Quirky hotels and resorts in Japan

Whimsical hotels and resorts in JapanImage adapted from: Snow Tomamu

We all know that Japan is the purveyor of all things quirky, as apparent in their colourful fashion, weird-but-endearing cartoon creations like Gudetama, and unconventional eatery concepts  (haunted prison restaurant, anyone?) So it’s not surprising that this unconventionality extends to their hotels as well.

But we’re not just talking about the regular Hello Kitty rooms or capsule hostels which everyone already knows of. No, the hotels and resorts we’ve got our eye on look completely whimsical even from the outside, and will make you feel like you’re living in a 360-degree storybook – no VR technology required.

1. Hotel Kawakyu (from $215/night) – castle by the ocean

In Wakayama, 1.5h drive from Kansai International Airport

Hotel Kawakyu castleImage credit: Hotel Kawakyu

Don’t want to be where the people are? Give yourself a breath of fresh, briny ocean air at Hotel Kawakyu, which sits right at the edge of Shirahama’s vast Tanabe Bay. Inspired by Medieval European architecture, this stately resort could loosely pass off as Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid.

Hotel Kawakyu castleDining area
Image credit: @eribleacheri

Inside is an equally royal scene with marble pillars, long drapey curtains, and high ceilings hanging with shimmery chandeliers.

Hotel Kawakyu castlePresidential Spa Suite
Image credit: Hotel Kawakyu

There are both Western and Japanese-style rooms to choose from. All their suites are sea-facing, with the Presidential Spa Suite in particular having its own terrace deck and open-air hot spring bath.

Hotel Kawakyu castleTheir outdoor Forest of Eternity onsen surrounded by a forest
Image credit: Hotel Kawakyu

But even if you opt for a room without a private onsen, you can unwind at one of the indoor baths at their spa.

Hotel Kawakyu castleImage credit: Hotel Kawakyu

Prices start from around $215/person when you make a booking on their website.

Book a stay at Hotel Kawakyu.

Address: 3745 Shirahama-cho, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama 649-2211, Japan
Telephone: +81 739 42 3322

2. Aso Farm Land (from $201.70/night) – adorable dome inns

In Kumamoto, 30mins drive from Aso Kumamoto Airport

Aso Farm LandImage credit: Jalan.net

While Spongebob Squarepants lives in a pineapple, you can one-up him and stay in a strawberry, soccer ball, or dinosaur egg at Aso Farm Land (from $201.70/person). Feel like a pixie in an Enid Blyton tale amongst their cute-as-a-button dome inns, each specially painted with a different theme. Two of them even feature Kumamon, the mascot of the Kumamoto prefecture.

Aso Farm LandImage adapted from: Aso Farm Land

The interiors are just as adorable, with the gingerbread house-themed Sueus room bearing candy motifs, and the Ichigo room with fruits all over.

Image adapted from: Expedia

You won’t need to leave the area to have fun, as there are various activities like candle making, music box building, and teddy bear decorating to occupy your time with. There are also animal feeding sessions where you can get up close with flamingos, wallabies, and owls.

Aso Farm LandHave a soak in their outdoor baths at the end of the day
Image adapted from: Expedia

Address: 5579-3 Kawayo, Minamiaso, Aso District, Kumamoto Prefecture 869-1404, Japan
Telephone: +81 967 67 2100

3. Yufuin Floral Village Hotel (from $137/night) – a Ghibli landscape come to life

In Oita, 1h drive from Oita Airport

Yufuin Floral VillageImage credit: Trip

Fans of classic books and cartoons need to put Yufuin Floral Village on their bucket lists – not only does it have a real-life Kiki’s Bakery inspired by Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, there’s also a Peter Rabbit store, Moomin store, and Eric Carle store touting The Very Hungry Caterpillar merchandise.

Yufuin Floral Village Kiki's BakeryImage credit: @summer8forest

If the area also brings to mind Harry Potter, you’re not wrong – the little stone houses of Yufuin Floral Village were inspired by Cotswolds in England, where some scenes of the movie were filmed. Fittingly, there’s also an owl cafe in Japan’s rendition, where you can don a wizard robe and snap a photo against a Hogwarts backdrop.

Yufuin Floral Village Hotel OwlImage credit: Yufuin Floral Village

Sorry, bros, here’s where we burst your bubble: your girl’s gotta leave you at home if she wants to spend a night at the nearby Yufuin Floral Village Hotel (from $137/night). It’s ladies-only, and there are just 7 rooms, making it ideal for a cosy girl’s trip.

Yufuin Floral Village HotelImage credit: Trip

While the exterior looks like a Western log cabin, the inside is completely Japanese, with traditional tatami rooms and bubbling onsens.

