A Capsule Hotel Disguised as a Japanese Tea Room


WordsClémence Leleu

Taro Kagami, Japanese architect known for his minimalist-Zen design creations, wanted to combine the modernity of a capsule hotel with the simplicity of a tea house, for his most recent work located in Ningyocho-Nihonbashi, the business district of the Japanese capital. Hotel Zen Tokyo is a capsule hotel, consisting of 78 single rooms over five floors, two of which are reserved exclusively for women.

Here there is no futuristic look going on, as can be the case in hotels of this kind. Each module is designed according to the wabi-sabi aesthetic, dear to the Japanese, where subtle details, minimal decoration and clean lines are of utmost importance.

“Most of the affordable and convenient hotels in Tokyo are business hotels. They are standard and functional, but unfortunately they do not offer an authentic Japanese experience, “says Taro Kagami. “On the other hand, ryokans, traditional Japanese inns, are very expensive and often inconvenient for customers who do not speak Japanese, which is why we created Hotel Zen Tokyo to offer our guests a convenient space to enjoy a Japanese-style hotel experience at a reasonable price. “

Japanese traditions in the spotlight

These small spaces give pride of place to natural materials. Wood occupies a predominant place in their architecture and some ‘pods’ are even decorated with tatami flooring. The colors chosen for the decoration are also very natural: black on the floor in the corridors, then white and beige for the interior partitions.

Each room has a tokonoma, a small alcove where a painting is hanging, reminiscent of the kakemono found in tea houses. The whole space is illuminated by soft lighting, plunging the rooms into a subdued atmosphere.

In addition to the different rooms, the hotel also has a café-bar, which serves breakfast to guests in the morning, turns into a café during the day, and then a bar with live music in the evening. Meals prepared with local ingredients and traditional pastries are on the menu, and craft beers, cocktails and an assortment of sake can be enjoyed at night.

In the centre of the bar, on a raised platform, stands a tea pavilion with a metal structure and tatami mats. When night falls, it becomes a stage for concerts of traditional Japanese artists and instruments such as shamisen or koto.