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My Route du Bonheur

Japan, on Honshu Island

Ryuichi Sakamoto
By Ryuichi Sakamoto, Japanese musician and composer

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itinerary with our concierge

+1 800 735 2478 * *Local charges apply
Musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto is a key figure in the world of Japanese music and cinema. Sakamoto is best known to the general public for his appearances alongside David Bowie in the Furyo films and in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, for which he also composed the Oscar–winning soundtrack. This pianist by trade has created a universe ranging from electronic music to the traditional Okinawa songs, with collaborations with artists like Iggy Pop and Caetano Veloso in between. Born in Tokyo in 1952, he lived in the Japanese capital for thirty nine years before flying off to New York. Deeply affected by the 2011 tsunami and its aftermath, he campaigns for a nuclear-free world. This Route du Bonheur follows his journey through the traditions of Japan. 
Suggestion of itinerary
  • 4 hotels
  • 5 restaurants
  • from US$ 2,628.51 *
1
30 km
2
150 km
3
216 km
4
180 km
5
160 km
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To give you inspiration, Relais & Châteaux presents the Routes du Bonheur: suggestions for travel itineraries that you can fully personalise according to your wishes and the experiences you would like to discover. Our consultants are available to help customise your route and assist you in making reservations at our properties. It is up to you to reserve any recommended activities on-site or nearby that might interest you.
*Total price provided for information only, based on accommodation for two people in a double room for the number of nights per property as indicated on this page, exclusive of recommended activities, properties that cannot be reserved online and restaurants.


1 Tokyo — 2 Nights
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Restaurant Hôtel de Mikuni

Tokyo - Japan

Restaurant in town. Chef Kiyomi Mikuni, a maestro in the art of adding a Japanese flourish to French cuisine, has one of the most sought after restaurants in Tokyo. Thyme, rosemary and chervil are skillfully paired with maitake, a fragrant mushroom, and kaiware, a local herb. The best of both cultures are showcased in daring creations like the famous seabass borsch, Mikuni-style, pan-fried langoustines from Odawara and carrot cube fricassee in vermilion butter essence. In honour of the masters who inspired him, Kiyomi Mikuni’s menu also features Paul Bocuse’s truffle soup, Alain Chapel’s lobster salad and chicken liver gateau in a crayfish butter sauce. ... Learn moreless

(from) US$ 66.91
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Dominique Bouchet Tokyo

Tokyo - Japan

Restaurant in town. In the chic district of Ginza, the restaurant of Dominique Bouchet, who presided over amongst others the kitchens of La Tour d'Argent and the Hôtel de Crillon, hopes to be a site of transmission for the culture, traditions, and cuisine of France. Right in the heart of Tokyo, wooden panels, velvety sofas, and white tablecloths recreate a decor typical of a Paris apartment. It is a setting worthy of its gastronomic heritage, to which the chef adds his own personal touch. Here, one can taste blue lobster topped with crisp mashed potatoes and buttery French caviar or, a confit of foie gras marinated with Japanese sake or a fillet of Bazas beef with a Choron sauce . ... Learn moreless

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(from) US$ 67.82
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Restaurant Sant Pau

Tokyo - Japan

Restaurant in town. One of the best Catalan restaurants is also present in the land of the rising sun. The Japanese version of the famous Sant Pau restaurant is located in the district of Nihonbashi, near Ginza. People in Tokyo marvel at the delicate and modern Catalan cooking of Chefs Carme Ruscalleda and Yosuke Okazaki, who raise cuisine to an art form. On the menu, you will find a wide variety of local Japanese fish and vegetables. Do not miss Iberian pork, pigeon cooked in an aroma of cherry blossom or the suite of desserts. The light is soft and Spanish avant-garde paintings adorn the walls. ... Learn moreless

TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor
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(from) US$ 81.38
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Close to the property

Roppongi, Tokyo

Roppongi, Tokyo

I stay at Roppongi when I am in Tokyo. My parents’ tomb lies nearby. I love to go for walks in this district, which is teeming and calm all at once. Beginning in the late 1990s, Roppongi became one of the capital’s trendy spots, with its restaurants, bars and nightclubs. However, you can still wander through nature, as on the walk to the Zojoji temple or the former Atago sanctuary - both founded at the very beginning of the 17th century.