Yufuin Floral Village HotelImage credit: Trip

Yufuin Floral Village HotelImage credit: Trip

Address: 1503-3 Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufu, Ōita Prefecture 879-5102, Japan
Telephone: +81 977 85 5132

4. Hoshinoya Fuji (from $549/night) – glamping in a pine forest

In Yamanashi, 2.5h from Tokyo via public transport

Hoshinoya Fuji glampingImage credit: Booking.com

Hoshinoya Fuji puts the “glam” in glamping with its cubic cabin rooms (from $549/night). From afar, these sleek pods look like the HQ of some top secret research facility in a sci-fi movie – after all, they’re well-surrounded by a tall pine forest in what looks like the middle of nowhere.

Hoshinoya Fuji glampingEnjoy an afternoon tea treat at your Mount Fuji-facing balcony
Image credit: @pangrya

Despite the seclusion, you can rest easy knowing that your room includes all the basic amenities. The highlight? A floor-to-ceiling window that opens up to a balcony facing Mount Fuji. As the cabins are strategically terraced, you don’t have to worry about your view being obstructed – the great outdoors is all yours to ogle at.

Hoshinoya Fuji glampingImage credit: Hoshinoya

Head out to roast marshmallows by a campfire in the evening, or mingle with fellow glampers over a drink or two.

Hoshinoya Fuji glampingImage credit: Booking.com

Hoshinoya Fuji glampingLaze about on a hammock for some me-time
Image credit: @lansva

Address: 1408 Oishi, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minami Tsuru-gun, Yamanashi, 401-0305
Telephone: +81 50 3786 1144

5. Sanbu Bokujo Treehouse (from $88.30/night) – homely tree hut with hammocks

In Hokkaido, 2h drive from New Chitose Airport

Sanbu Bokujo Treehouse JapanYou can come by any time of the year, but it’s especially scenic during Winter!
Image credit: @travel_98

For those who just want to throw their smartphones away and detox from the rest of the world, Sanbu Bokujo Treehouse will be your paradise. It can only take in one group of people each time (6 max), so rest assured you won’t have any noisy neighbours in the vicinity. Oh, and there’s no WiFi either, so to heck with those pesky work emails!

Sanbu Bokujo Treehouse JapanImage credit: @marumaruchi

For those wondering, this is a real treehouse, with the entire wooden hut built around the trunk of a tree. Don’t worry, there’s electricity, and you can make use of their stove, coffee maker, TV, and washing machine for free.

Sanbu Bokujo Treehouse JapanA homemade breakfast
Image credit: @hsy_story

Relax on the hammocks during your free time, and if you need to leave the hut, skip the stairs and woosh down on the attached slide instead!

Sanbu Bokujo Treehouse JapanImage credit: @masudaclassic

Activities like stream fishing, hot air ballooning, and stone oven cooking sessions can all be arranged. It’s all about taking life slowly and being immersed in nature here.

Sanbu Bokujo Treehouse JapanYou can milk cows and try fresh Yotsuba milk nearby
Image credit: @yotsuba_milkproducts_official

Address: 16-3 Kashigaokaoka Shikaoigaoka, Kawato-gun, Hokkaido 081-0225, Japan
Telephone: +81 0156 66 2802

6. Tore Tore Panda Village (from $137/night) – panda domes near the sea

In Wakayama, 1.5h drive from Kansai International Airport

Tore Tore Panda VillageImage credit: @moani.surf

Hands up if you’re round and spend most of your day eating, sleeping, or just ambling about – you might actually be a panda. Which isn’t a bad thing, because pandas are super adorable. As are the colourful panda domes at Tore Tore Panda Village in Shirahama, Wakayama, which are yours from $137/night.

Tore Tore Panda VillageDinosaur, prince, and Hawaiian panda domes
Image adapted from: @zenhoho

Each dome is a mini house in itself, painted as a unique panda character. Examples include the Hawaiian Alohachan Room, fruitilicious Mikapan Room, and robot-themed Robopan Nigouki Room.

Tore Tore Panda VillageEven the bedroom slippers and room keys are panda-themed
Image adapted from: @ikunishida, @paruu03

To see those furry bears in real life, make a 5-minute drive to Adventure World – a wildlife park with a giant panda breeding centre and other critters like capybaras, lemurs, and camels. You can also take a safari caravan tour there, or have a thrill at their amusement park.

Tore Tore VillageTore Tore also has regular domes, if you prefer accommodation that’s less cartoony
Image credit: @maho_86

This little village is near the sea, so don’t just panda to the temptation of rolling around in bed all day – venture out to catch some views and heal your soul by the pristine blue.

