The creative mecca that is Tokyo surprisingly lacks in hotels that are, for the lack of a better word, cool. Booking a $500+ room at Park Hyatt Tokyo so you can reenact (for Instagram, of course) that moment in Lost In Translation when an emo ScarJo hugs her knees whilst gazing out of the window at the sensational skyline? Groundbreaking.
But there is hope for those yearning for something more original, aka not boring. Hidden amongst the sea of soulless business hotels, depressing capsule and/or love hotels, and extravagant chain hotels, there are a handful of hotels bursting with personality. From an inexpensive artsy boutique replete with its own killer vintage store to the newest, psychotically buzzed-about design hotel on the block, we’ve got you covered. Get ready, set, get your ass to Tokyo!
LUXURY: Aman Tokyo
This sleek and serene hotel that spans the top six floors of the 38-story Otemachi Tower—which offers sublime, soaring views of the city—is inarguably one of Tokyo’s best. Ryokan-style rooms are nicely-sized by Tokyo standards and boast luxury-meets-zen vibes. With a classic Japanese minimalist design (lots of wood, stone and washi paper), all rooms—whether a standard or a suite—offer majestic volcanic-rock bathtubs. It’d be understable if you never want to leave the room, but you should AKA must, especially to experience the sun-drenched Aman spa spanning two floors. Holy heaven!
See also: Japanese-style hot steam rooms, hot baths and a beyond magical, gigantic pool complete with panoramic city views. Also impressive is the Italian restaurant, Arva, located on the 33rd-floor, as well as the hip, moodily lit Lounge by Aman. In conclusion: Money can buy you serenity.
ARTSY: BnA STUDIO Akihabara
The recently-opened BnA STUDIO Akihabara is really something special, starting with its mission: Supporting and showcasing exciting, emerging Japanese artists through a profit share system. (BnA stands for bed and art, after all.) Wanna feel like a kid again? Choose Ryohei Murakami’s ATHLETIC PARK, a crazily colorful and zanily-designed space with scaffolding and furniture that looks like playground equipment.
You’re in for a total trip if you book RESPONDER, which was produced by artist collective 81 BASTARDS, where you’ll find yourself surrounded, 360, by a dizzying and dope mural involving weeping dragons. If you wanna get your zen on, then there’s the aptly named ZEN GARDEN. Produced by 51.3 G-WAVE, the artists take the stereotypical elements of zen and blend it with the nutty Tokyo energy. In other words, a divine bed and kitchen are found behind a metal fence, and they glow in violet via fluorescent lighting. Feel free to meditate on a floor pillow and/or admire the small Japanese rock garden. It’s all happening and it’s all thrilling. (PS: Another option is their older but also fantastic, less price-y location, BnA Koenji.)
DESIGN: Trunk (Hotel)
There’s something about Trunk (Hotel). The proof is in the buzz that has aptly been going strong since the dreamy design hotel opened its doors in 2017. The boutique is a diamond in the rough. (It’s located in the tourist-heavy, perma-hustle and bustling Shibuya district—and just steps away from the hipster-heavy Cat Street.) Housed in two four-storied buildings, Trunk (Hotel) is designed by the local Mount Fuji Architects and features stunning tiered balconies, herb gardens, and lots of recycled wood.
The 15 guest rooms are designed by Jamo Associates, and they feel like a modern Japanese apartment occupied by a stylish creative. See also: Wood tables by Osaka furniture designers Truck, funky light fixtures, indigo patchwork wall hangings, vintage-style radios, and many a plant. Also lovely is the spacious lounge, where guests can enjoy coffee and free Wi-Fi in the day, and craft cocktails and DJs after dark. Guests can also bring their beverage of choice onto the terrace, whose star is a very Instagram-friendly Japanese Zelkova tree.
Head to the elegantly-designed Trunk (Kitchen), which romantically overlooks the terrace, for a mix of Western and Japanese dishes. Just when you think things couldn’t get any hipper, there’s a “modern convenience store,” AKA Trunk (Store), selling Japanese wines and beers, popcorn, sandwiches, nigiri rice balls and design goodies. Oh, there’s also a glass chapel on the roof terrace. I DO (love this hotel)!!
NEW HOTEL: The Wired Hotel
There’s a brand new, innovative, and painfully hip (in a good way!) home-away-from-home in town: The Wired Hotel. Located in the mostly tourist-free and chill neighborhood of Asakusa, the “community hotel” offers something for everyone’s wallet: Shared, inexpensive-for-Tokyo hostel rooms to Penthouse suites replete with incredible terraces.
Stepping inside any of the 30 rooms, with their Brooklyn-y quirky-cool furniture and some greeting card-ish quotes painted on the walls (“You did it!”; “LIFE HAS ITS UPS & DOWNS”), you might think you were in an Ace Hotel. Which means you have a great eye, because the creative agency behind Wired’s design and branding comes from the Portland-based OMFGCO, who, yep, are known for their Ace Hotel chain. The “community” aspect makes total sense once you check out café and bar Zakbaran on the ground floor where guests and non-guests can enjoy events including live musical performances and DJ sets.
CHEAP HOTEL: Apartment Hotel Shinjuku
Good things really do come in small packages. Move over, capsule hotels, and meet the inexpensive hidden gem that is Apartment Hotel Shinjuku. Located on an unassuming, residential sidestreet in the super exciting but typically uber expensive Shinjuku, the location is everything. (Tip: Book a room during sakura season and get yourself to Shinjuku Gyo-en National Park, a five minute walk from the hotel.) Also everything are the prices: The cheapest is a single room, which will cost you about 60 bucks. But this isn’t a soul-free, business-y depressingly designed situation. Each and every room comes with its own hip-as-hell design by local artists: vintage furniture; walls brightly painted. Rooms are college dormitory-sized, but they all impressively come with a kitchenette and a tiny private bathroom, along with complimentary toiletries, a pair of slippers and a robe. Basically, everything you need to feel right at home.
The lobby space is artfully cluttered with antique items that are for purchase (dishes, ashtrays, old school phones), and in the basement you’ll find a full-blown store filled with quality vintage clothes, furniture and more. The adorable lobby often acts as an art gallery, hosting exhibitions and other cultural events. And then there’s the exterior and those ‘70s red roof tiles, an image that is so damn charming and yes, perfect for Instagram. (Fun fact: Apartment Hotel Shinjuku was formerly a Japanese Inn that was renovated in 2010 to become a hotel.) The hotel-that-feels-more-like-a-home bursts with personality. It’s fun, it’s cute, it’s unique. In short, you’ll never want to leave, and we cannot blame you.