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Plan your personalized
itinerary with our concierge
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.
Restaurant and hotel in town. Kobe is the most cosmopolitan of Japanese cities. In the chic district of Kitano, foreigners who settled here from the 19th century onwards, built residences in the style of their distant homelands. A French lifestyle is very much in evidence in this fine red brick building that is testimony to an entire chapter of Japan’s history. There is a courtyard and interior garden, elegant décor and, above all, the cuisine of Chef Hiroshi Yamaguchi, who is skilled in the art of sublime dishes. On the menu is the famous fugu and its soft roe in crunchy potatoes, caramelised salsify and vegetable jus, or the incomparable Kobe beef in a salt crust ... Learn moreless
Comprising just a few streets, Nankin-machi – Kobe’s Chinatown – is a major one in Japan. Founded at the end of the 19th Century, it is home to a great many restaurants and shops selling souvenirs and other Chinese goods. Once you pass by the dragon at the entrance, you discover a world whose habits, customs, flavours and pace are very different to the neighbouring districts.
There is something of a paradox about being an island dweller and (hardly ever) going to the seaside. Western Japan has some rare, beautiful beaches. One of these is located at Suma on the outskirts of Kobe. This white sandy beach bordered by pine trees is one of the most popular in the country. In summer, you go there to swim, close to one of the country’s finest aquariums.
About 40 minutes mountain road drive from the city of Kobe, I think the view from Mount Rokko is one of the three most beautiful panoramas in all Japan that you will find. From its summit at 931m, you can see the entire Kobe urban area. We call this one-of-a-kind view ‘The Million Dollar Night View’. For many years, foreigners lived here in pretty cottages, and one of the country’s oldest golf courses can be found on the sides of the mountain. There is still a cable car to take you up to the summit of this mountain range. And behind the mountain, don’t leave without visiting the excellent Arima hot springs which Buddhist monks used in the 8th century.
Restaurant in town. In this acclaimed traditional Ryotei restaurant on the outskirts of Osaka, Japan’s landmark city, Kashiwaya offers modern Japanese food in a dining room designed in the “Sukiya” style, Japan’s traditional format for tea ceremonies: Fusuma sliding doors, shoji paper screens, tatami mats and Tokonoma reception rooms, each executed in a contemporary style. The menu is limited to just eight dishes, which are changed every month. The specialities of the famous Chef Hideaki Matsuo include Amadai, a dish made with grilled tile fish marinated in a salt shrimp “shiokara” dip, and puffer roe boiled in sake, floating on a turnip soup. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant in town. “Never be satisfied.” Franco-Japanese chef Yoshinori Shibuya, the perfectionist, has never forgotten this snippet of advice given to him by the great French chef Alain Chapel. Constantly pushing his creativity to new heights, Chef Shibuya has followed in the footsteps of Chapel and Robuchon, his two inspirations, to create a top restaurant in Osaka. In a minimalist setting, decorated with bronzes and fabrics, you can savour French-inspired marvels, with a deep respect for the products, including the famous coriander lobster salad, paupiettes of sole with foie gras and lamb piccata. Perhaps perfection does exist after all. ... Learn moreless
Early in the morning, I head to this beautiful covered market where the city folk have gathered for over a century and a half. I wander among the 170 shops and restaurants between the stalls selling fresh fish, market gardeners, cheesemongers and tofu sellers. Everyone from a grandmother to a Grand Chef has their ways and their favourite little spots. I’ll let you be the judge of which ones you like best…
This old Osaka neighbourhood reminds me of Montmartre in Paris. It has a family atmosphere but is also lively, which tells you a lot about the Osaka mindset. The dated charm of the neighbourhood draws in many street traders and tasty little restaurants selling fritters and breaded kebab skewers (kushi-katsu). Eating on your feet, you observe the elders playing Go and chess. It’s odd to think that “Shinsekai” in Japanese means “new world” …
Formed in 1982 out of the outstanding Ataka Collection numbering some one thousand pieces, this museum is now one of the finest showcases of Oriental ceramics in the world. Its collections of ceramics and porcelain from Japan, Korea and China include many masterpieces. Two pieces are categorised as “National Treasures” and 13 others as Important Cultural Properties. Why not extend your trip with a visit to the lovely Nakanoshima Park …
Hotel and restaurant in town. The Kanamean Nishitomiya is one of the ryokans which have survived in the modern surroundings of downtown Kyoto. The wooden architecture hosts only seven suites which lead to a little Japanese garden with seasonal flowers. Futon, tatamis, bamboo furniture… true serenity is prevailing. Mr and Mrs Nishida, the fifth generation of hoteliers in this property, welcome you personally, respecting the Japanese tradition of hospitality. Like the very beautiful crockery in which the dishes are served, your hosts look after every detail inspired by the history of the Honeyanocho district, renowned for crafted fans, which have given their name to the hotel. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a village. Founded in 1928 in the spa town of Yamashiro, Beniya Mukayu is located on the road from the revered Kyoto to the world heritage sites Shirakawago-Gokayama, close to Kanazawa. The hotel’s architecture elegantly emphasizes contrasts between light, shade and neutral colours. Every room has its own private open-air hot spring bath, with a wonderful view of the authentic Japanese garden. The traditional tea ceremony performed by the owner, yoga lessons given every morning, the finest Kaga style Kaiseki cuisine served on locally crafted crockery, as well as invigorating medicinal spa treatments, combine to make Beniya Mukayu a peaceful heaven. ... Learn moreless
The Japanese love public baths. Everyone – young and old, men and women – attends these recreational areas. Since the Meiji era (1868-1912), Yamashiro Onsen Kosoyu has been home to one of the region’s finest baths. In recent years, the building has been restored to its original state: Kutaniyaki style ceramics, lacquered walls, fine stained-glass windows etc. Here you bathe in the style of old: this site is one that has held onto its original use…
Suda Seika is a Kutani kiln that has produced many pieces of crockery for one of Japan’s most celebrated ceramicists: Kitaoji Rosanjin. Today, it is still in operation and is run by Suda Seiko, the fourth generation of this prestigious family. In this way, Seiko-san the painter is keeping up a traditional style of porcelain, of which I am a real fan and some of whose pieces I have acquired.
For their unique architecture, these two mountain villages have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Isolated Shirakawa-go and Gokayama have long made a living from mulberry cultivation and silkworm farming. The “Gassho” style architecture of the houses has been adjusted to the often harsh weather in these valleys. In winter, their peaked thatch roofs are particularly impressive when the landscape is covered in a blanket of snow.
Restaurant in town. Take a seat at the counter and let yourself be surprised. Here, there is no menu or predefined specials; the chef follows his inspiration and what he perceives of his guests' desires to prepare them a unique meal celebrating a moment that will not be repeated. At the head of this family restaurant, Shinichiro Takagi is the custodian of a culinary tradition that finds its origins in the concept of Ishoku Dogen, according to which food and health are linked. From the traditional decor to the pottery supplied by local artisans, from the slightest flower to the best ingredients, nothing is left to chance when creating an exquisite kaiseki cuisine and a moment of perfect harmony. ... Learn moreless