On the train ride from Narita airport to Tokyo Station, at the end of an 11-hour flight, the thought that I would soon be soaking in a hot spring buoyed my tired spirits. There are more than 2,000 natural hot-spring baths, known as onsen, and my partner and I planned to visit one at each stop along our journey. Our first hotel, Hoshinoya Tokyo, is billed as the only true onsen ryokan (hot-spring inn) in central Tokyo. This is somewhat surprising considering the country’s extensive bathing culture, but the geothermal waters here lie far below, and Hoshinoya had to drill a kilometer-deep well to tap into them.
The property occupies a high-rise in the financial district (just blocks from the Aman Tokyo, with which it shares a similar minimalist aesthetic). Our cab from the station pulled out of the rain and into the underground hotel entrance, where we were met by a courteous porter. We were then led upstairs to a quiet tatami-lined hallway. As in a traditional ryokan, we were asked to remove our shoes before entering. (These are stored nearby so that staff can have them ready whenever they’re needed.)