Two domestic hotel operators are shaking up competition in Tokyo’s luxury accommodation market by attempting to make their new properties more inviting for inbound visitors.
The first such operator, Hoshino Resorts Inc., has opened a luxury ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) named Hoshinoya Tokyo in the capital’s Otemachi business district.
Located a short walk from Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace, the 18-story building features 84 guest rooms, a Japanese restaurant, a spa and conference facilities. Although it is billed as a traditional Japanese-style inn where guests can relax in tatami-floored rooms while enjoying hot-spring baths and seasonal cuisine, Hoshinoya Tokyo also provides all the amenities and comfort required for modern living.
Japanese beauty and cultural touches can be found throughout the inn. Upon arrival, guests take off their shoes at the entrance and walk through corridors and elevators layered with soft tatami matting. Rooms and public areas are outfitted with furnishings that encourage a floor-level style of relaxation as is traditional in Japan. Each room is equipped with a bamboo closet and shoji sliding doors, and futons are laid out on the bed stand, which are all designed to evoke an traditional Japanese room.
The most significant aspect of this ryokan is Ochanoma (living room) Lounge, which is located on every story between the 3rd and the 16th floor. Open for 24 hours every day, each lounge is exclusive for guests staying on that floor and can be used as semi-private space. Guests can mingle with other guests in the lounge while enjoying seasonal tea and snacks during the day, alcohol at night, and onigiri rice balls and miso soup for breakfast.
Otemachi Onsen, which is located on the 17th floor of the building, is the first natural hot spring in the area. The water, pumped up from 1,500 meters below the ground at a temperature of 36.5 degrees Celsius, contains high levels of sodium chloride, which provide therapeutic benefits such as the relief from muscle and joint pains. The facility has both indoor and outdoor baths. A variety of spa treatments that use oil and aroma are also available.
The Japanese restaurant located in the basement level offers a monthly course dinner and take reservations from visitors as well.
Three types of rooms are available. Sakura and Yuri offer a floor space of 50 square meters and are designed for two people, while the 80-square-meter Kiku rooms are more suited to three guests. Room charges start from ¥78,000 per night, excluding meals.
While staying at the ryokan, guests can enjoy Japanese performing arts, including gagaku (an ancient Japanese court performance), tea ceremony and traditional incense-smelling ceremony.
Hoshino Resorts has been expanding its business in tourist resorts and now operates 35 properties across Japan. The latest property is the company’s first urban-style ryokan, which it sees as an experiment for expanding into overseas markets.
Hoshino Resorts President Yoshiharu Hoshino says he wants to prove that traditional Japanese inns can survive even in urban area in terms of profitability and productivity.
“If we can make this Otemachi project a success, we can then use the same approach in other big cities overseas such as London and New York,” he says.
Meanwhile, Prince Hotels Inc. is poised to open a new luxury facility in the Akasaka area.
The new hotel, The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, will open on July 27 on the site of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka, formerly known as the Akasaka Prince Hotel.
By making it a member of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide’s upscale brand, The Luxury Collection, the Prince group hopes to claim a bigger piece of the expanding tourism pie in Japan.
Hisaaki Takei, senior corporate executive officer of Prince Hotel Inc., says he expects foreign guests to account for more than 80 percent of its occupancy within three years.
Occupying the top seven floors of Tokyo Garden Terrace, a commercial and business complex built on the same site in Chiyoda Ward, the new hotel is created as an artistic space based on design concepts of “levitation” and “framed kaleidoscopic views.”
Reflecting such concepts, the hotel features a lavish two-story lobby where guests can enjoy panoramic views of central Tokyo through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. What’s more, most guest rooms are equipped with day beds positioned next to the large singe pane windows whose borders frame the view like a painting to provide guests with a sense of floating.
“As the hotel name suggests, this facility is like an art galley that makes guests feel as if they are in an oasis in the sky,” Takei says.
The 250-room hotel also has a Japanese dining area, an all-day Italian restaurant, two bars, lounges, a spa, fitness area and conference facilities.
Guest rooms are divided into four catetories — suite, grand deluxe, club floor and delux — and per night room rates will range from ¥63,000 for a 42-square-meter deluxe twin to ¥590,000 for a 148-square-meter suite.
One of the characteristic feature of the hotel is the introduction of IT technologies. Every room is equipped with a tablet as a new communication tool.
Using this mobile gadget, guests can obtain information of hotel facilities, tourism information, make restaurant reservations and make any requests via email. Guests can also control air conditioning, lighting and the curtains by using the tablet.
The IT technologies are also utilized to collect, accumulate and share guest information and their preference among hotel staff to offer customized services for each individual guest.
“The hotel is an unusual hybrid of Western artistic interior design and Japanese hospitality and service cultivated by Prince Hotels over its long years of operation,” Takei says.
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