For seekers of the finer things in life, Japan presents a strange paradox. On one hand, products and services in Japan are of uniformly fine quality—you can be just as sure of a quality sushi meal for 800 yen down a random alley in Tokyo as you can ordering it atop the Park Hyatt, all "Lost in Translation"-style.
On the other hand, since a good or even great experience is all but guaranteed in Japan, no matter how much or little you pay, finding true luxury can be difficult, particularly in larger cities, and particularly if you don't have the Japanese-language skills to do truly expansive research.
To be sure, one place in Japan you probably wouldn't think to find an extremely fine hotel is the city of Kofu—you might not have ever heard of Kofu, actually. From the outside, Tokiwa Hotel doesn't much distinguish itself from any of the other buildings around it. Inside, however, its quality is quite literally imperial.
Rooms at Tokiwa Hotel
Quite literally, and quite immediately. As you walk in from the street and toward the reception desk, you'll notice pictures of important-looking people cozied up in the swankiest-looking rooms of the Tokiwa Hotel. These people don't just look important—they're members of several generations of the Japanese imperial family, for whom Tokiwa Hotel is the only place to experience the Yumura Hot Springs that run under Kofu City.
For non-imperial guests, Tokiwa Hotel offers a mix of Japanese- and Western-style rooms, with Japanese-style rooms and their traditional tatami mats and floor sleeping providing the most authentic experience.
If you're willing to splurge, however—upwards of 40,000 yen (about $375) per guest—you can stay in one of the so-called "cottages" on offer here, which should really be called palaces for all they offer, their popularity among Japanese royalty notwithstanding.
Whether you stay in Tokiwa, which serves as an annex to the Emperor's room whenever he stays, or the Western-style Akaishi, you're sure to feel pampered: Each room features multiple sitting areas, walled-off bedrooms, indoor bathroom and private hot tubs fed directly from the Yumura Onsen.
You can also open the screen of your private outdoor bathing area to enjoy views of the tranquil pond at the center of the hotel, whose surrounding Japanese-style garden bursts with color and texture all year-round.
Dining and Relaxation at Tokiwa Hotel
Of course, you needn't stay in one Tokiwa Hotel's swanky cottages in order to relax. Like most every traditional Japanese guest house, it's home to a public onsen, although you will need to check your modesty at the door: The Japanese bathe nude, albeit in gender-segregated areas—no need to worry about creepers.
Another opportunity to enjoy the finer things at Tokiwa Hotel comes when you dine. Whether you enjoy your meals in-room or in the one of the private dining rooms in the main hotel building, Tokiwa Hotel specializes in multi-course kaiseki dining, which means that in addition to fresh sashimi and table-grilled meats and seafood, you can savor Japanese pickles, local desserts, warming soups and more, all within the context of a single meal.
How to Reach Tokiwa Hotel
Tokiwa Hotel is in Kofu, the largest city of Yamanashi prefecture, located to the north of Mt. Fuji. Oh, right—that's another benefit of staying here, although you might need to go to the second floor of the hotel in order to see Fuji itself, to say nothing of the necessity for clear skies.
In any case, you will need to get to Kofu in order to reach Tokiwa Hotel. First, obviously, you need to fly to Tokyo, from which you have two options to reach Kofu and the hotel. The first is to take a train to Shinjuku station (from Narita, this is the direct Narita Express; from Haneda, you'll take the Keikyu Electric Railway to Shinagawa station and then take a JR train to Shinjuku) where you can connect to one of the hourly departures to Kofu. Alternatively, private limousine buses bound for Yamanashi prefecture leave all terminals of both Tokyo Airports; ask tourist information for the appropriate bus stop.
Theoretically, you could also book a private car all the way from the airport to Tokiwa Hotel, but if you can afford that—Japan is not only uniformly high quality but uniformly expensive—you're probably a member of the imperial family and don't need to read this.