A MODERN RYOKAN EXPERIENCE
As the midday sun basked its usual audience; monochromatic suit-wearers shuffling about, it was unmistakably clear that we were in the right place. Amongst a forest of skyscrapers in the financial district of Otemachi, Hoshinoya Tokyo stood out strikingly from its surrounding neighbours.
Black steeled lattice work, in a repeating traditional kimono motif, distinctly wraps itself around the 18-storey high building. Designed by architect Rie Azuma for Hoshino Resorts, Hoshinoya Tokyo offers a modern ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) experience typically found in Kyoto or reserved elsewhere in the countryside.
In a setting informed by understated luxury, the establishment tastefully excels in fusing elements of tasteful modernism with authentic Japanese aesthetics. In each of the 84 guest rooms (6 to each floor), traditional washi paper windows, shōji sliding doors and tatami mats, can be found alongside modern comforts. Think electronic shutters, smart TOTO toilets, and even a bathroom glass divider that turns opaque with a flip of a switch.
Every level also features a peaceful communal lounge where attentive staff serve hand-drip coffee, onigiri breakfast rice balls, and warm miso soup. Of course, in true ryokan fashion, a gender segregated onsen (Japanese hot spring) is provided. This however, is no ordinary onsen.
Thermal water is directly pumped up from a naturally occurring hot spring, 1500m beneath the building's foundation, up to the open-air bath situated on the penthouse floor. Towering over two-storeys high in dark terracotta cladding and dimly accented by the warm glow of bamboo panels, it bewilders and invites.
Rainy evenings were special occasions: looking up, the light and natural rhythm of falling rain in stark contrast to the warm and meticulously controlled 41 degree thermal waters, reinvigorate and delight the senses. After long wanders and tiring days, a nightly visit to the onsen became an eagerly and almost religiously awaited ritual.
What was a week-long stay felt relatively short. From the moment we arrived, we were served authentic omotenashi hospitality, the Japanese concept of anticipating the needs of a guest and acting without being asked to do so. Hoshinoya Tokyo deliberately indulges with carefully restrained splendour with subdued quietude. So much so that we easily forgot at times that we were in the heart of a bustling and vibrant metropolis as intended.