Isetan Store, Tokyo

Isetan Store, Tokyo

Established in 1886 in the heart of the Shinjuku district, this department store is still at the cutting-edge of the avant-garde! It is one of those places which seem to dictate trends and fashion. One urban legend says that the store’s founder, a kimono salesman, would withdraw from sale those designs that had been oversold. Even today, you can find everything here that you were - or weren’t - looking for. From the spa treatments on the 8th floor to the bento (small lunch boxes) and an incredible selection of wines on the lower ground floor … I particularly like the dedicated food section. You can find every kind of food that Japan produces here.

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2 Hakone — 1 Night
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Gôra Kadan

Hakone - Japan

Hotel and restaurant in the mountains. A stay in Gôra Kadan, the former retreat of the Imperial Family, Kanin-no-miya, situated in the heart of Hakone National Park, is an invitation to bring your five senses to life by immersing yourself in the ancient Japanese way of life. Listen to the gentle swoosh of a sliding wall made of rice paper, smell the fragrant flower incense, taste the traditional Kaiseki cuisine and feel the touch of silk. This calm retreat is located in an area known for its springs, which are heated by volcanic rocks. The suites have been designed in a minimalist style, and the hotel’s facilities include a swimming pool, a spa, and a beauty salon. ... Learn moreless

TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor
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39 rooms
(from) US$ 1,008.59
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On the route

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

As a teenager, I would often go with my friends to the lakes located at the foot of Fuji’s northern slope; tiny Lake Motosu stands out with its deep blue waters. Hokusai depicts Mount Fuji - the almost perfect form given to us by nature. On the UNESCO World Heritage list as a "sacred place and source of artistic inspiration", Mount Fuji remains an important site for pilgrimages. Weakened by the earthquake of 11 March 2011, the highest volcano of the archipelago (3776 meters) is today in a volatile state. However, its last eruption was back in 1707…

The old city of Kamakura

The old city of Kamakura

I often went to Kamakura, the former Shogun capital. I love to lose myself in its narrow streets in the shade of imposing Zen temples. For almost 150 years (1192-1333), this city stood as the political and cultural centre of the entire country. Behind the spread of Zen Buddhism, Kamakura still holds splendid religious figures, including the Great Buddha - a bronze statue measuring more than eleven meters in height. I also came here when I was younger to lie on the beaches on the edge of the city facing the Sagami bay…

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3 Izu-shi, Shizuoka-Ken — 1 Night
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Asaba

Izu-shi, Shizuoka-Ken - Japan

Hotel and restaurant in a village. It is said that the great teacher of Japanese Buddhism, Kobo Daishi, bathed every morning in the river Katsura and emerged purified. A few minutes from this river, the hotel Asaba submerges you in the Japan of legends: traditional “Noh” theatre performed by the riverside. After a game of golf in picturesque surroundings, leave your kimono behind and enjoy the pleasures of an open-air bath filled with spring water. The restaurant serves traditional dishes with delightful combinations of sweet and savoury flavours. In the lounge, relax in a chair designed by famous Italian-American Harry Bertoia and in the garden, be inspired by the sweet fragrances of nature. ... Learn moreless

TripAdvisor
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16 rooms
(from) US$ 881.63
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Close to the property

Noh Theatre

Noh Theatre

Noh plays are regularly performed in the heart of the Asaba estate at a hundred-year-old theatre located at the water’s edge. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to see a show during my last visit. Favoring emotion as opposed to texts, Noh combines song, music and dance. Only men perform and it is the oldest form in Japanese classic theatre.

Onsen (hot springs)

Onsen (hot springs)

Onsen are a true Japanese tradition. There are an estimated 3000 natural hot springs spread across the archipelago - from the coastline to the remotest parts of the mountains. I try to visit as often as possible. The end of the year is always a special time to relax in these thermal baths - whether they’re inside a ryokan or in the great outdoors. You are in the mountains, surrounded by névé snow, immersed in water that is pure and warm…

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4 Matsumoto
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Tobira Onsen Myojinkan

Matsumoto city - Japan

Hotel and restaurant in a park. In the heart of Japan’s “Northern Alps”, discover the secret charms of this hotel that opened in 1931. This little jewel is tucked away in the calm and serenity of the mountains, between the snowy peaks and fine traditional hot springs, located in the national park, and renowned for their therapeutic qualities. Tobira Onsen Myojinkan offers a divinely serene atmosphere in the forest, relaxing baths in the heart of nature, aromatherapy and superb rooms and suites. The sophisticated Kaiseki-style food is a marvellous balance of textures, flavours and colours. Organic French cuisine is also on offer, prepared by a talented chef who specializes in macrobiotic cuisine. ... Learn moreless

