International travellers generally visit Tokyo to zip around the city filling themselves with uni, see as much of the hectic Japanese capital as possible, shop ’til they drop and drink Japanese whisky, before leaving to a more rural part of the country to recover and unwind. But Hoshino Resorts may just have turned the typical Tokyo city break on its head, by the opening of its 84-room luxury ryokan property, Hoshinoya Tokyo, located in a slick, 18-storey skyscraper slap bang in the middle of the frenetic Otemachi financial district.
For the uninitiated, a ryokan is typically a traditional Japanese-style inn, that offers an immersive cultural experience. Staying at a ryokan usually means sleeping on a futon bed on a tatami (straw mat) floor, bathing in a communal hot-spring bath, and eating a multi-course kaiseki-style meal while wearing a kimono, all of which is highly recommended but rarely happens in a city centre, and the centre of Tokyo at that. Hoshinoya has taken the best elements of a ryokan and repurposed them – in an utterly traditional style – for modern travellers visiting one of the world’s busiest cities. The result is one of the most peaceful urban hotels anywhere on the planet and a true urban escape.
Even when the property is running at 100% occupancy, you’ll rarely see or hear another guest. The entrance from the street is devoid of typical concierge desks, ringing phones or any commercial activity. In their place are an art installation and a quiet space where you’re encouraged to remove your shoes, which the kimono-clad staff store inside bamboo lockers. Guests are required to pad around the hotel barefoot, even in the privacy of your own bedroom, which, whilst taking some getting used to (particularly after a day on the streets of Tokyo), soon feels surprisingly liberating, and makes the whole building feel like home.
Hoshinoya Tokyo’s main attraction however, is its open-air onsen, the area’s first natural hot-spring bath, where women and men bathe in waters rich in therapeutic minerals, in separate rooftop spaces each open to the skies, yet enclosed by towering walls. This free and liberating experience is both the ideal tonic to a busy day of sightseeing, and the perfect prelude to a night out in the Japanese capital.