Design Travel: Artful Hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto

the kitchen comes with a minä perhonen banquette. the house has two bedroo 27
Above: The kitchen comes with a Minä Perhonen banquette. The house has two bedrooms—two single beds and two futons—and sleeps four.

RC Hotel

A midcentury concrete former apartment building, the RC has a bunker-chic look. It’s set in a quiet neighborhood of alleys, shrines, and temples 20 minutes from Kyoto Station, and offers city views from the top floor.

an ensuite room with a writing desk at the rc hotel. 28
Above: An ensuite room with a writing desk at the RC Hotel.
and a guest room with clever bedside lights. 29
Above: And a guest room with clever bedside lights.

Honorable Mention: 9h pod hotels

There are a lot of well-priced, no-nonsense capsule options in Japan. My husband feared claustrophobia, but our kids and I convinced him we should give one a try. I had already been interested in 9h, and with Kano’s endorsement of the chain, I booked us four pods for a night in Osaka.

guests have 24 hours at the 9h. caveat: if you want to stay more than a night, 30
Above: Guests have 24 hours at the 9h. Caveat: If you want to stay more than a night, you have to pack up each morning and check back in later in the day. During the downtime, everything must get hosed down because all was spotless and even nice-looking.

There are 16 locations throughout Japan, including at Narita Airport (so you can nap through your layover). Shown here is the 9h Osaka across from Shin-Osaka station. On arrival, we were each given a comfy black sleep suit (a light sweatshirt and sweatpants), slippers, and a key to a luggage locker. Men and women stay on separate floors—with separate elevators. There’s clever signage at every step. On the women’s floor, the luggage room was very tight, but we loved the washing-up area with  individual sink vanities and white-tiled showers.

you choose a high or low sleeping pod (with lights, outlets, and privacy curtai 31
Above: You choose a high or low sleeping pod (with lights, outlets, and privacy curtains)—these are at the 9h Asakusa in Tokyo. Though just big enough for one, the berths to our surprise were enveloping rather than oppressive. As my son pointed out, “they feel like human charging stations.” We all slept exceptionally well, and the bill came to just $70.35 for the four of us. Every time I pop my wireless earbuds into their case, I think fondly of our pod night.

Note: Sadly, a favorite spot, Kyoto Art Hostel Kumagusuku, closed to overnight guests during the COVID pandemic, but it still operates as a “small art complex with 12 stores,” well worth a visit. Head to Kumagusuku for more info.

We recently featured another appealing guest house, this one in Hokkaido; take a look at “The Dedication to Making Things Well” at Shiguchi in Japan. And for more hotels (plus shop and restaurant recommendations), explore our Design Travel archive.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on November 4, 2019, and has been updated with new guest houses and information.

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