10 of the latest travel experiences we’re looking forward to in Japan

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As Japan edges closer to re-opening to Australian tourists, there’s a plethora of new hotels and travel experiences to start getting excited about for your next trip.

Japan’s penchant for unique accommodation and statement architecture is as strong as ever, with new hotel openings ranging from a treetop meditation retreat and luxury hotel in a UNESCO World Heritage site, to gorgeous and immaculately preserved rooms in an historic sake brewery.

The country’s long list of must-do culinary experiences continues to expand with a raft of new openings and a top Tokyo bar named one of Asia’s best. And on top of all that, culture and sports enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that Japan’s National Stadium has finally swung its doors open, welcoming visitors to soak up all the wonder of Tokyo 2020.

Here’s a roundup of just some of Japan’s newest hotels, cultural experiences, and foodie news:

The hottest new accommodation

From luxury retreats and seaside glamping, to stays in an award-winning zero-waste hotel

 A one-of-a-kind meditation retreat has just opened high above the treetops of Japan’s Awaji Island.  Jutting above the treetops of Awaji Island in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, the recently opened Zenbo Seinei meditation retreat is striking. Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Shigeru Ban, the wooden construction has been designed to overlook the Awaji Island mountains. 

Hotel Why wins sustainability award in Japan’s must-see “zero waste” eco town. Kamikatsu, one of Japan’s first eco towns in the picturesque Tokushima prefecture, has seen one of its hotels win the “Best Sustainable” category of the 2022 Japan Travel Awards. Hotel Why was the first of two winners in the category and is built from local cedar and discarded furniture, doors, and windows from old buildings.

Small luxury hotel on Goto Island, Nagasaki

When Christianity was progressively banned in Japan in the 17th– 19th centuries, devotees found refuge in the country’s Goto Islands, dubbed the “Islands of Prayer.” Here, Japanese hospitality brand okcs, known for its meditative nature retreats, have introduced the region’s first luxury hotel, okcs Retreat Goto Ray. Located in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, the retreat will feature private open-air baths on guestroom terraces. The 26-room property amplifies light through floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean.

 A new ocean-fronting glamping village opens in Fukuoka with themed luxury tents. Just a stone’s throw from the Motokigawa Nature Park, Chikyu Mirai is an idyllic seaside glamping park in Itoshima. When you’re not gazing out across the ocean, you can take a dip at the nearby Kirara no Yu onsen as well as taking part in other water sports such as snorkelling, surfing and stand-up paddleboard yoga.

Unique cultural experiences

Tour the home of Tokyo 2020 or explore teamLab’s new after-dark Osaka exhibition

Almost one year on, you can now visit the home of the Tokyo Olympics. It’s been 8 months since the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics wrapped up and the baton was passed over to Paris, the host of the 2024 Games. And now finally, visitors are allowed to tour the Japan National Stadium. The tour lets visitors explore the Tokyo Olympic Stadium at leisure – you can walk the track field, marvel at the Olympic torch, and even take the stand on the podium that was used during the 2021 Games.

teamLab is set to open a permanent after-dark exhibition at Osaka’s Nagai Park. teamLab’s new exhibition will be inside the park’s Nagai Botanical Garden. Like other teamLab exhibitions, the upcoming installations are intended to highlight the garden’s flora and present the site’s natural beauty in a new light.

This will be a part of the park’s long-term renewal project, which includes the opening of a skatepark and eateries as well as a focus on large-scale events and workshops for the community to get involved in.

Dining and bar news

Stay in an historic sake brewery and enjoy vending machine ramen and ‘hell steamed’ food

Six bars in Japan are ranked in Asia’s top 50 by “Asia’s 50 Best Bars” awards. Japan has a reputation for Michelin-worthy cuisine, and the country’s bartenders aren’t slipping under the radar either. Shinjuku’s Bar Ben Fiddich was named the best bar in Japan and fifth overall in Asia by the World’s 50 Best List.

Ramen is now being made and served by state-of-the art vending machines.  As Japan continues to see ever-more unusual products being sold in vending machines, Yo-Kai Express – an autonomous restaurant platform – has launched across a handful of locations in Tokyo. Believe it or not, the machines use unique cooking technology to create and serve hot ramen on demand.

Onsen water is for more than just bathing. Beppu is Japan’s undisputed hot-spring mecca, but the town is perhaps lesser known for is its claim to being the home to the unique ‘jigoku-mushi’, or ‘hell-steaming’, cooking method. Directly connected to geothermal vents, hell-steaming restaurant, Mushi Charo’s, three steamers offer differential pressure and fine-tuned temperatures for the perfect cook.

Dine and sip sake (and then stay the night) in an historic sake brewery. Onyado Fukuchiyo, located in Kashima in Saga prefecture, is the first sake brewery guesthouse in Japan. The brewery makes the famous Nabeshima sake and hotel guests get an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the brewery and special Nabeshima sake pairing menu to go with their dinner.

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