Key Services
43 rooms
(from) US$ 510.53
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Hikariya-Nishi

Matsumoto - Japan

Restaurant in town. The black and white Namako (traditional lattice) on the lower wall and the heavy vault doors and windows evoke the past of the building. This ancient “Kura”, a Japanese traditional storehouse, dates back to the 19th century and has been converted into a restaurant in 2007. In this peaceful place, minutes away from the Matsumoto castle, Chef Masahiro Tanabe, who has worked many years in acclaimed restaurants in Europe, prepares refined “natural French cuisine”. Passionate about the quality of ingredients, he travels across Nagano prefecture meeting farmers to select the freshest vegetables and products, such as Shinshu beef or Shinshu salmon, he will reveal at their best in his dishes. ... Learn moreless

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(from) US$ 25.32
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Close to the property

Soba noodles, Matsumoto

Soba noodles, Matsumoto

Matsumoto is home to my favorite restaurant in Japan. Founded in 1894, Alps has just a few tables and only serves Soba (buckwheat noodles) that are handmade on the premises. In three words: freshness, flavors, purity. A simple and gastronomic delight…

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

Overlooking the city, Matsumoto Castle is one of the few castles designated as a National Treasure. Constructed at the end of the 16th century, it typifies the Sengoku period. Its towers are all made of black wood and the city’s inhabitants call it the "Black Crow". The entire castle looks like a giant pagoda. Many festivals and events are held here throughout the year, including major taiko (Japanese drumming) concerts.

Sakura on Mount Kobo

Sakura on Mount Kobo

Matsumoto is famous for being one of the sunniest cities in Japan. In spring, hikers and tourists turn up en masse to discover Mount Kobo. On its slopes, some five thousand cherry trees show off their most beautiful blossoms for a time that is both precious and fleeting. It is a poem delivered by nature, like this haiku by Moritake: "A fallen flower/ Rises back up to its branch/No, it was a butterfly."

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216 km
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180 km
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160 km
5 Minakami — 1 Night
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Bettei Senjuan

Minakami - Japan

Hotel and restaurant in a park. Every room at Bettei Senjuan looks out on Mount Tanigawa, with its snow-capped peaks and the cherry blossom trees at its base that turn the landscape a beautiful pink in spring. Take the time to discover the hot spring baths in the rooms, the gardens and the tranquil wellness . Floor to ceiling windows frame the views of unspoilt nature and allow natural light to fill the zen-inspired interior, where modern design meets the art of Kumiko wood joinery and original calligraphy. The impressively presented traditional food with a contemporary twist is also influenced by the hot springs for which the region is famous. ... Learn moreless

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18 rooms
(from) US$ 738.29
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On the route

The Nikko Temples

The Nikko Temples

The shrines and temples of Nikko for centuries have been a sacred place where architectural masterpieces were erected, and are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. While the first temples were built on the initiative of a Buddhist monk in the 8th century, today’s site collection of 103 religious buildings remains closely linked to the history of the Tokugawa shoguns of the 16th and 17th centuries. As the main place of pilgrimage for the Japanese, Nikko attracts too many people for my liking. The crowd walks around and prays continually. I am more a lover of an empty space than a crowd...

Tochigi ceramics

Tochigi ceramics

Japanese ceramics probably originated in the 13th century, but they truly evolved around the traditional tea ceremony. During the Edo period (1603-1867), the feudal lords competed by encouraging new workshops to set up. Since then, Tochigi prefecture has established itself as one of the nation’s most important ceramic centers. Soon, I will meet a master ceramicist and just the thought of this thrills me - although I have to admit that I have only grown really interested in Japanese traditions in my fifties … perhaps I am becoming sensible at last?

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6 Utsunomiya
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Otowa restaurant

Utsunomiya - Japan

Restaurant in town. Chef Kazunori Otowa has dedicated his work to French cuisine, and opened his restaurant in his hometown, the vibrant city of Utsunomiya, after gaining experience in Europe and alongside acclaimed chef Alain Chapel. Beautifully presented and composed as sophisticated works of art, his dishes focus on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients such as Tochigi Wagyu beef, Yashio-Masu (local trout), eel, cheese from Nasu Highland or Asian pears. Balancing the French influence in the cuisine, the decor of the restaurant pays tribute to the regional heritage, using Oya stone and Mashiko pottery mixed with antiques, sculptures and iron art collected by Kazunori Otowa over the years. ... Learn moreless

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(from) US$ 54.25
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Texts : © Guides Gallimard
Photos: © JNTO