Singular would describe it best I guess.
Claska is a boutique hotel in the western neighborhood of Naka-Meguro, in Tokyo. But it’s not that simple.
The building itself is a former hotel, from the 60s and of the “business” kind. Not a mythic one that needed a reboot, just a somehow anonymous medium-sized tower decked in shades of beige and browns. If anything, the intervention of Claska is more a twist than a revamp. That mid-century modern feel is still here, and sometimes you’ll be hard pressed to tell what’s new from what’s old. It gives a sort of melancholic haze to the place, like if its former inhabitants were still cruising the hallways and the lobby. They must wonder at the new uses of the building, the dog salon at the entrance, the design and craft shop, the gallery, the studio, the rooftop and most of all the rooms, which are all different. It’s a very quiet and refined kind of crazy, one in which the Japanese seem to excel.
A good introduction to that land of paradoxes?
The Kiokuh restaurant on the ground floor sort of serves as a lobby. It’s a gorgeous place which mood completely change during the day, light-filled and quiet for breakfast, buzzing off with families at lunch on weekends or with a velvety, vintage feel in the evening.
I encourage you to explore every floor. Since none of them is alike, you’re always in for a surprise and a good dose of mystery. The half-lit carpeted hallways and the nondescript doors create a Lynchian atmosphere that is pretty unique.
Time to check into our room? All of the 21 rooms presented on the website are different. They all share a focus on modern Japanese design. Somehow the bigger they get (and they do get very big) the more serious they look, while the smaller, single rooms are definitely more whimsical. Ours was the 705, a careful composition of concrete and wood. It might look Western, but it had that sparse Japanese quality that takes some time getting used too, but ends up growing on you.
No apparent frills in the bathroom either. Yet I’ve become so fond of these Japanese bathrooms, with their soft plastics, their wooden floors, their clean yet warm look that I’m dreaming of having one like that at home.
We found out a little bit too late about that inventory of all the things the staff can provide, from a telescope to homemade herb tea and flower baths. I’m quite sorry we didn’t manage to try some of these surprising offerings.
With the jet-lag you build a different relationship to your hotel room, it has to support you in those in-between moments where your body can’t quite tell what you want from him. For me this meant having tea at four in the morning while watching the sunrise. I even got quite fond of that freaky habit after a few days.
Big windows are important for all that sunrise and sunset ceremonies (since the jet-lag, that fierce mistress, will take you to your room by 6pm, I guarantee). Notice the square pattern on that anti-seismic glass, so typical of Japan, you’ll miss it when you get home!
See that mix of shiny hardwood floors with discreet brass details and sleek banquettes? That corner on the right features a good magazine selection (in English and Japanese, but go for the local ones) for you to borrow.
Having French toast in Japan still counts as discovering a new culture since, honestly we would not be able to arrange it that perfectly. And you haven’t seen the granola yet, it deserves to have its own post!
All good, yes? The only drawback really is the location, I love Meguro, but it’s already a bit on the outskirts of that neighborhood, which means you’re already fifteen minutes away by bus from the subway station. Tokyo is a big, big city, so making Claska your homebase will mean most things are gonna be at least 35 minutes away. For this reason I would advise to go there if you already know the city and want a different experience, or, if it’s your first time, to spend a couple of nights here and the rest in a more central or Eastern location. You could also only stop by to have lunch or coffee, and most importantly visit the incredible “DO” shop on the second floor (also so good it deserves its own post).