hotel is a modern take on a traditional ryokan – a Japanese hot spring inn – with stand-alone suites. Rates start at $268 per person per night.
End your stay on Kyushu with a trip to the scenic Outer Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture. Known for lush mountains and blue seas, the largest of these 152 islets is Fukue Island, where luxury hotel operator OKCS opened its wellness-themed Retreat Goto Ray last summer.
The three-story resort has 26 oceanfront rooms, each with an open-air bath. Built around the concepts of ‘prayer’ and ‘light’, this resort is all about the spa, which features a flowering camellia, a plant that has been cultivated in the region for millennia. Room rates start at $396 per night. You come home and say “domo arigato!” with vibrato.