Danielle Demetriou checks into the new Ritz-Carlton Okinawa, Japan.
Hotel Insider: Ritz-Carlton Okinawa, Japan
No sooner had we pulled into the hotel’s circular driveway – set atop a green hill with the East China Sea in the distance – than a coterie of staff appeared and emptied the car of luggage with ninja-like speed.
Check-in was a more sedate affair near the lobby – an airy, clean-lined space with vast, vaulted ceilings and stone floors, dotted with large lanterns and open walls framing courtyard pools, the surrounding golf course and sparkling sea views.
Located up the west coast of the main Okinawa Island in the Nago district (about 75 minutes by car from the airport), the hotel is set apart from clusters of tower-like hotels and the busy highway that fringes the coastline. It’s surrounded by a lush golf course belonging to the exclusive Kise Country Club, which is famed for its 18-hole championship course.
Okinawa, the southernmost region of Japan, may be famed for many things (white beaches, clear seas, unique cuisine), but luxury hotels have been off its radar until now. The hotel – formerly known as the Kise Bettei – opened as the Ritz-Carlton in 2012, making it the region’s first major international five-star hotel. The design is stylishly natural with a neutral minimalism and simple contemporary furnishings. The impeccable level of service is synonymous with the Ritz-Carlton name – plus it’s now family-friendly (before, children were not allowed). Visitors were mainly from Japan – young families, romancing couples and golf-loving baby boomers.
Serene, spacious and minimalist. There is plenty of clean-lined wood and neutral furnishings in a tasteful symphony of cream, beige and brown. A highlight are the bathrooms, with minimalist white and spacious design, complete with local touches – Okinawan sea salts and glassware cups that seemed far too decadent for my toothbrush. Best of all? Deep white bathtubs with walls of glass framing an expanse of greenery and the sea in the distance.
Unwaveringly five-star and keen to take that extra step. A casual discussion about our afternoon plans with a member of staff resulted in the satnav system being set to our destination when we picked up the car from the valet.
Guests can choose between Italian fine dining with an Okinawan twist at Chura-Nuhji (set dinner menus from 12,100 yen [Dh435]), succulent local teppanyaki beef and seafood in Kise (set dinners from 18,700 yen [Dh672]), or all-day dining at Gusuku (four set courses from 5,300 yen [Dh190]). Chura-Nuhji is the most atmospheric, with its stylishly monochrome decor and an ever-changing menu of pretty dishes made from exotic ingredients – including, during my visit, the unexpectedly tasty melange of chrysanthemum, cod and truffle oil – on custom-made Okinawa ceramics. Gusuku’s breakfast buffets are also sumptuous, complete with a range of Japanese delicacies – from Okinawan mozuku seaweed to traditional okayu rice porridge – and international fare.
The spa. My therapist was intuitive to the point of being psychic during a sweet-smelling facial.
The hotel is not on the beach – normally regarded as essential in Okinawan life. There is a special Ritz-Carlton stretch of beach, but it’s a short shuttle hop away.
The most luxurious place to stay on the island, it strikes a good balance between its five-star pedigree and an understated elegance in decor and ambience that complements the Okinawan landscape.
The bottom line
Rates start from 38,115 yen (Dh1,370) for a double room, including taxes but not breakfast. 1343-1 Kise, Nago, Okinawa (www.ritzcarlton.com; 0081 980 43 5555).
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