Tore Tore Panda VillageImage credit: @kanako_f_0818

Address: 2498-1 Katata, Shirahama-cho Nishimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture 649-2201, Japan
Telephone: +81 739 42 2200
Panda Village website | Tore Tore Village website

7. Kawaguchiko Hotel (from $120/night) – rustic cottage overlooking Mt Fuji

In Yamanashi, 2h bus ride from Tokyo

Kawaguchiko Music Forest Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum
Image credit: Mystays

Just a 20-minute train ride from the scream-inducing Fuji Q Highland near Tokyo is Kawaguchiko Music Forest, a tranquil spot that looks like a fairytale village. Amidst its rose gardens stands a museum full of antique automatic music instruments like music boxes, violins, and pianos.

Kawaguchiko Music Forest MuseumCatch performances with live musicians and opera singers at the Main Hall of automatic instruments
Image credit: Kawaguchiko Music Forest

Do drop by the Organ Hall, which houses the world’s biggest “dance organ” that’s 13m wide and comes with a doll orchestra.

Kawaguchiko HotelImage credit: Kawaguchiko Hotel

The Music Forest can be visited in a day trip from Tokyo, but if you’d rather not travel back and forth, spend a night at Kawaguchiko Hotel. It’s a cute cottage surrounded by pretty blooms and manicured plants, just a 5-minute drive from the Forest.

Kawaguchiko HotelWestern room at Kawaguchiko Hotel
Image credit: Expedia

Rooms here are a tad old-fashioned, but cosy nonetheless, and come with a majestic view of Mount Fuji in the distance. Have your choice of traditional Japanese or Western-style rooms from $120/night.

Kawaguchiko HotelThe rooms and onsen here overlook Mount Fuji very clearly
Image credit: @saai_kavi

Address: Fujikawaguchiko, Funatsu 200, 401-0301 Yamanashi, Japan
Telephone: +81 555-72-1313

8. Hoshino Resort Tomamu ($291.50/night) – ice hotel with wedding chapel

In Hokkaido, 1.5h drive from New Chitose Airport

Hoshino Resort Tomamu ice hotelImage credit: Snow Tomamu

Hoshino Resort Tomamu is pretty much the real-life version of Arendelle from Frozen – we wouldn’t be half surprised to see Queen Elsa pop out from behind one of its ice domes, which you can spend a night in from $291.50/person.

Hoshino Resort Tomamu ice hotelImage credit: Snow Tomamu

From the walls to the furniture, your room will be entirely fashioned out of ice, save for the bed with a toasty sleeping bag made specially for extreme cold weather. Temperatures can go as low as -30⁰C, so make sure you bundle up properly – “suffering for style” is a big nope.

Hoshino Resort Tomamu ice hotel chapelImage credit: Snow Tomamu

If Disneyland is your dream wedding destination, that’s probably because you haven’t heard of Hoshino Resort Tomamu’s enchanting ice chapel. Live out your princess dreams by exchanging wedding vows here as fireworks go off in vibrant bursts above. Even the biggest ice queen would shed a tear in this ethereal setting.

Hoshino Resort Tomamu ice hotel chapelEverything in the chapel, including the cross, pulpit, and pews, are made of ice
Image credit: Snow Tomamu

Apart from the expected recreation activities like ice skating and skiing, you can chill with a book in their ice library, make music on ice instruments, or take a moonlight snowmobile tour around the tranquil grounds.

Hoshino Resort Tomamu ice hotel onsenOpen-air hot spring surrounded by ice, facing the birch woods
Image credit: Snow Tomamu

Address: Nakatomamu, Shimukappu-mura, Yufutsu-gun 079-2204, Hokkaido, Japan
Telephone: +81 167 58 1111

9. Hotel Gracery (from $110/night) – Godzilla-themed

In Shinjuku, Tokyo

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku GodzillaImage credit: Travel for Senses

Wander around Tokyo’s Shinjuku district and you’re bound to find Godzilla’s head sticking out of a building at some point. That would be Hotel Gracery, themed after the gargantuan dino.

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku GodzillaImage adapted from: Global Grasshopper

They do have normal rooms, but for the full experience, stay in their Godzilla Room from $110/night, where Godzilla’s monstrous claw will be erupting through the wall behind your bed.

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku GodzillaImage credit: Hotel Gracery

As if it doesn’t already look enough like a Godzilla shrine, your room will also come with a giant sculpture of the creature, along with a tote bag full of merch including figurines, a mug, and playing cards.

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku GodzillaImage credit: Hotel Gracery

Address: 1 Chome-19-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-8466, Japan
Telephone: +81 3 6833 1111|

Unique accomodation in Japan

They say that when travelling, it’s the journey, not the destination that matters the most. But sometimes, it’s really where you stay that makes all the difference.

Instead of booking a coffin-sized capsule pod for your next vacation in Japan, go for one of these unconventional hotels and resorts. Most of them are pricier than the average hotel and slightly out of the way, but the rejuvenating experience will be worth the splurge.

Check out our other Japan-related guides here:

A portion of this content may contain referral links to products. Our opinions remain our own.

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