Travel

Hiroko Ishii’s One-of-a-Kind Japan Experiences: The Hoshinoya Tokyo

2016.08.12

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An exquisite layered box at the heart of the metropolis

Anyone seeing a beautifully lacquered jubako layered box placed carefully by the side of the road would want to peek inside. The sight of the Hoshinoya Tokyo, a traditional Japanese ryokan inn that opened on July 20th this year, inspires the same feeling.

Tucked away amidst the office buildings of Otemachi, the Hoshinoya Tokyo was conceived as a “ryokan tower.” Beyond its doors of 300-year-old Aomori cypress, layer upon layer of “one-of-a-kind Japan experiences” await.

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Tranquility amid the office towers

Each floor contains six guest rooms arranged around a lounge exclusively for the use of guests. The guest rooms themselves come in three types. The largest is the roughly 80-square meter Kiku (Chrysanthemum), which combines hotel-style amenities — including an inviting sofa, dining table, writing desk, and walk-in closet — with ryokan-style touches like custom-made low-bed-style futons, gentle illumination through paper screens, and a miniature garden in the bath area.

Sakura (Cherry Blossom) rooms are roughly 50 square meters and available in twin or double configurations, while Yuri (Lily) rooms are on the corners of the building. Black tubs in see-through bathrooms add a chic touch, but at the touch of a button the walls of the bathroom can be rendered opaque for privacy. The gently curved chairs of chestnut wood and the low, black tables with square bamboo legs are a contemporary take on traditional Japanese interiors. And the Tokyo skyline is just a sliding paper screen away, enhancing the sense of tranquility and contentment hidden away from the busy city.

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Moonlit baths in amber tubs

As the elevator doors open on the top floor, a striking work of art comes into view. At first glance it appears to be the stump of a great tree, but in fact it is artfully assembled from individual pieces of cypress, as carefully and closely packed as the stone wall of an ancient castle. The two onsen rooms are on this floor, one for men and the other for women, both drawing from the recently excavated and much-discussed Otemachi spring.

The water is amber in color and faintly fragrant of salt and earth. The springs are sodium-chloride strong saline springs containing iodine, weakly alkaline with a pH of 7.48. Iodine is a marine mineral, useful for disinfecting as well as warming, while the strong salt component helps warm the body and improve the circulation.

These rooms lead directly on to outdoor onsen areas open directly to the sky. Looking up at the stars while floating in an onsen in the middle of Tokyo is a mysterious and refreshing experience. (And apt, since the Hoshinoya Tokyo’s name literally means “Starry Night”!) The onsen is open all night, so visitors can stay up to bathe with the moon if they wish.

Next page: “So much more to enjoy than your guest room

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