What makes Tokyo a great city? That it’s a proper city. Where there’s proper crowding worthy of the superb public infrastructure, properly dressed and behaved people and the food, proper food. Hoshinoya Tokyo is the newest entry into the luxury sector in the already luxury Marunouchi banking and retail enclave. You’re kept outside the reach of this hotel unless you are a resident (read cannot enter unless on overnight guest list) which makes it a truly exclusive hotel. A properly exclusive hotel in the capitalist as well as civilised sense. But I’m unsure if its anything more than a proper luxury hotel. Particularly if you’re Hoshinojunkie in love with Hoshino Resorts’ four other Hoshinoyas across the country which are ideal translation of the ryokan method to modernity, this ambitious city-edition, certainly new territory for Hoshino Resorts, feels coming up rather short.
Although it’s been open since early 2016, information on the hotel has been limited to official press release and company sanctioned stock photos because visitors simply aren’t allowed entry. So it was with fair dose of trepidation and anticipation that I arrived at Hoshinoya for a Y100,000 per night stay. My stay on the first day of Lunar New Year, probably one of the most crowded nights of the year for Tokyo due to the influx of North East Asian visits, that rate was higher than any other except for the Peninsula and the Aman and I simply don’t believe Hoshinoya Tokyo’s physical and service quality were on par with those super luxury alternatives.
This 17-story midrise is a boutique proportion relative to the surrounding Marunouchi high rises and is landlocked in between all other fellow Mitsubishi developed office buildings. Despite the discreet signage, the Edo Komon (kimono pattern) motif metal cladding is a tell to discerning eyes that something distinct is present in this building. Azuma Architect & Associates who designed all four other Hoshinoyas are responsible for the cladding and the interior design.
Arrival is a novelty and somewhat disorienting affair as the doorman checks you against the guest list and scattered fellow guests squat awkwardly to remove their shoes all the while being handed over to another receptionist to escort you up to your floor. There’s no checkin (although there’s checkout and the entire 2nd floor is dedicated to that 5min activity). My fellow guests arrived after an intercontinental overnight flight and was told to wait for proper checkin time at 2pm and were driven out to the January mean streets. Rule-based Japanese service precisely applied to $1,000 per night spending guests.
The other experiment of Hoshinoya Tokyo is the lounge on each floor where butler service is available until 10pm. It’s an attempt at differentiated service yet I found it underwhelming as the space is neither sufficiently beautiful nor luxurious to make a memorable statement.
No ryokan would be complete without an onsen and this hotel boasts an improbable one on the 17th floor in the centre of Tokyo. It’s a minimalist haven, dimly lit and fully in black marble, and a necessary wind-down to mark the end of the hustle of Tokyo and over indulgence of great food, sake and shoju. It’s an admirable attempt considering this drilling into an onsen is known to add at minimum $1Mn to the construction budget.
As I recount my two nights at Hoshino Resorts’ daring attempt at city centre ryokan, I wonder whether this hotel can stand shoulder to shoulder with the Peninsula and Aman. It certainly upholds Japanese formula in design and service, in the traditional sense. But can it achieve international acceptance from the savvy travellers, beyond the ‘Japonnisme’ fandom? For those uninitiated in everyday Japanese quality and sophistication, Hoshinoya Tokyo packs a dose of cultural punch but it lacks a certain differentiated quality in its interpretation of ryokan method into the modern day city centre.
Hoshinoya Tokyo (http://hoshinoyatokyo.com/en/)
Japan,Tokyo,Chiyoda, 100-0004, Otemachi 1 Chome, 9-1
+81 50 3786 1144