Shed your shoes and slide into the lap of minimalist luxury.

At Hoshinoya Tokyo, the gift of discovery is in walking barefooted (socked feet, if you wish) and drinking in the tactile experience.

Credit: Hoshino Resorts

Tatami-matted corridors (even the elevator is not spared!), bamboo closets, cotton kimonos, sliding shoji screens. Accents are both a throwback to old Edo as well as a stimulus to the senses.

Credit: Hoshino Resorts

Everything has been designed with a purpose.

Even the silence in the hallways is elegant.

Within the spare walls of Hoshinoya Tokyo, a treasure trove of Japanese heritage awaits. Touted as Tokyo’s first luxury urban ryokan, the hotel seamlessly marries contemporary and traditional. But beyond a ryokan reinvented, Hoshinoya Tokyo is reviving the authentic omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) of the ryokans of old.

It was in the little things we saw: the quintessential etiquette of Japanese inns delivered without skipping a beat.

A Ryokan revived

In our room, cloud-like low futons replace the modern beds. In the bathroom, a deep, square bath tub takes centrestage, but your eyes will naturally be drawn to the hinoki wooden stool and water bucket that invite to a Japanese bathing ritual. A pair of kimonos and cotton pyjamas are offered for guests to wear, the latter for moving around their floor so guests can fully experience the ryokan feel.

Credit: Hoshino Resorts

On every guest floor is a lounge called an “ochanoma”. The heart of the Japanese ryokan, it’s where you can take your breakfast, work or relax. With just six rooms to a floor, this almost felt like our own living room.

Seasonal snacks and tidbits were available all day for guests. In Spring when we visited, the season’s strawberries transformed into delicious mochis. In the evenings, homemade ginger syrup was thoughtfully offered for guests to make into tea. Our host, Naomi-san, insisted in delivering a teapot to our room: “Better not catch a cold,” she said. “This is good traditional remedy.” We were spoiled.

Did we mention there was also an onsen on the top floor? The hotel even draws its own spring water from underground!

There are separate baths for men and women. In true traditional onsen fashion, full disrobing is required before one enters the baths. And this was when the hotel shone. Mindful of our modesty, the staff extended a private use of the onsen so we could experience it.

True hospitality

The staff, in fact, was an extension of the ryokan experience. Instead of merely communicating our needs as guests, they connected with guests.

At our Japanese tea ceremony activity, our host with the most mesmerising voice Tomoka-san, stayed with us long after the “lesson” was over. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the mini theatre where classes are held, she shared tea stories while we sipped more matcha. Through her, we found how tranquility and harmony, deeply embedded in the Japanese culture, shape the morals and behaviour of every Japanese.

Credit: Hoshino Resorts

Credit: Hoshino Resorts

That evening as we had our spa treatment, everything we had come to know about the culture during our short stay came full circle. Tension-relieving oil treatment was accompanied by a warm herbal poultice, a salute to seasonal herbs, administered with the gentlest strokes that was a dance to harmonise the minds, body and spirit.

The H Factor

Prior to our arrival, we received a prompt e-mail from Hoshinoya Tokyo addressing our queries on halal meals. While their kitchen was not able to fully accommodate the requirements for halal due to the property’s small footprint, we appreciated their thoughtfulness in preparing a bespoke breakfast that met halal standards. We communicated with the team throughout on its separate preparation as well as permissible ingredients.

Alhamdulillah, breakfast was boiled egg, cereal, salad, fruits and an assortment of bread with homemade preserves.

At the ochanoma, snack ingredients are clearly labeled. The staff will also check with the kitchen for any enquiries on the snack’s ingredients and preparation.

The concierge has a list of halal restaurants they can recommend. Our go to was Siam Orchid Supreme Halal in Tokyo Station. Easily under 15 minutes’ walk, we indulged in the crab yellow curry and the seafood tom yum.

5 Priceless Touches

  • An urban luxury ryokan that is cosy, intimate and comfortable
  • Young, English-speaking staff who were attentive and affable
  • The onsen private hour extended to us
  • An ochanoma that was our own living room!
  • The salute to seasons and heritage: from the ambience, food, snacks, interiors – the hotel has revived Japanese culture for guests (and locals) who desire an authentic experience.

Main photo credit: Hoshino Resorts

Disclaimer: Our visit was made before Japan’s Covid-19 lockdown.

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