The Gate Hotel in the Asakusa district of Tokyo lets guest experience a unique side of Tokyo’s culture in stylish and design-focused accomodations.
Having spent some time in one of Tokyo’s ultra-modern districts, we wanted to see what the place had to offer in terms of history. Perhaps the best place to do this is Asakusa, in the heart of the city’s downtown. As it turned out, this district is also home to The Gate Hotel – a design hotel which had piqued our interest.
Asakusa has a long and interesting history, and this is reflected in the sights and sounds of its streets. While you might not guess that religion and hedonism would go well together, the area has a tradition that includes both. Many of Tokyo’s oldest and most important temples can be found there, including Sensoji, which was right across the road from our hotel. It was so close that every time we walked out the front door, we were greeted by the smell of its incense floating in the air.
Today Asakusa forms an important part of Tokyo’s tourist circuit. It still retains much of its traditional atmosphere, which makes it an exciting and authentic place to visit. This was not where the lords and samurai called home, this was were ordinary Japanese people lived, worked, and played. Spending time here will help you understand the local culture much better than simply visiting the grand palaces. We loved it.
Our hotel was part of the Design Hotels group – a company which provides support and promotion to its exclusive set of member establishments. For a hotel to obtain membership it must have an interesting and unique style, as well as a high level of service.
The Gate was certainly a worthy member of the club, and it was full of great decorative features. The first one of these, is the view given off by floor to ceiling windows in the lobby. Next you notice the sleek blue sofas, the abstract wall art, and the spectacular light fixture hanging from the ceiling. Overall, the design is quite modern and minimalist, and the empty spaces help to highlight the bold furnishings.
We made our decision to stay here late and, by the time we had made our reservation, all the double rooms were taken. We took a twin room instead, and luckily found that the beds were pretty big. Big enough for us to snuggle up in one together! Lesson learned, the hotel is pretty popular so definitely make sure to book in advance, especially if you want a particular room, or would like to share a bed designed for two!
A fun bonus was the fact that the hotel provides pajamas for you. This seems to be a custom in Japan, as it’s happened several times in Tokyo and Kyoto. Like the rest of the hotel, the room was simple yet comfortable, with dark walls and white ceilings. It had no attention-grabbing features, but it was a pleasant space to spend time in and we were more than happy with it.
The restaurant on the other hand, has an incredible feature – the view from the terrace. Located up at the top of the building, this was spectacular, and we spent our lunch gawking at the city skyline. The view from the bar was just as good, and it looked directly across to Sky Tree Tower. Ordinarily the restaurant serves up French bistro-style food, but when we were there the chef had created a special menu focusing on the Nordic Sea buckthorn berry. This was only available for short time and always willing to try something new, we opted for his four course tasting menu.
We made the right choice as everything was delicious (and it all made a welcome change from the sushi we had been eating so much of). One of the best courses was a refreshing prosciutto and baby leaf salad, with a dressing made from the sea buckthorn berry. Buckthorn has a citrus-like taste which added a nice tang to the salad. Even the dessert included it, as we were served fromage blanc and vanilla ice cream, accompanied by chocolate cranberry and dried berry mix (including the sea buckthorn) with pancakes.
Both the restaurant and bar are open 24 hours a day, meaning that you can have a meal or a drink whenever you would like. They also have a concierge service to help you get the most out of your stay, and English language newspapers in the lobby. Another feature which some people may find useful is the laptop hire, which costs a very affordable ¥1,000 per day (about $9)
Once we were all settled in, we wanted to get out and see what the local area had to offer. Our first stop was of course, the Sensoji temple across the road. You have to visit this, it is a beautiful building and it is so fascinating see the locals worshiping there. It is accessed by a pedestrianized walkway, and you can easily spend a few hours looking at all the shops and food stalls that line the route. Make sure to try popular snacks on sale there like Ningyo-yaki - traditional baked doll cakes, or Daifuku and Dango - rice cakes and sweet dumplings. Spend a few minutes and get your fortune and just take in all the sights, sounds and smells! This place is really touristy, but totally worth the crowds and overpriced shops.
Twenty minutes walk away is Ueno Onshi Park. We happened to be in Tokyo at the start of Sakura season (the time when the pink cherry trees blossom), and this was a great place to see some blooms. There were several good food stands and temples to look at, and lots of people picnicking under the trees. We spent the day walking around, and then grabbed some Sapporo and snacks before doing the same ourselves.
If you’re into beauty products, you’ll love some of the great Japanese treasures you can find at local pharmacies. There is one right next door to the hotel, and it has so many great products. It’s a lot of fun to browse their variety of sheet masks, and maybe pick up a hair care product.
The Gate Hotel in the charming Asakusa district is a great place to base yourself if you want to experience the slower, more "locals only" side of Tokyo. It means traveling a little to get to the popular areas like Shinjuku and Shibuya, but Asakusa has its own special charm and is definitely worth a visit to get an authentic Japanese experience. The hotel itself is full of character, and has everything you need for a relaxing stay.
For more information about this hotel please click the link below