A Hotel that Sparks Joy – Muji Hotel Tokyo

A Hotel that Sparks Joy – Muji Hotel Tokyo

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

This is evident in Muji Hotel, which was recently launched in Ginza, Tokyo. A dream come true for fans of Muji and the creatives who are obsessed with white space and simple aesthetic, you know that phrase, “less is more”. In an era of mass production and consumption, Muji has successfully stood the test of time.

In case you didn’t know, Muji was established in 1979 selling a wide range of products, including household goods, apparel and food, and the label has always been marketed as “brandless” as their products bear no logo. In fact, “Muji” is simply short for “Mujirushi Ryōhin” or “brandless quality goods.”

According to Muji’s art director, Kenya Hara, Muji is not just about minimalism and simplicity, he sees Muji as a living existence, and emphasize that Muji is not a trend per se, it is about using design to improve our quality of life.

To date, there are more than 900 Muji outlets worldwide.

As a leading brand in Japanese contemporary design, Muji has expanded its offering beyond its no-frills retail shop to celebrate the Muji experience in three dimensions by means of a hotel.

Muji Hotel Tokyo

Located just a stone throw away from Tokyo station, Muji Hotel Tokyo is not only home to the hotel but also the brand’s debut flagship store, and it houses an elegant Muji Diner.

The 11-storey building in Ginza is designed and run by Tokyo-based urban-planning agency UDS together with Muji’s design team.  The result is a contemporary 79-room hotel that fully expresses the Muji’s brand. According to UDS, the hotel is “anti-cheap” and “anti-gorgeous”. Look carefully, you’ll see that the primary materials of the interiors are made of stone and oak.

 

Guests can choose from a 14sqm basic room to a 52sqm deluxe with a custom-made hiba cypress bath. 

There is something zen-like about Muji’s minimalist homeware and furnishing, and now that everything is assembled together under one building for the ultimate Muji experience, this hotel makes for a perfect city retreat in hypermodern Tokyo. Yes, we think it is definitely worth staying in and reasonably so if you’ve been looking for the idea of slow living.

 

The first impression of the rooms in Muji Hotel Tokyo: Minimal décor, yet warm and inviting. True enough, the art of Japanese homemaking is less about artistic decoration, but more about refining the way we interact with the furniture to the way we use our daily amenities.

It is interesting to find that Muji Hotel Tokyo is located in glitzy Ginza dotted with luxury malls and swanky bars, and the hotel proves to be a stand-out arrival. For those not in the mood for shopping or partying, there is a Muji library and a gallery in the establishment for you to linger, or simply get some shots for the ‘gram.

If Marie Kondo were to visit this hotel, she would declare that this hotel sparks joy. Well, if you have stayed in a Japanese Ryokan or a capsule hotel before, we think you should try Muji Hotel Tokyo on your next trip.

Where: Ginza 3-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Reservations: https://hotel.muji.com/ginza

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Experience Old-town Tokyo at Yanaka

Experience Old-town Tokyo at Yanaka

Whenever someone mention that they are planning for a vacation in Tokyo, chances are, Shinjuku, Harajuku and Asakusa, will be on their itinerary. These places, no doubt, are some of the top sights in hyper-modern Tokyo. But if you’re looking to discover a different side of the sprawling Japanese capital, stick with us, our debut episode of Eat, Sleep, Play, Repeat will take you to a charming old-town district in eastern Tokyo.

If you asked why is this location chosen, it’s because on my first trip to Tokyo in 2017, this particular district, Yanaka, bewitched me. The atmosphere is unlike what one would typically experience in the bustling streets of Shinjuku and Asakusa, which are usually, in my opinion more gentrified and consumerism-led.  

Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

Slow Living in a Historic Neighbourhood

Time seems to be standing still in Yanaka, once the home of the artisans, craftsmen and merchants during the Edo-era (1603 to 1868). The rustic charm and nostalgic vibes linger in the air—and unquestionably so, as Yanaka had been miraculously spared from the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and the ravages of World War 2. As one of the oldest neighbourhoods in an increasingly urbanised Tokyo, I must say, it is quite a feat to preserve its traditional appearance and atmosphere without the intervention of official governing committees.

