Japan is one of the countries of the moment. I was amazed on my recent trip by the number of American travelers, but I really shouldn’t have been. At the time of writing, the exchange rate between the dollar and the yen is extremely favorable. Also, travel has become progressively easier. More Japanese than ever speak English, and as the country readies itself for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, new English-language signage has appeared in airports and train stations. Above all, in these turbulent times, the orderliness and civility of Japan seem more remarkable and admirable than ever.
In addition to spells amid the bright lights of Tokyo, we returned to the cultural capital of Kyoto, and relaxed in the rural retreats of Hakone and Takayama. As well as impressive grand hotels, we discovered a notable new boutique property, plus two exceptionally atmospheric ryokans (traditional inns).
Our Asian journey also included a few days in dynamic Hong Kong. In a city with two of the world’s greatest hotels, The Peninsula and the Mandarin Oriental, it might seem perverse to go looking for alternatives. But, as I am always on the lookout for smaller hideaway properties, I decided to stay in two contrasting boutique hotels, one of which proved a delightful surprise. Going in search of the city’s enduring traditions, we found two fascinating small museums, one dedicated to tea — its preparation and the wares used in serving it — and the other to “chops,” or ornate Chinese name seals. Of course, in one of the world’s gastronomic capitals, we also enjoyed predictably delicious Cantonese cuisine.