The Most Fabulous Boutique Hotels in Tokyo
As one of the world’s premiere destinations for both business and leisure travel, Tokyo accommodates thousands of travelers on a daily basis. With the additional influx of visitors for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, however, some officials feared the city’s robust hotel offerings would fall short of what is necessary to house travelers from nearly every nation on earth. Fortunately, Japan’s diverse hotel industry view the event as both an opportunity and a challenge.
Japan’s Hotel Industry – a Study in Contrasts
Hotels have been a key part of Japanese culture for over a thousand years. In fact, Japan is home to the world’s three oldest hotels – all three of which are also considered the world’s oldest businesses. The oldest of these, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, was founded in the year 705, firmly placing the 2020 Olympics in the hotel’s 1,315th year of service. Astoundingly, 52 generations of the same family have been operating the hotel since its inception.
While most of Japan’s hotels are not quite as old, the country does feature a significant number of other beautiful, historic hotels in the traditional style. Known as ryokan, these hotels are typically rather small, almost always family-operated, and feature traditional Japanese elements like tatami matted rooms, communal bathing areas, and public rooms where guests may wear yukata (summer kimono) and chat with the proprietor.
More recently, however, it is more and more common to see modern hotels from the biggest Western chains as well as some new players in the Asian hotel market. Business and leisure travelers alike can experience all the comforts they’ve come to expect from these familiar chains, often with an elegant Japanese touch. Thus, it is easy to see that the Japanese hotel industry exists in a state of contrast, between the ancient and the new, as well as the traditional style and the modern.
Tokyo as the New Face of the Boutique Movement
For travelers wishing to experience a unique perspective of the Japanese hotel industry, the ancient hotels are certainly a solution. However, within Tokyo itself, ryokan can be hard to come by. As such, a new crop of smaller, boutique-style hotels have emerged to provide travelers with an option outside the familiar big brands.
Together, these boutique hotels provide travelers with a variety of experiences – some based on the traditional ryokan, others on a more modern aesthetic, but all contributing to the fresh new take on boutique currently underway in Tokyo. As the boutique hotel movement truly comes into its own as a worldwide industry in its own right, boutique hotels like those in Tokyo promise to provide a unique, niche environment for the discerning traveler. Along with the other types of hotels in the Japanese hospitality industry, boutique hotels promise to offer a variety of experiences for travelers during the 2020 Olympic season and beyond.
The Best Boutique Hotels in Tokyo
Developing a list of the best boutique hotels in the city wasn’t easy – there are so many properties that are truly evocative of everything it means to be “boutique”. However, these four hotels wonderfully incorporate Tokyo’s culture as well as the fresh aesthetic at the forefront of the boutique industry today.
As the boutique movement continues to influence the hotel industry, boutique hotels like those on this list showcases how the fresh, new face of the Tokyo boutique meets the more traditional ryokan. Well beyond the 2020 Olympic season, the boutique industry will continue to influence hotels in Tokyo and throughout Japan, as well as those worldwide.
1 Wired Hotel Asakusa
2-16-2 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo
The neighborhood of Asakusa is, itself, the number four tourist destination in Tokyo. Steeped in tradition, Asakusa features any number of temples, shrines, and other forms of traditional architecture, as well as a strong resistance to change. However, Wired – owned by Cafe Company – provides that change within the walls of the hotel. From the Wired Cafe on the ground floor, the site of many community meetings and a modern aesthetic, to the 30 rooms above, you’ll experience modern amenities in this traditional neighborhood. Rooms are provided in three classes – luxury, standard (featuring compact and mini rooms), and dormitory (geared towards families or groups of friends).
Image Rights to Wired Hotel
1 Chome-3-18 Chuocho, Meguro City, Tokyo
Perhaps the best-known boutique hotel in Tokyo, Claska is also the very first boutique hotel in the city. As such, its floor-by-floor organization of multiple boutique environments under the same roof has quickly become the model other boutique hotels strive to achieve. Amenities range from a first floor restaurant, Kuika, a bookstore, a DJ space, a second floor event and gallery space, rooftop views and photography, and more. Since its renovation and reopenings in 2003, 2004, and 2008, each of Claska’s 30 guest rooms has taken on its own design aesthetic, providing a unique experience with each visit and featuring designers such as Iku Hirose and TCKW.
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3 Trunk (Hotel)
5 Chome-31 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo
With only 15 rooms, the Trunk Hotel is the epitome of the small boutique hotel. However, there’s no lack of style – what you’d expect from a hotel firmly planted in the center of Tokyo’s fashion district and made by Yoshitaka Nojiri, the region’s expert on what makes a hotel “cool.” Clean lines, gray stone, natural wood, and beautiful local art highlight all the spaces within, including the full-service Trunk Kitchen restaurant, the Trunk Kushi stand with street food, tea, wine, beer, and cocktails, and the event spaces capable of holding up to 250 guests. Rooms feature a variety of options, including lofts, balconies, terraces, as well as a host of bed types including single, double, and bunk beds.
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4 Hotel Koé Tokyo
3F, 3-7 Udagawacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo
Designed by Tokyo firm Suppose Design, the Koe aims to combine multiple different functions into one, globally-focused building. Housed within are a variety of different spots, all are focused on the way in which Tokyo’s “now culture” interacts with that of the world. You’ll find reception and the Koe Lobby, which offers a full menu plus drinks and pastries, on the first floor, as well as Koe Space, a venue that hosts a variety of events. On the second floor, the Koe Shibuya retail space features a large selection of clothing and accessories. The third floor is where you’ll find the guest rooms. These are available in sizes ranging from small to XL, which feature a tea room with tatami perfect for tea tastings; all rooms are decorated in highly modern shades of black and gray.
Image Rights to Hotel Koe