A visit to Tokyo can often feel like simultaneously travelling 100 years into the future and 200 years into the past. To experience Japan’s beguiling mix of tradition and new technology, check out some of the city’s most interesting and best-located hotels.
The city of Tokyo combines old-world sensibilities and modernity unlike any place on earth. The city (and Japan in general) is a grand dichotomy of cultural traditions mixed with mind-bending technology. Finding a hotel in this vast expanse can be overwhelming, so local experts at Culture Trip have hand-selected some of the city’s best places to stay to showcase Japan’s past, present and future.
Park Hotel Tokyo
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The decor at Park Hotel Tokyo is inspired by Japanese culture | Courtesy of Park Hotel Tokyo
When you stay at the Park Hotel, book a room on the 31st floor, where you’ll find 31 rooms hand-painted by 31 different artists. Each of these Artist Rooms offers a unique experience, and the bold murals provide an introduction to Japanese culture in their designs, which feature sumo wrestlers, geishas and local flora and fauna. This modern high-rise also has a one-of-a-kind whisky bar with 100 varieties of single malt ready for sipping, in addition to a classic kaiseki restaurant serving the traditional multi-course dinners, with 50 different types of shochu liquor to wash down that Wagyu with. For a taste of history during your stay, visit the Hamarikyu Gardens next door, which were once owned by an Edo-period Shogun.
Situated in the uber-posh area of Ginza, this modern boutique makes design-lovers drool. Converted from a newspaper publishing building, the hotel pays homage to Tokyo’s media and entertainment history while giving its guests traditional Japanese touches like providing yukatas (light summer kimonos) to wear in the rooms. A quick 10-minute walk from the hotel brings you to the Kabuki-za Theatre where you can watch Japanese dance dramas unfold and marvel at the 400-year-old history of the art form. Whisky lovers should make a pit stop at Bar High Five after a show or imbibe cherry blossom-infused gins at the hotel bar.
The Andaz bucks the prim and proper trends of Tokyo’s hotel industry and gives guests a laid-back experience with 52-story views and possibly the most spectacular rooftop bar in the city. Inside, you can still find nods to Japan’s cultural history in its eight-seat, omakase-style (chef’s selection) sushi joint or its Tavern Grill with snow-aged beef on the menu. An otherworldly spa, meanwhile, provides Japanese-inspired treatments with modern techniques. Nearby the hotel, you’ll find more history at the pretty Atago Shrine, built in 1603, and the Zōjō-ji Buddhist Temple, which dates back to 1393.
History-buffs will discover a lot to love at The Celestine Tokyo Shiba. It’s just south of Shiba Park which houses ancient sites including the Mausoleum of the Tokugawa Shoguns, the Zōjō-ji Temple, and the mysterious Shiba Maruyama Kofun, an unknown ancient tomb from the 5th Century. Luckily, the hotel provides a useful map of the Edo-Period spots for easy navigation. Inside the hotel, guests will find Komon design touches as well as a Japanese-French fusion restaurant which sources its produce from the southern region of Kagoshima.
Easily the coolest hotel in Tokyo, Trunk is a small boutique in Shibuya that goes big on minimalist contemporary design. Everything in the hotel is made from local recycled materials, giving guests and locals something to feel good about while swigging down their world-class cocktails. Behind the hotel is a 130-year-old shrine, which inspired the popular Onden Guardian Dog cocktails. A short walk from Trunk is the massive Yoyogi Park which houses the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken and opened in 1920.
The highlights of this hotel are its 600-year-old, three story pagoda and 100-year-old traditional tea house which is designated as a national treasure. Surrounding the history is a 17-acre garden that backs up to the Kanda River, and has endless rows of cherry blossom trees that pop every spring. Japanese culture is on full display at Chinzanso, including at Mokushundo, a small restaurant in the garden that serves iron-kettle kaiseki cuisine atop lava rocks from Mount Fuji. The hotel also offers traditional kimono fittings and tea ceremonies to immerse you in the area’s customs.
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn and Hotel Niwa attempts to give guests a feel of these lodgings with a contemporary twist. Rooms are modern in terms of amenities (the rain showers are a nice touch), but the design with shoji screen windows and tatami-mat inspired carpeting is meant to bring you back to a simpler time. For one of the most relaxing dining experiences, check out the Yukuri restaurant set in a Zen garden. Bookworms should take a stroll to nearby Jimbocho, Tokyo’s used bookstore district, where you can peruse through more than 150 individual bookstores for rare finds.
The hotel’s tagline is “Welcome to the Edge of the Future”, which is fitting when you see the smart pods you’ll be sleeping in are controlled by your phone. A new take on the classic Tokyo capsule hotel, this iteration entices millennials with free beer, free breakfast, free coffee, and ample meeting and working spaces. Inside the capsules themselves, you can project movies onto the wall from your phone or computer, fully recline the beds, and program an alarm to gradually wake you. Welcome to the future indeed.
Shinjuku is an area of Tokyo that never seems to sleep, is filled with bars and clubs, and is generally on the wilder side of the city (it’s also the Red-Light District). And this hotel is right in the middle of it. Inside, the minimalist property has quaint rooms with epic views of the street below and vending machines chock-full of Japanese snacks. The hotel runs sake tastings which will set you up well for a night out, but if you really want a piece of Tokyo’s drinking culture, about five minutes away is the Golden Gai, a series of alleyways that have more than 200 tiny bars, yakitori joints and noodle shops.