For the Tokyoites, they have learned to embrace constant renewal in their cityscape due to their geographical condition—seismologic unstable soil. With the average age of buildings in Tokyo standing at 26 years, I wonder how do the people of Tokyo relate to the past, their heritage? I’m afraid you cannot “read” the city from its urban landscape at all, it cannot be felt in, say, the classic European way, by sauntering down its cobbled-stoned streets lined with beautifully conserved townhouses.

Instead for the Tokyoites, their historical narrative transcends bricks and mortar. Rather it is to be experienced through their etiquette, traditions and rituals. Since historical monuments and old buildings are scarce in Tokyo (unlike Kyoto which is known for cultural preservation) Yanaka is a wonderful exception.

Here is where you’ll encounter a hotchpotch of old buildings made from wood or bricks, narrow alleys of traditional shops, a bathhouse-turned-art gallery, shrines and a beautifully well-kept cemetery which impart a sense of serenity to the whole neighbourhood.

And if you’re looking to experience life in the slow lane when the frantic pace of Tokyo starts to wear you down, Yanaka is the place to be.

Yanaka Ginza: Tokyo’s Most Charming Shopping Street

This neighbourhood also share a deep affinity with its wandering feline friends and has since earned its nickname as the Town of Cats. The theme is most apparent in Yanaka Ginza, a retro shopping street established in 1945, that spans 175 meters and has a lineup of souvenir shops, tea shops, grocery stores, little restaurants and cafes. You can easily find bags, cups, books and other trinkets emblazoned with pictures of cats, and even cat-shaped desserts. Apart from kitschy souvenirs that appeal to the tourists, Yanaka Ginza sells everything practical that locals could need. Most of the shops here are family-run businesses. 

At one end of the street, you will find sunset stairs, or yuyake dandan in Japanese (yūyake means sunset, dandan means steps/stairs, the name was the result of a naming competition in 1990). It is a perfect spot to catch the sunset and to take in the sights of the lively shopping street.

Big cities like Tokyo offers both spectacle and confusion, and it is up to us to be curious, to look beyond the surface, and you’ll see the city reveals itself to be a wonderous, mysterious, and enriching place.

Address
3-13-1 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Getting There
Nippori Station on Yamanote Line, Joban Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Keisei Main Line and Nippori-Toneri Line
Sendagi Station on Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line

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The Splendid Urban Night Views of Japan

The Splendid Urban Night Views of Japan

“The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” 

  ― G.K. Chesterton 

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve arrived in Japan to be a tourist or a traveller.

When you have boarded the flight to Japan, you’d already know that this is going to be a never-ending love affair. No matter if you’re solo or coupled up, Japan will always keep you entertained and mesmerised.

The land of impeccable manners, ingenious inventions and gastronomical delights beckon globetrotters around the world to return time after time – very possibly to gaze again at the cityscape from a favourite vantage point. And what satisfaction! Under the night skies, you’ll feel like the luckiest person alive, yet also utterly insignificant, compared to the dazzling metropolis laid out beneath.

Here are three cities in Japan that know how to put on a show when the night falls.

NAGASAKI 

Offering possibly the most spectacular night views in Japan, Nagasaki’s Mount Inasa (Inasa-yama), is a mountain with a height of 333 meters above sea level, and a popular landmark. It is also a mountain-top recreation park, featuring a glass observatory dome, gift shop, restaurants, hiking trails and public amenities.

The glass observatory dome at the top of Mount Inasa offers a 360-degree view of the city surrounded by the mountains and the sea.

Take the 5-minute ropeway ride to the summit in the evening and watch Nagasaki bay transformed into a shimmering ocean of lights.

Try to get there before the sunset, as there is usually a long queue. The ropeway ride departs every 15 to 20 minutes.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can trek up the mountain via the hiking trails.

Getting There

Public Transport (Bus) from JR Nagasaki station:

Nagasaki Bus 3 or 4 (bound for Shimohashi) approximately 7 minutes journey and alight at Nagasaki Ropeway Bus Stop. Walk to the Fuchi Shrine Station to take the ropeway ride.

