This peaceful Tokyo inn provides calm amid the hustle of the city
Ryokans—traditional Japanese inns—are countryside destinations for many travelers, often thanks to their proximity to natural hot springs. Hoshinoya, in the midst of Tokyo’s frenetic energy, aims to replicate this peaceful type of retreat—but with a luxurious new spin.
With the 2020 Summer Olympics about to descend on Tokyo, Hoshinoya provides an oasis of calm amid the chaos.
CEO Yoshiharu Hoshino, who runs 37 hotels throughout the country, faced a new kind of challenge when planning this urban hotel. With his other properties, he pulled in elements from the resorts’ surroundings as a way to build guests’ appreciation for the environment. But Tokyo—a heavily visited destination—didn’t need this type of support. Instead, Hoshino took the opportunity to use Hoshinoya as a way to build awareness of Japanese culture and to introduce international guests to the ryokan experience.
Situated in the business district of Otemachi, the building is shrouded in a subtle metalwork pattern mimicking a design commonly seen on kimonos, called komon. Its intricacies are only perceptible up close, a fitting foretelling of the Hoshinoya experience. When guests first enter, they are immediately required to remove their shoes, which are stored away until the next outdoor excursion. The sensation is one of a homecoming, melting stress away as the body responds to the subtle texture of the tatami-covered floors.
Throughout the public spaces and in the 84 guest rooms, materials such as shoji sliding doors, bamboo, and wood all bring to mind a traditional ryokan. But its design is distinctly high-end and luxurious, and you could easily while away a couple of hours in the large soaking tub. Yukata (kimono-like robes) are provided for all guests, sartorially establishing a separation between city life and the ryokan.
Many urbanites escape to the countryside to regain a sense of peace and well-being, and this desire is a focal point for Hoshinoya. The crowning jewel of the property is the rooftop onsen. While most ryokans source the water from nearby hot springs, urban hotels don’t have easy access to this amenity. To achieve this, Hoshinoya drilled into a water source 4,921 feet belowground.
Sitting under the open sky on the 17th floor while immersed in hot water, the street sounds below somewhat muffled, it almost feels as if you’re floating above the city. Each floor has a common space called an ochanoma lounge, where guests are encouraged to relax with a cup of tea and one of the sweet or savory snacks available at any hour of the day. Numerous seating options invite lounging and relaxing.
It’s said communing with nature taps all the senses. While Tokyo’s urban grit isn’t the same as a forest floor, and the skyscrapers aren’t trees, Hoshinoya finds alternate ways to realign the senses with the Deep Breathing Regimen spa program. Over the course of two nights and three days, traditional spa therapies—such as massages—are interspersed with meditation and breathing exercises.
For those looking to truly unplug, the hotel offers a digital detox program in which cell phones and all electronic devices are stored away. To alleviate the panic that will inevitably set in, guests learn the art of swordsmanship—meant to create consciousness of movement—and participate in meditation sessions.
A slightly more luxurious way to decompress is through the Sake Stay Program, which runs through the end of February. Tasting lessons, meals cooked with sake, and even a sake bath foster new levels of appreciation for this rice-based drink.
Numerous in-house experiences aim to teach visitors about traditional Japanese culture. During the daily sake lounge (read: happy hour), guests can sample sakes from featured breweries while watching a grand kagura performance, a form of entertainment involving acrobatics, spinning teacups, and other feats of balance. Private tea ceremonies, during which guests are guided through the rituals, can be booked through the concierge.
The hotel also arranges several excursions around the city. Evening riverboat cruises, complete with dinner, take guests down the Nihonbashi and Sumida rivers, offering lesser-known views of the cityscape. Rickshaw tours highlight landmarks in historical neighborhoods throughout the city.
Dining at Hoshinoya is meant to be a reverential experience. The subterranean dining room—open only to hotel guests—serves Nippon cuisine, a fusion of French technique and Japanese ingredients in a spare, elegant setting. Patterned dividers provide privacy for diners and serve as the only adornments in the room so guests can focus on the meal.
For a more casual bite, onigiri (rice balls) and miso soup are available in the ochanoma lounges. The restaurant also prepares a meticulous breakfast for in-room dining. The stacked compartments of bento boxes reveal delectable bites of fish, vegetables, rice, and other treats as each is laid out for a gratifying start to the day.
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