Since Hoshinoya Tokyo opening in July 2016, everyone has been talking about it. Few years back, Tokyo had the most boring set of hotels ever, maybe because the city itself is so engaging, visitors spent every minute of their time outside, without big lodging expectations apart of a comfy bed.
However, for the past few years the hotel game in town has been changing, with big international luxury chains establishing themselves in Tokyo.
Hoshinoya, is a Japanese luxury resorts chain, mainly known by breathtaking locations: Fuji, Karuizawa mountains, Kyoto Arashiyama. So can they reinvent themselves by building a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), in the business heart of Tokyo, Otemachi?
I arrived at Hoshinoya Tokyo directly from the airport. It is conveniently located close to Tokyo train station (where airport train - Narita Express stops); (from there best is to take a cab for 2 minutes ride; but you can even walk if you are travelling light, which is never my case).
Already the entrance cuts you off from Tokyo business life. Japanese curtains, wood, tatami smell. Once you step in through the entrance, you’ll start a journey into traditional Japan, staff wearing beautiful kimono will welcome you kneeling and request that you remove your shoes before stepping on the tatami mat floors.
Each floor of Hoshinoya features a common area called Ochanoma (tea room) Lounge, exclusive to guests staying on that floor. Seasonal, finest Japanese tea selection and snacks are served during the day, while in the evening you can try different alcohol.
Consider this space as a semi-private study or living room, where you can read a book, catch up on work or mingle with other guests while staff wait at the ready to attend to their needs.
The rooms are big, and simply spectacular. Fluffy beds, tatami mats, amazing design. Each moment at Hoshinoya is an experience. In your room wardrobe you will find a beautiful kimono set, (wear it if you feel like taking a stroll in the nearby Imperial Palace gardens, or simply to take plenty of photos). There is also a set of instructions on how to wear it, or simply you can call a staff to help you.
Breakfast is a ritual. Japanese traditional breakfast arrives to your room, like a colorful surprise box. And then there is a coffee, a special drip with a blend imported from Colombia, I still think it was one of the best coffee cups I had in my life, and I did try many, and in different countries.
In the evening, I went down to the lobby where performances take place irregularly (check the schedule upon the arrival), I listened to a musical performance of an instrument I never saw before.
Then I headed for a light stretching class on the top floor, a bit of a Japanese style yoga and breathing exercise mix.
Even the lift has tatami mats inside. Sliding paper screens everywhere.
Inside of the room with a beautiful traditional and modern bath.
Evening tea and sweets in the lounge.
And spectacular in room dining, prepared with seasonal ingredients.
One of the most amazing features of Hoshinoya Tokyo is the hot spring bath on the top floor. A hot spring (onsen bath) is a defining feature of every ryokan, yet here Hoshinoya surpassed the expectations and created a true state-of-the-art facility, which draws on the area’s first natural hot spring, identified back in 2014. The bath is an open air one, with no roof.
I woke up early and decided to go to the onsen for a sunrise. When I entered the bath I looked up and saw the Tokyo sky lighting up with first sun rays, and beautiful snow flakes falling into the warm hot spring water. One of these truly dreamy experiences that I will remember forever.
My advice for your visit:
Spend some time inside the ryokan to unwind and enjoy
Check the performance, and different classes schedule
Spend time in the Ochanoma lounge (few times a day the lounge offers different things - from rice onigiri, through interesting tea blends, to alcohol in the evening)
Experience the onsen bath on the top floor (go in the evening for the most relaxing experience) but also if you can try it at sunrise, most likely you will have entire bath just for yourself !
I am sick and tired of these stupid videos going viral on facebook about how technology has made us antisocial and that social media is evil.
Let me tell you a story. I’m half English, but live in Spain. I get to see my English family, at best, once a year. Sometimes not even that.
I love my English grandparents, but we don’t have many things in common. We can get a nice 20 minute talk going about what we’ve been doing lately, and then I usually fall silent whilst my mum talks about cooking with my grandma and my dad goes on to talk about science with my granddad. It’s so disappointing, because I barely see them, and I can only rely on their interest in what I’m doing with my life to start a conversation.
A few months ago we flew to England and stayed with them a few days. Whilst having supper, naturally (as always) the conversation started with how I was doing, and what I was planning to do with my future now that I had graduated. I told them I was thinking about moving back to Japan to start working there. Somehow, one way or another, we started talking about life in Japan, and my parents chipped in by commenting on their experience in Tokyo as tourists. “There’s so many people!” And then someone asked, “what’s the population of Japan?”
And I said, “Let me google that.”
So I pulled out my smartphone. 127.3 million. Can you believe it? That’s a lot! That’s twice as much as the UK, isn’t it? What is the population of the UK? Granddad says 60 million, but grandma says 62.
Google says 64.1 million.
What about Spain? 50 million, perhaps? 55? Mum says 48, dad says 40. Nope, it’s 46.77 million as of 2014, says google.
We all guessed at the population of the US, of Canda, of France, of Germany; we cheered when one of us had almost hit the mark, and gasped at unexpected numbers. We looked up the dates of historical events, we read random wikipedia facts, we searched Stonehenge on google maps and read about the theories behind it, we googled ‘disc symbols ancient’ to try and figure out what this paperweight my granddad had in his office was supposed to be because he couldn’t remember its name and immediately found out it was a replica of the Phaistos Disc. “‘Disc symbols ancient’! How did google know what we were looking for just from that? That’s amazing!”
We went on for hours, and it was so. much. fun. For three whole hours, three. whole. fucking. hours, every topic we talked about was somehow linked to googling facts or images on my smartphone, and do you know what my granddad said to me as we started cleaning everything up?
He said this thing I had was amazing, and he wanted one too.
Technology is not a conversation stopper. It’s a conversation starter, and if you don’t know how to be responsible, if you don’t know how to make use of this amazing thing we have to keep a conversations going, then the problem isn’t smartphones, or facebook, or twitter. It’s you.