When Tokyo first hosted the summer Olympic Games in 1964, many Western-style hotels opened one after another to accommodate the increasing number of foreign visitors. Now that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is in sight, hoteliers have started to offer Japanese-style accommodation and hospitality for those who want to experience authentic Japanese culture.
Foreign guests who used to visit remote areas in search of an “authentic” Japan can now experience traditional ryokan-like facilities without even leaving the capital.
Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, which is located just five minutes’ walk from Shinagawa Station, for example, recently completed renovations of its 16 Japanese-style rooms, which are located on the fourth and fifth floors of its annex. Named Hanakohro, the rooms are designed to give visitors a sense of Japanese serenity.
Upon arrival at a main gate, guests are welcomed by a kimono-clad staff and guided through an incense-fumed Japanese garden to a teahouse where matcha (green tea) is served. They then enter the annex through an entrance exclusive for the guests.
The 16 rooms, with space ranging from 50-100 square meters, reflect the traditional concept of ryokan. The decor is comprised of tatami, paper screens, shiraki (plain wood) furniture and lantern-like lighting.
Beneath the traditional look, however, the rooms are fully equipped with modern amenities. Beds and furniture are poisitioned at low levels to ensure visitors don’t feel uncomfortable.
With the opening of Hanakohro, the hotel has also added new facilities — club lounge Oh-sai and spa salon Tayuta — that are exclusive for all guests staying in the Japanese-style rooms.
The Oh-sai Lounge offers three kinds of culinary services — washoku breakfast, Japanese-themed sweets at tea time and evening cocktails with an hors d’oeuvres.
Private spa salon Tayuta offers sessions in a traditional atmosphere, using herbs and natural essential oils from Japanese trees such as sandalwood and hinoki (cypress).
Makoto Yamamoto, executive officer of Prince Hotels, Inc. says the hotel also offers a variety of experience-based activities such as tea ceremonies, ikebana (flower arrangement) and origami lessons, kimono sessions and sake tastings, many of which are included in room charges.
The hotel is now offering an accommodation plan, which includes a 90-minute ikebana lesson, at prices from ¥40,080 per person in cases of double occupancy. The cost includes free access to the Oh-sai Lounge, in which guests can enjoy the culinary services three times a day.
Yamamoto expects the occupancy rates of foreign guests at Hanakohro to reach 75 percent following the launch of the upgraded facilities and services.
Meanwhile, Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo in Mejiro district, which is set in a 700-year-old spacious Japanese garden designed by Meiji-era diplomat Yamagata Aritomo, has also recently unveiled a renovated Japanese-style suite.
The suite consists of two Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats that can accommodate up to six guests. It features elements of traditional teahouses and the decor emphasizes Japanese craftsmanship using materials such as camelia trees, mikage stone (granite) and aromatic Japanese cypress accessories. Scrolls displayed in the alcove include calligraphies by Yamagata himself.
“We hope that the suite will attract not only foreign travelers but also local residents who want to absorb Japanese culture,” says Tetsu Motomura, general manager of the hotel.
The suite has two mini bar areas. One is a bar called the red zone where Japanese green tea and sake are presented with Japanese ceramics. The other zone is called ai (indigo blue), and features a coffee machine, electric pot and drinking items such as glasses.
Further afield, the Park Hotel Tokyo, which is located on the top floors of Shiodome Media Park near Shimbashi Station, offers guest rooms that look like something straight out of an art gallery.
The hotel launched its “Artist in Hotel” project in December 2012, featuring artworks by different artists in each room under a standalone theme.
Artists have been asked to draw on the walls or place ornamental objects and paintings in the room after drawing inspiration from the atmosphere.
At present, 27 such rooms are available, featuring a variety of themes such as Zen, wabi-sabi, sumo, bamboo, washi (Japanese paper), cherry blossoms, shiro (castle) and kabuki.