Even though I had already made plans to visit a number of excellent hotels during my stay in Tokyo, the HOSHINOYA Tokyo was my most anticipated property and it was awarded a spot on the much-coveted Condé Nast Traveler’s ”Gold List 2018” a few months prior to my visit. Now most travellers are familiar with the concept of a traditional Japanese ryokan where tatami mats and onsen are typically associated with. The 17-storey HOSHINOYA Tokyo combines the best of modernity with century-old traditions to create a haven right in the heart of Tokyo's Otemachi financial district.
As soon as I arrived at the property, my shoes were collected before I stepped onto the grassy tatami mats that line the corridor - if you do have to leave the property (even though you most definitely should not), you will have to collect your shoes from one of the intricately-made shoe boxes that have been fashioned out of chestnut and bamboo. I left my bags at the same spot where I left my shoes and followed one of the staff up to my room.
I stayed in one of the largest rooms that the HOSHINOYA Tokyo has to offer and the checking-in process is vastly different from the usual business hotels that I have been used to (part of it had to be attributable to the fact that I was not wearing any shoes!). Just as the staff was going through my reservation and informing me about the various activities that I could partake in during my stay, my luggage and bags were brought up and placed into the walk-in wardrobe of the room. What took me by surprise however was that instead of the regular key cards that I was expecting, I was handed a small sling bag (where an RFID card is carefully tucked away) instead.
There are three main room types here at HOSHINOYA Tokyo and for this visit, I stayed in a Kiku room type (Executive Triple) here at the HOSHINOYA Tokyo - this is the largest and most expensive room category here. This corner room measures a massive 83 sqm in size and up to a maximum of three guests can share this beautifully-appointed room. The Kiku Room features a beautiful bedroom, living area as well as bathroom that are somewhat connected throughout. Sure, the bathroom does have an actual door that can be closed and locked for privacy but there is a seamless transition between the expansive living area and the bedroom.
The south-facing Kiku rooms here at HOSHINOYA Tokyo enjoy plenty of natural light and the use of Shoji screens (which you can manually move) can be employed should you prefer to have added privacy. In the event that you need to get some rest during the day, blackout blinds can be activated with a flick of a switch. You will find traces of Edo Komon throughout the property - this style of stencil dying was first developed back in the Muromachi Period but it became popular during the Edo Period where samurais would wear the motif that symbolises their clan. From my understanding, there was a law in place during the Edo Period that restrained luxury and extravagance - therefore, the Edo Komon technique was utilised to make a carefully-designed kimono outfit look like a solid colour from afar. This motif can be found in the building facade as well as on the sling bags (containing the access card to your room) that were handed over to me during check-in.
On the furthest end of the room is the bedroom and as I have mentioned earlier on, the Kiku room sleeps up to three adults. If you are planning to share this with a loved one, a king-size bed can also be arranged (just be sure to notify the hotel ahead of time otherwise a charge may be applicable). Unlike traditional ryokans where typical futons are placed on the tatami floor, HOSHINOYA Tokyo offers plush mattresses that look like traditional futons but actually feel like an actual bed. Guests staying at the HOSHINOYA Tokyo are able to reap in the benefits of old and new - even though it feels like a traditional ryokan, you are still able to enjoy the conveniences of modern technology. Lighting can be easily controlled via a strip of buttons located by the bed and things like air-conditioning can be adjusted via the control panel near the door.
I have been to hotels that feature glass and mirror TVs which are somewhat hidden - the rooms here in HOSHINOYA Tokyo come furnished with a mirror TV that is truly hidden from plain sight. Honestly, I have always been able to see the 'hidden' TVs in the hotel but the one here in the Kiku room is truly undetectable. If I was not told that there was indeed a TV in this room, I would not have realised it personally. There is also a Bang & Olufsen bluetooth speaker by the side of the TV which you can easily stream music to.
The bathroom here in the Kiku room is beautiful - double sink vanities, lounge sofa, massive bathtub, a toilet at the end as well as a separate shower area that is inspired by the traditional Japanese baths. Even though the bathing area is located behind a glass window, you can easily flick a switch to turn the transparent glass opaque.
Kiku rooms here at the HOSHINOYA Tokyo also come with a massive bathtub which can easily fit up to three adults simultaneously. With that being said, the crown jewel of the HOSHINOYA Tokyo is the crazy impressive onsen which is located on the top floor of this hotel. Unfortunately, I was not able to get any photos since photography is banned for obvious reasons but taking a dip in that beautiful alkaline water in the middle of Tokyo is truly a humbling and luxurious experience that most people do not see themselves doing every day.
Located directly in front of the massive bathtub is a separate shower area that is inspired by the traditional Japanese baths. Much like what you would expect to find in a ryokan, the bath amenities are not contained within little individual bottles. What I did find interesting however was the existence of a 5-step facial kit in the bathroom - they are seriously about not only making you feel good but look good as well.
