With a wave of major international brands and local creative houses arriving on the scene, Tokyo has been injected with a much-needed dose of originality and the hotel landscape now runs the gamut of accommodation styles. Those visiting the city can choose from a broad spectrum of design-focused properties, ranging from plush five-star hotels and luxury ryokans to quirky bed and breakfasts and serene urban retreats.
Tokyo’s best pioneering design hotels:
Tokyo’s inaugural design hotel, the Claska is home to twenty themed rooms, several studios and galleries, and its own lifestyle store.
Open since 2003, the Claska is Tokyo’s original design hotel and to this day it is still widely considered to be the best. Originally created as a partnership between English design firm Tomato and up and coming Japanese designers, the project breathed new life into a former business hotel. Ensuring the hotel remains at the forefront of Tokyo’s design scene, each of the twenty guest rooms are created in an ongoing collaboration with a series of designers and architects. Split into four design themes – modern, tatami (a traditional Japanese mat), contemporary and DIY, there’s a room for every guest’s particular preference and style, but all have a smart Japanese-inspired interior. Further adding to its credentials as Tokyo’s headline design hotel, it’s also home to a number of studios and galleries, a designer lifestyle store, and its own in-house design team, who can be commissioned to renovate homes, shops, restaurants and offices.
Tokyo’s very first luxury ryokan, Hoshinoya allows travellers to experience the tradition in five-star surroundings.
Another pioneering property, Hoshinoya Tokyo became the city’s very first luxury ryokan when it opened back in 2016. The Japanese equivalent of a bed and breakfast, ryokans date back 500 years and today they are a popular way for travellers to immerse themselves in local culture. The opening of Hoshinoya means that for the first time visitors to Tokyo can now enjoy this experience in five-star surroundings. The hotel’s unique front door – made of a single piece of cypress – and smart black-latticed facade set the tone for the rest of the property, which boasts exceptional design throughout. Fourteen of the seventeen storeys are dedicated to the accommodation, with each floor placing six guest rooms around a central Ochanoma lounge in order to resemble a traditional Japanese inn. Rooms are traditional and serene with sliding washi screens, bamboo closets and low-level furnishings but modern technology and gourmet mini-bars ensure they’re still attractive to today’s discerning travellers. The real highlights, however, are the hotel’s communal facilities. The 17th floor is home to traditional onsen baths with hot water pumped from a natural spring 1,500 metres beneath the hotel – one sits under an oculus to allow for stargazing as you bath – while the basement restaurant sees acclaimed chef Noriyuki Hamada turn dining into an art form with his refined French-Japanese cuisine.
Tokyo’s best artisan design hotels:
The Wired Hotel has a trendy interior that’s been handcrafted by local artisans.
With practically every element handcrafted by local artisans, the Wired Hotel has an interior to be proud of. Designed by Portland-based creative agency OMFGCO, best known for Ace Hotels, the property has been created as a community project, seamlessly integrating with the traditional Asakusa neighbourhood. Parquet flooring, geometric patterns, wood-lined ceilings and mid century furniture, along with vintage accents and statement art pieces, make every room – from the expansive penthouse to the standard guest rooms – a design lover’s dream. Those on a budget are also invited thanks to the hotel’s five dormitories while the open-to-all restaurant serves traditional Japanese cuisine with a modern twist.
The hip Trunk Hotel offers a modern take on Japanese design with abstract art, concrete floors and wooden furniture.
With a Made in Japan concept, the Trunk Hotel is another property that draws heavily on local talent. There are wooden tables by Osaka-based furniture designers Truck, mini bars stocked with wine made in Tokyo, a selection of dried fruit and juices from a local Shibuya fruit shop in the guest rooms, and made in Japan toiletries in the bathrooms. There’s also a strong focus on recycling with dead stock denim staff uniforms and a squadron of upcycled abandoned Tokyo bicycles. Guests can also support local craftspeople by purchasing homemade treats, craft beer and wine as well as Trunk-branded products in the hotel’s on-site convenience store. Interior wise, it’s all very easy on the eye with abstract art, concrete floors, wooden furniture and patchwork wall hangings all adding up to a modern take on Japanese design. Both guests and locals are invited for craft coffee and cocktails in the lounge and terrace, and the hotel’s restaurant, Kitchen, puts contemporary Japanese cuisine at the forefront.
Tokyo’s best art-focused design hotels:
The BnA Art Hotel Koenji has just two guest rooms, each of which has been designed by a local artist.