Nagasaki Ropeway Ride Tickets (Fuchi Shrine Station to Inasa Dake Station)

  • Return ticket: 1,230 yen (adult)
  • One-way ticket: 720 yen (adult)

Operating Hours: 09:00 – 22:00
*Operating hours may change subject to weather or other conditions.

By Car:
Parking is available at the summit of Mount Inasa (100 yen).
The car ride from Nagasaki Station takes roughly 15 minutes, while a taxi ride costs around 2,000 yen one way.

 

The Essentials

Before you embark on a trip to Mt Inasa, check the weather forecast to avoid disappointment. On a fine day, the outdoor observatory gets crowded despite the inhospitable wind, so do bring along a jacket to keep warm.

TOKYO

When in Tokyo, you’d be spoilt for choices on where to catch the sunset and witness its magnificent night views and of course, the classic Mt. Fuji. If you follow the crowds, you’re apt to end up at Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, and Sky Circus Sunshine 60 Observatory

These are popular choices for shutterbugs, but for truly spectacular shots that encompasses more landmarks – including Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge, and the Ferris Wheel amidst the urban sprawl – we recommend these three vantage points in Southern Tokyo.

1. Telecom Center Observatory 

Tokyo Bay is a futuristic, man-made island and Odaiba is the shopping and entertainment district of said island. The Odaiba’s Rainbow Bridge and the Ferris Wheel are the two iconic structures which make up the Tokyo Bay’s skyline.

The Telecom Center in Odaiba houses an observatory at the 21st floor. Treat yourself to a glittering view of the skyline at Telecom Center Observatory in the evening. You can see Odaiba’s Rainbow Bridge and Ferris Wheel, as well as the Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower, all set to a backdrop of the glittering lights of Tokyo city.

Photo by okami._.chan on Instagram

Getting There

• The nearest station to Telecom Center Observatory is Telecom Center Station on the Yurikamome Line from Shimbashi Station (17 minutes).
• If you’re visiting Odaiba, take Rinkai Line and alight at Tokyo Teleport Station followed by a 10-minute walk to the Telecom Center Observatory.

Observation Deck:
15:00 to 21:00 (weekdays)
11:00 to 21:00 (weekends and national holidays)
Closed: Mondays (following day if Monday is a holiday)

Admission fee: 500 yen

Photo by HOK

The Telecom Center which resembles the Grande Arche of France is impossible to miss.

2. Roppongi Hills Mori Tower

Roppongi is a vibrant neighbourhood peppered with affluent mixed-use developments such as luxury hotels, offices, art galleries and restaurants. The locals call it “a city within a city’’ and it’s the go-to district if you’re looking to party all night. It has since undergone a cultural renaissance to become Tokyo’s art and design hub with some of the world’s finest museums and art centres.

Roppongi Hills Mori Tower is a mixed-use skyscraper featuring Mori Art Museum and Tokyo City View Observatory from the 52nd floor onwards. If you think the view from the Tokyo Skytree is nice, try going to Tokyo City View and Sky Deck Observatory in the evening, and it is times ten.

There are two observation decks within Roppongi Hills Mori Tower namely the Tokyo City View (Indoor) and the Rooftop Sky Deck (Outdoor).

Tokyo City View is the indoor observatory deck which sits on the 52nd floor, and there is a newly furbished all-day dining lounge ‘The Moon’, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows on the same level. A perfect place to enjoy exotic cocktails and escape from the hubbub down below, as the city turns into a dreamy scene of sparkling lights. After a toast to your vacation, head up to the Rooftop Sky Deck for a 360-degree heart-stopping view of the megacity.

We recommend getting the tickets to Mori Art Museum and spend the day admiring some of the finest contemporary art exhibitions in Asia before heading to the Tokyo City View Observatory Deck to catch the sunset. 

Photo by jinception on Instagram
Photo by ktweel on Instagram

Getting There

  • From Tokyo Station, take Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line to Kasumigaseki, and transfer to Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line for Roppongi.
  • If you’re coming from Shinjuku Station, get on Toei Oedo Line (9 minutes) and alight at Roppongi Station.

