When “Ryokan” comes to mind, most will imagine a traditional Japanese guesthouse with tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and guests draped in cozy yukatas while enjoying friendly chats over tea and sweets.
The Onsen Ryokan Yuen Shinjuku is a modernized version of the Ryokan-style guesthouse, designed to fit the practical needs of modern travellers without losing the charm of a traditional Ryokan. Situated in the bustling Shinjuku district in Tokyo, the hotel is easily accessible to travellers making a stop at the well-known entertainment and commercial district.
At first glance, the front of the guesthouse features a very traditional facade with a gable roof and slanted, tile-clad overhang. Lush greeneries surround the property and an open entryway entices guests with its mysterious allure - what they won’t know is that they will be transported into another completely different world as they proceed into the hotel lobby and guest rooms. The transition from traditional to modern designs is intended to be subtle and natural, making it a comfortable and unique experience for the guests.
The guest rooms are located within a taller tower connected to the traditional ryokan-style house at the front. All 193 guest rooms have a raised floor with tatami-style flooring, encouraging guests to take off their shoes in the room and experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle of being grounded and living “closer to the earth”. Furniture in the rooms are intentionally designed to be lower in height to match the tatami-style flooring, again, adhering to the principle of being closer to the floor. The design team uses Japanese’s minimalistic design concept for the interior, capturing a peaceful and zen essence in the ambiance to help guests relax and unwind.
The long, horizontal windows in the guest rooms are intentionally set low to provide guests with the beautiful view of Shinjuku even when seated or lying on the bed. The neutral colours and minimal design allows the striking skyline of Shinjuku to take centre stage, giving guests a sense of comfort and stillness as they look out to the bustling city below.
In larger guest rooms, there is an Engawa platform by the window where guests can sit to enjoy the view outside of the panoramic window. Other thoughtful designs include a more secluded desk area for work, and fine bamboo mesh blinds to filter out the harsh sunlight during the day without compromising the view.
A ryokan wouldn’t be complete without a public bath, or Onsen, and Onsen Ryokan Yuen’s rendition features an open-air public bath filled with mineral-rich water delivered weekly by a lorry from the mountainous Hakone region. As a volcanically active country, hot spring has long been an integral part of the Japanese culture. The alkaline hot spring water is believed to help with pain, muscle soreness and recovery from illnesses and exhaustion. Situated on the rooftop, the contemporary bath makes for a great place to gather while letting hotel guests enjoy the best view of the house.
The Kakatojo restaurant on the ground floor of the Onsen Ryokan offers guests an authentic Japanese Ryokan experience in a contemporary setting by serving Japanese breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring foods such as tempura and teppanyaki.
The refined and minimal design coupled with a homey, authentic feel of the traditional ryokan makes Onsen Ryokan Yuen a worthy place to stay on your next leisure or business trip to Tokyo.
To learn more about the Onsen Ryokan Yuen Shinjuku, visit their website here.
Photography courtesy of Onsen Ryokan Yuen Shinjuku