21 Apr 2017 in In immersion
Discover our round-the-clock guide to Tokyo’s ultimate luxury ryokan. Whether you want to relax, sightsee or immerse yourself in Japanese culture, you’ll have plenty of options.
More likely than not, you’ll arrive in Tokyo at the main train station, at the heart of the world’s most populous metropolis.
From here, it’s a short taxi ride or a 10-minute walk to Otemachi, home to HOSHINOYA Tokyo.
The moment you step inside HOSHINOYA Tokyo, you enter another world. The buzz of Tokyo fades instantly and calm reigns supreme. At the entrance, sliding doors made from 300-year old hiba wood open up onto a wide corridor of tatami mats and bamboo-laced shoe lockers.
As tradition dictates in a Japanese ryokan, you’ll take off your shoes at the genkan, and the o-genkan-san will put them away for you, ready for the next time you step outside.
A member of staff will escort you to your room via the elevator, which is also lined with intricate tatami. When you arrive at your floor, you’ll be invited into the Ochanoma or semi-private lounge.
This large living area is a common space for the six guest rooms on your floor, and until 9pm, it’s attended by a member of staff who will serve you complimentary sake and tend to your every need. Twenty-four hours a day, you can come here to relax and help yourself to tea, coffee and snacks.
It’s time to settle into your room. And what a room! With extensive tatami flooring and large shoji screens opening onto floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll have plenty of space. There’s a lounge area, a generous-sized low bed, and a stylish bathroom separated by glass panels – which you can choose to render transparent or frosted at the touch of a button.
The attention to detail is staggering: international sockets mean you can plug in your devices without an adapter, a Bluetooth speaker lets you play your own music, and when you enter the toilet room, the seat lid raises automatically. Like to watch TV? Press the remote control and the screen magically appears from behind the large wall mirror. This is the height of ryokan luxury.
To get you into the Japanese mood, how about a workshop on how to wear a kimono? You’ll find a full kimono set in your room – and instructions on how to put it on.
Once you’ve suited up, head to the lobby area to learn how to sit, walk and fan yourself in the elegant manner befitting a kimono wearer.
Even in the heart of Tokyo, you can enjoy a natural hot spring bath. Sourced from 1,500 metres underground (the drilling process took two and a half years to complete), water is jettisoned up to the 17th floor at a natural temperature of over 40C.
Lie back in the indoor pool and feel your muscles relax – and then transition seamlessly to the outdoor pool by wading through the corridor of warm water. Cocooned by wooden shutters, you’ll be able to look up and enjoy an unobstructed view of the sky or stars.
Down in the basement, an exceptional gastronomic experience awaits you with the divine Japanese fusion cuisine of the famous Noriyuki Hamada.
The restaurant itself is a paragon of Zen minimalism, with grey plastered walls, soft lighting and a private space for every group of diners.
Expect to be surprised by the creative twists chef Hamada gives his fish-focused menu. Whatever he’s concocted, it will be superbly paired with French wines and Japanese sake.
How about a short concert? On certain nights, demonstrations of Japanese Gagaku (8th-10th century court music) are held in the lobby area – with complimentary sake.
The ethereal sound of these ancient instruments has to be heard to be believed.
Just in case you’re not relaxed enough, you can sign up for breathing exercises to prepare your body for sleep.
By performing simple stretching movements while inhaling and exhaling slowly, you’ll be ready for a night of deep, uninterrupted sleep.
Get up to breakfast in your room.
Opt for the Japanese breakfast and you’ll enjoy a hearty spread of grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickled vegetables. Or if you fancy something more familiar, you can choose the copious Western breakfast.
Time for tea! In the lobby area, you can learn how to make your own matcha tea using a sunken hearth built into the tatami floor.
Your host will teach you how to heat the cup to the right temperature and whisk your matcha to create a rich, frothy green tea.
Tokyo has something for everyone, so where to start? HOSHINOYA Tokyo can organize a rickshaw ride for you around the local area, with anecdotes aplenty from your driver.
Alternatively, the Imperial Gardens are just a few minutes’ walk away, or you can go further afield for museums, parks and more. And when you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, it will be time to retreat back to the calm of HOSHINOYA Tokyo and recharge your batteries for another day.