Before the Trunk brand launched their first property (Trunk Hotel) in 2017, Japan’s hospitality scene had not seen such a sleek and social hotel.
It steered away from the more hushed and modest Japanese hotels, and instead presented art-filled suites, dining concepts, public spaces and a retail store in the fashion-focused area of Shibuya — combining them all in an environment made for interaction. Now, with the opening of Trunk House in August this year, the team are offering something new, and really quite rare. A more personalised and private luxury hotel experience that opens eyes to both modern and traditional sides of Tokyo.
Discreetly tucked away within the cobblestone lanes of historical Kagurazaka, which was once an entertainment hub during the Edo period, Trunk House is a hidden gem. So much so, you may even walk past without noticing, which is what happened when we arrived. The 70-year-old former training house for geishas quietly blends in with other wooden houses and is the hotel secret that you’ll want to keep. On the other hand, it is conveniently located just northwest of Iidabashi station and close to Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku area. It’s worth exploring on foot as you’ll find cafés, boutiques, nostalgic restaurants, temples and more in the neighbourhood. What’s more, if you’re lucky, a chance encounter with a modern day geisha is waiting just along the narrow alleyways around Trunk House.
This second property from the Trunk brand is considered Tokyo’s first “townhouse hotel” concept. The traditional geisha house was taken over by Trunk founder Yoshitaka Nojiri who, together with his design team, took one year to fully renovate the interior while meticulously restoring the exterior to its original state. Showcasing a combination of both contemporary and traditional elements, the hotel’s design feels understated yet luxuriously practical and stylish. Highlights include traditional-style tatami flooring, the tearoom’s irori fireplace, a landscaped mini-garden, and wood panel ceilings that boast the building’s original beams. This is juxtaposed with modern accents of industrial textiles, a metal-framed sofa, brass pendant lights and leather floor cushions.
Trunk House is the kind of space that instantly makes you feel cool for staying there. Designed to preserve a slice of Tokyo that is home to a thriving arts, culture and literature scene, you can imagine the modern creatives this might attract. Rumour has it that a certain high profile rapper — full of direction — was said to visit recently with his family, too.
Trunk House is an open plan living space that sleeps up to six in their solo suite. Upon entering, you will find yourself in the spacious dining room and kitchen facing a mini-garden which looks like a framed piece of art. Also downstairs is what the team call “Japan’s smallest disco”, which welcomes guests to let loose in private, or more specifically in a soundproofed room complete with an illuminated dance floor, state-of-the-art karaoke system, minibar and glitter ball. A keycard gives access to the upstairs space where a tearoom, along with all its ceremonial entertainment, can be enjoyed. Here, an aromatic hinoki cypress wood bathtub steals the show, and is surrounded by adult artwork known as shunga by local artist Masumi Ishikawa, which echoes old Japanese public baths. It can be covered up if younger guests are staying. The bedroom’s space is clean and smart; revealing a hidden wardrobe and kitchen pantry as well as king size bed, which was comfortable but may feel too low for some guests.
Service & Facilities: 9/10
With 24-hour butler service — via WhatsApp, Line, WeChat or good old fashioned speech — guests are of course well looked after. But aside from the thoughtful service, which is both speedy and attentive, the team is extremely well trained and warm. From performing tea ceremonies, to running hot baths before bedtime, to joining karaoke for a sing song (upon request), Trunk House offers what will likely be one of the most heartfelt services you come across in Japan. As a townhouse concept, there are obviously less facilities than a bigger hotel. So for those seeking a gym, spa, or swimming pool, this rare and culturally rich experience may not be for you.
Food & Drink: 10/10
Head Chef Masashi Okamoto’s creative interpretation of contemporary Japanese cuisine is fresh, bold and definitely worth saving your appetite for. During our stay this was offered over eight courses. For dinner, the tasting menu showcased a whole host of fresh Japanese ingredients in which Okamoto prepared and cleverly enhanced each dish. From Hokkaido oyster done two ways, to homemade aged duck ham, to foie gras chawanmushi (his take on egg custard), to lightly deep-fried Kobe beef. The food is, to put it simply, outstanding. It’s paired with some fantastic wines, sakes, and shochu too. There is even some very rare Japanese whiskies such as an extremely valuable Hibiki 30 Year Old. Breakfast is equally impressive and presents an opulent array of small dishes to go with the perfectly cooked rice, including caviar, sea urchin, bottarga and much more.
Rates: From HK$35,588/night (prices may vary depending on availability and season) for double occupancy and includes breakfast and complimentary minibar (excluding alcohol). There is an additional charge of HK$3,558 per person. The property can accommodate up to six persons.