Tokyo City View Indoor Observation Deck:
10:00 to 23:00 (weekdays and national holidays)
Last Admission at 22:30

10:00 to 01:00 (Fridays, Saturdays, Eve of Holidays)
Last Admission at 24:00

Admission fee: 1800 yen (adult) *Ticket is valid for Mori Art Museum

Rooftop Sky Deck:
11:00 to 20:00 (Monday to Sunday)
Last Admission at 19:30

Admission fee: 500 yen (adult)

*Ticket holders of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo City View, or Mori Arts Center Gallery may enter the Sky Deck with additional fee.

The Essentials

Access to the Rooftop Sky Deck is subject to inclement weather. It is imperative that you check the weather forecast to avoid disappointment. Do bring along a jacket as it gets chilly at the rooftop sky deck after sunset.

3. Park Tokyo Hotel

For holidaymakers looking for a hotel with a splendid view, try the 4-star Park Tokyo Hotel – and you won’t be disappointed. Savour a postcard-perfect vista of Tokyo Skyline right in the comfort and privacy of your room. The view is unforgettable, especially at night, when the iconic Tokyo Tower comes on –and you find yourself hypnotized by tiny vehicles rushing along tangled lines of streets creating twisting threads of light like fleeting fireworks. In the morning, you’ll wake up to a sunlit metropolis with Mount Fuji on the horizon.

Getting There

  • The nearest station to Park Hotel Tokyo is Shimbashi Station (JR Yamanote Line).
  • If you’re coming from Narita Airport Station, take the Sky Liner to Nippori Station then change to JR Yamanote Line and alight at Shimbashi Station. From there it is a 7-minute walk to Park Hotel Tokyo.

The Essentials

Park Hotel Tokyo is co-located in Shiodome Media Tower, the center of business and culture. The hotel lobby is at the 25th floor of Shiodome Media Tower. There are 270 guest rooms, located from the 26th to 34th floors.

Photo by _kherojj on Instagram
Photo by walking0ncloud9 on Instagram

HAKODATE

It is not apocryphal when every traveller you meet on the road sing praises of Hakodate’s panoramic vistas from Mount Hakodate (Hakodate-yama). Ranked as the number one must-do when in Hakodate City, Mount Hakodate is a mountain with a height of 334meters above sea level, renowned for its breath-taking views of the port city from its open-air observatory deck.

The world-famous ‘Million Dollar View’ under the inky black sky is an incredible sight to behold. After dusk, the peninsula turns into a map of glittering constellations that will leave you in awe, emerging with a new perspective and a deep sense of gratitude (#blessed).

Take the 3-minute ropeway ride to the summit before sunset. The ropeway ride departs every 15 to 20 minutes. If you love to dine with a view, head to Restaurant Genova. Try to get a table by the windows for the best experience.

And here’s a tip from the locals: there are three katakana letters “ハート” which form the Japanese word for ”Heart” that surfaces on the illuminated skyline. See if you can spot them! Legend has it that couples who have seen them will have their wishes granted. 

 

Getting There

Public Transport (Bus) from JR Hakodate station:

Go to Bus Stop No. 4. Look for the shuttle bus. It is a one-way journey (approximately 10 minutes) to Hakodate Ropeway station.   

Hakodateyama Ropeway Ride Tickets

  • Return ticket: 1280 yen (adult)
  • One-way ticket: 780 yen (adult)

Operating Hours: 10:00 – 22:00
*Operating hours may change subject to weather or other conditions.

By Car:

Limited Parking Space at the observatory deck. 
The car ride from Hakodate Station takes roughly 20 minutes, while a taxi
 ride costs around 3,500 yen one way.

The Essentials

Before you embark on a trip to Mount Hakodate, check the weather forecast to avoid disappointment. The open-air observatory can get chilly, so bringing along a jacket is a good idea. 

The window seats in Restaurant Genova are usually reserved in advance, so be sure to call ahead for a table at least a week before your trip. 

Photo by bbong_a on Instagram
Photo by walking0ncloud9 on Instagram
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Finally, travel can make and maintain a sense of wonder that drives everything in a better direction. Now, what are you waiting for?

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