Nestled in the heart of Tokyo’s financial district, this 84-room ryokan-style hotel invites guests to slow down their footsteps and embrace a world where sensory comfort reigns.
From a distance, the towering Hoshinoya Tokyo blends right into the sea of stark grey office buildings that make up Tokyo’s Otemachi financial district—but look closely and you’ll see that the exterior is a lattice of Edo Komon prints, resembling leaf and floral motifs. In fact, this historically rich neighborhood once housed the daimyo (vassals of a shogun) between the Edo years of 1603-1868.
Step into the ryokan-style hotel and you’ll be invited to take off your shoes, a simple ritual that signifies a warm welcome home for each guest. Bamboo shoeboxes line the walls of the long tatami hallway, leading the eye to an alcove at the end. Here, ikebana arrangements reflect the changing seasons, whether it’s Sakura blooms in spring or glass-blown goldfishes and miniature zen gardens in the heat of summer. Ample sunlight permeates the property, bringing to life soft tones and natural textures to delight one’s senses.
More than just a modern take on a traditional ryokan inn, the 84-room Hoshinoya Tokyo is designed by talented architect Rie Azuma to be a marriage of the traditional and contemporary. Comfort is key and exemplified by having every walkable surface layered with soft tatami matting (typically, tatami is only used in the rooms).
Kiku, the largest room category, is luxurious yet tranquil at 83 square meters. Gentle lighting and plush bedding invite one to lay back and appreciate the room’s details, from the shoji paper windows to the cypress soaking tub. The mirror doubles as a television, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to switch it on. Each floor features an ochanoma, a social lounge that’s really more of a living room filled with coffee table books, seasonal sake, and complimentary confectionary to encourage conversation.
Tucked away in the basement level is the hotel’s namesake restaurant, which welcomes guests with an artfully-lit stone sculpture at the lift landing. Rows of ceramic art in all forms and hues guide guests to the private dining rooms, where executive chef Noriyuki Hamada’s dishes are beautifully showcased. Featuring locally-sourced fish, his culinary style is a careful blend of Japanese seasonality and French cooking techniques,
Our dinner started with an amuse-bouche of fishbone charcoal cracker and cod liver choux, served on a drum-shaped vessel crafted from hinoki wood that used to be part of a daimyo residence. The dishes that followed all gave precedence to fish in various forms, from the complex yet delicate consommé of sea eel, to fresh tuna prepared both sashimi-style and steamed. Because it was summer, seasonal favorites like turban shell and sweet peaches were featured in the menu as well. A fitting finale to our meal, the petit fours was a delightful spread of 10 colorful sweets, including chestnut mousse and kinako (roasted soybean flour) marshmallow.
Equally memorable are the Japanese or Western breakfast bento sets, which are served in-room between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. daily. Presented in minimalistic wooden boxes, the meals were hearty yet flavorful, featuring local fish such as Japanese mackerel and salmon fillet, alongside fresh fruit salad and daikon soup.
Fed by natural hot spring waters drawn from 1,500 meters below ground, Hoshinoya Tokyo’s two bath halls (open until 3a.m daily) are the pride of the hotel. Separated by gender, each bath hall comes with an indoor and outdoor section, the latter of which features an open roof. While soaking in pure bliss and admiring the starry skies, it’s easy to forget that one is in the middle of a metropolis. Afterward, be sure to drink a bottle of chilled milk or two, a popular post-bath custom among the locals. For an extra dose of pampering, book an hour-long, tension-relieving oil massage at the spa. With her dexterous hands, the therapist eased away the tight knots in my shoulders with scented oil that’s extracted from red blossom plum tree, leaving me feeling rejuvenated and ready for my day.
For a taste of Tokyo’s culture and heritage, immersive cultural activities are available, including the austere Japanese tea ceremony, a river cruise of Tokyo’s historic waterways, and a rickshaw tour. I got to dress up in the yukata, the Japanese summer kimono, commonly worn for matsuris (festivals), for my rickshaw tour. My guide, who spoke fluent English, lavished plenty of interesting historical facts for my hour-long rickshaw tour through the commercial quarter of Nihombashi. For instance, did you know that there’s a “kilometer zero” marker that denotes Nihonbashi as the starting point for Japan’s five most important roads?
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