Part of any ryokan experience (from a tourist point of view at the very least) is to change into the kimonos provided - you can walk around the whole property in these and honestly, if you don't, you will probably be sticking out like a sore thumb. These kimonos are of great quality and they seriously look presentable enough to wear outside of the hotel even. There is a guide to wearing the kimonos properly so make sure you read through that before putting them on.
There are six rooms on every floor of the HOSHINOYA Tokyo and even though most of us are familiar with the concept of an executive lounge, the property goes above and beyond what is typically expected. Every single floor of the HOSHINOYA Tokyo features an Ochanoma Lounge - guests are only allowed to use the one that is on the same level as their room. There are no differences in any of the lounges between the levels of 3 and 16 but having to share it with only five other rooms meant that the chances of bumping into somebody else were minimised.
As if the Kiku room was not big enough, the Ochanoma Lounge feels like an extended part of the room where you will get to enjoy a wide variety of seasonal snacks alongside coffee and tea. What is even more impressive is the fact that the selection of snacks vary based on the time of day - expect to find supper food in the evening and seasonal snacks during the day.
Sake-lovers would be thrilled to find out that the SAKE Lounge in the HOSHINOYA Tokyo serves complimentary Sake from 5:00PM to 7:00PM every night. There were three different sakes on offer the night that I visit and since I did not know which one to start with, I decided to have all three instead. I believe there was also a sweet wine on offer but hey, who needs wine when you have got sake instead?
Hotel guests can also look forward to traditional performances during these hours - I watched the Grand Kagura (which is apparently a traditional juggling performance) at 5:15PM as well as 5:45PM. I left the SAKE Lounge shortly after the second performance as I had a dinner reservation at a French-Japanese restaurant located in the basement of the HOSHINOYA Tokyo.
I highly recommend having dinner at the HOSHINOYA Tokyo for two main reasons. The first reason is very simple - you will not want to leave the hotel at all. Seriously, after waling around in just socks and a kimono, you will not want to change into regular clothes and face the rest of the world. The second reason is probably more important than the first - the presentation and complexity of flavours presented by Chef Noriyuki Hamada is something that you will have to experience for yourself. When you are making a booking to stay at the HOSHINOYA Tokyo, you will have the option to add on dinner as part of your stay experience. Since my booking already came with dinner-inclusive and I was in the mood of splurging (it could be due to the sake that I had upstairs!), I decided to add-on the wine-pairing experience for what I believe was ¥10,000++ per adult but I don't remember it now and my credit card bills are in a mess.
After a really filling dinner that took almost three whole hours, I decided that it was time to check out that much-raved about onsen at the top of the HOSHINOYA Tokyo. In case you are not familiar with the traditional hot spring etiquette here in Japan, there is a quick guide located in your room - one was handed to me while I was checking in. Stripping down to nothing but a face towel, I took a step into the warm spring waters and slowly inched towards the end of the corridor - this led to a huge bathing area that opens up directly into an outdoor onsen. Since I got there fairly late, there was no one around and being able to enjoy the night sky and the cold winter breeze while sitting in approximately 42 degree Celsius spring water is really one of the most memorable experiences that I have ever had in Tokyo.
Breakfast is typically included in ryokan stays and this is also one of the key highlights that many tourists look forward to. Here in HOSHINOYA Tokyo, you may opt for a room-only option but I would definitely recommend booking a room rate that comes with breakfast - you will have the option of having either a Japanese or Western breakfast and upon checking-in to the hotel, your preferred breakfast time (between 7:00AM and 11:00AM will be noted). I opted to have it at 8:00AM and just like clockwork, the friendly staff delivered everything on the dot. Served alongside hot hojicha (roasted green tea), my 'light' Japanese breakfast was probably one of the most sumptuous meals that I have ever had in the morning.
I was really craving for a coffee after breakfast and so I made my way to the Ochanoma Lounge (it helps that the lounge is located just ten steps away from my room) for some pour-over coffee. I also took the opportunity to taste the different green teas that were on offer that morning. Tea and coffee brewing is truly an art but watching one of the staff perform her magic right in front of me is a somewhat humbling experience.
I think it is safe to say that the HOSHINOYA Tokyo offers a not only unique but incredibly luxurious ryokan experience that no one else can replicate in the city of Tokyo. To me, the stay is not just simply a room night but it is an unforgettable experience from start to finish. The pursuit of perfection is prevalent across all components of my stay and you can tell that plenty of thought has been placed in to ensure that the cultural immersion for every guest is established. The room rates here at the HOSHINOYA Tokyo are definitely on the higher side and I cannot foresee myself being able to afford a week here in the Kiku room (since it will probably set me back almost S$10,000) at this stage in my life but considering how much you get from your stay, it is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. One of the best ways to get a good deal here at the HOSHINOYA Tokyo is to book at least 120 days in advance or stay for a period longer than six nights.