Several new design-forward hotels offer a less expensive, more immersive way to visit Japan’s capital city.
The woman behind the check-in counter is pointing to the kiosk in front of me. “First, scan your passport,” she says politely. As I cautiously creep my passport into the scanner, my reservation details appear on the screen in front of me: my name, the number of nights I’m staying, the amount I owe for the room. “Just like that,” she nods and gestures toward the credit card machine. I swipe my card and, within seconds, the machine spits out two room keys and breakfast vouchers.
Just like that, indeed, I am checked into Hoshino Resorts’ OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka hotel. Just like that, I bypass the traditional check-in process, relieved to have avoided waiting in line or for the concierge to type in all of my details after a 15-hour flight. It’s so easy and efficient, but it’s also one of the ways that OMO5 keeps costs down.
“In the past, there have always been good, clean, cheap hotels in Japan, but they tended to be business hotels, so guests viewed them as nothing more than a bed to sleep in,” says Tyler Palma, Tokyo office manager for England-based travel agency InsideJapan Tours. “What’s most interesting about the recent budget openings is the very high level of design, the thoughtfulness of the room layouts, and the inclusion of bars and high-quality restaurants.”
With Tokyo the setting for the Rugby World Cup this fall and the Summer Olympic Games in 2020, more beds are certainly a good thing for the city. Less so for locals, however, who are starting to feel crowded by the more than 2 million tourists who flood Tokyo each year. For many hospitality brands, the solution lies in connecting travelers to surrounding communities. Says Palma, “A number of these new hotels and hostels have become a gathering place for locals as well as tourists. This is fantastic because it creates a brand of tourism that gives back to the locals and entices people to stay for longer.”
By keeping room rates down and enabling guests to travel deeper, hotels like OMO5 are creating a new way to stay in Tokyo. Checking into one of the city’s trendy, less-traditional properties now means more closely experiencing Tokyo through the eyes of locals—without worrying about taking full advantage of your $800-per-night hotel room. And even if you do choose to spend the morning sleeping off your sake hangover, at least you won’t be snoozing across from a swivel desk chair.
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