With just two guest rooms, the BnA Art Hotel Koenji is a far cry from the large-scale, big-brand hotels that dominate Tokyo’s accommodation landscape. The second in a series of projects by the BnA group, which stands for bed and art, the hotel welcomed two local artists – Yohei Takahashi and Ryuichi Ogino – to design its rooms, with each artist taking a share of the profits from each room booking. The first room, Into The Foreign, has a mythical mural of wolves engulfing its walls while the second, Ten, is a monochrome affair that’s dominated by zig zags. There may only be two guest rooms but that doesn’t stop a wave of visitors entering through its door each week. The property’s lobby is in fact a bar that opens up into the basement, where visitors can enjoy weekly house music sets and exhibitions. Opened more recently, the group’s latest concept, the BnA Studio Akihabara, offers more choice with a total of five art-orientated guest rooms.
Artist Kengo Kuma has put his stamp on the One@Tokyo with a striking entrance and wooden features throughout.
It’s clear from the offset that One@Tokyo has a close affinity with art thanks to its arresting Kengo Kuma-designed entrance. Much like the rest of the hotel, which has been created as an art exhibit, the statement piece embraces Kuma’s long affiliation with wood, framing the entrance and lower levels with angular wooden planks. Inside, Kuma’s influence is felt with a 15 metre wooden counter linking the reception and bar, and exposed wood and plywood lining the walls and furnishings in the guest rooms. Concrete flooring, metal bathroom fixtures and exposed ceilings complete the contemporary warehouse aesthetic while the rooftop lounge – designed as a ‘forest in the sky’ – features an array of trees and greenery, and boasts unbeatable views of the neighbouring SkyTree, the world’s tallest tower.
Another Kengo Kuma-designed property, The Capitol Hotel pays homage to traditional Japanese architecture.
Having been commissioned for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Stadium, Kengo Kuma is making his mark elsewhere in the city, and another hotel featuring his designs is The Capitol Hotel Tokyu, which was knocked down and completely rebuilt in 2010. Kuma’s signature sculptural woodwork dominates the high-ceiling lobby, where ikebana floral arrangements and flowing water features can also be found, while the rest of the property pays homage to traditional Japanese architecture with washi paper lanterns, calligraphic artwork and sliding paper screens.
Tokyo’s best luxury design hotels:
Aman Tokyo is the brand’s first-ever urban property, offering a serene retreat in the heart of the city.
If there’s one brand that’s synonymous with both luxury and design it’s Aman Hotels, and Aman Tokyo is no exception. Usually found in remote mountainous regions or on isolated tropical beaches, this is the first urban Aman. Despite this, the brand remains true to its minimal, locally-inspired style and in doing so has successfully created a serene urban retreat in the midst of one of the world’s most populous cities. Occupying the top six floors of the 38-storey Otemachi Tower, this Tokyo branch blends signature Aman design with traditional Japanese elements, a factor that can be seen upon arrival in the magnificently imposing lobby. Set under a 30-metre-high ceiling dressed in white washi paper – designed to resemble a shoji lantern – the light-drenched space is home to soaring austere granite pillars, floor-to-ceiling windows and a seasonally changing flower arrangement surrounded by water features and rock gardens. The guest rooms continue the theme with a stylish design based on a traditional ryokan inn while the two-floor, 2,500-square-metre spa boasts a majestic basalt-lined 30-metre panoramic swimming pool.
With materials sourced from local artisans, the Mandarin Oriental presents a contemporary interpretation of Japanese design.
A blend of traditional and contemporary can also be found at the lavish Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, which, despite being part of major global brand, successfully retains its own sense of individuality. With materials sourced from local artisans, the five-star property draws on local heritage to present a contemporary interpretation of Japanese design. The concept is based around the organic form of a tree, with natural materials sitting alongside paper lanterns, bamboo walls and leaf-motif bedding to create a sleek, calming environment. Spanning the top nine floors of the 38-storey, Cesar Pelli-designed Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, the hotel also boasts spectacular views of the city and Mount Fuji, framed beautifully by huge floor-to-ceiling windows. Nearby, the Shangri-La Tokyo is another one for discerning travellers with deep pockets. The definition of luxury, the five-star hotel decorates the top 11 floors of a 37-storey skyscraper with its signature opulent Asian design. Home to more than 50 chandeliers – many custom-made by Czech-based design firm Lasvit – the hotel is as sparkly as Tokyo’s skyline while dark wood furnishings, sumptuous fabrics and intricate art pieces complete the picture.
The design-focused Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills is home to the city’s highest rooftop bar.
Open since 2014, the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills was the first Andaz hotel to open in Japan, bringing design-focused accommodation to the new Toranomon Hills skyscraper complex. The hotel’s location – spanning the top seven floors of the 52-storey tower – ensures guests are treated to unrivalled views of the city from the guest rooms, the restaurant and the rooftop bar, which is the highest in the city. In the public spaces, hanging wood sculptures by British artist Charlie Whinney and dark red leather furniture create a handsome backdrop while the rooms feature elegant Hokkaido walnut furnishings and large circular bathtubs, a nod to Japan’s traditional bathing culture.