My default choice for accommodations during a trip is almost always a hostel. Hostels are cheaper, they usually come with free breakfast and whether you want to or not, you get to meet people from all around the world. If you’re lucky, the hostel you choose is sooooo cool and wonderfully designed that it’s forever branded as awesome in your memory (case in point: Hostel 64 Osaka).
With that said, the same principle applied to my recent trip in Japan. I was set to spend four nights in RetroMetro Backpackers. Unfortunately, they had emailed back to me and told me they’d be closed for two weeks starting on the day that I would arrive. So the search for accommodations continued, and I ended up choosing this wonderful budget ’boutique’ ryokan in Taito-ku.
Andon Ryokan is run by a lady and her family in the quieter neighborhood of Tokyo’s Taito Ward. It’s this glass-encased building flanked in between older buildings on an unassuming street; if you’re not careful, you’ll probably miss it just because it blends in quite organically with its surroundings. It was designed by an architect named Masayuki Irie and in 2005, it was featured in the Architecture Almanac of Japan. (And yes, this was mostly why I chose this place; I wanted to check out its architecture!)
Judging from reviews left by some of its visitors, some are disappointed that this place doesn’t scream the traditional ryokan atmosphere that a lot of people go to Japan for. True, it doesn’t 100% do that – but they do advertise themselves a little bit differently from the onset already, and it’s up to the visitor to do a bit of research on his own. What’s nice, though, is that the overall feel of the place does feel like a ryokan, in that it’s an otherwise warm and cozy place to stay and you get to interact with the really friendly staff and the other guests, and they do have a jacuzzi that you can book for yourself.
It was a pleasure to have stayed there and seen the place for myself, especially since by default, I’m already a fan of Japanese design and the Japanese creativity that shines in maximizing small spaces. I wish I could have taken a proper photo of its facade, but as the street was super tiny, I couldn’t fit the entire facade in one photo! (That’s me in the reflection taking the photo, heh.)
The rest of the interiors is in a palette of grays, with colours injected here and there by the furniture and antiques the owner collects and displays all over the ryokan.
They have a little rooftop you can access from the fourth storey. It’s a steep climb, and you don’t really see much except for the Skytree in the distance and more of Tokyo’s more common, unadvertised neighborhoods, and if you wanted, you could choose to have breakfast served there.
Rooms are humbly sized, just perfect for up to two travelers, but it’s Japan and they do maximize small spaces as much as they can! Heck, I’d sleep Japanese style all my life if I could just because sleeping on futons on tatami mats is one of the comfiest things to sleep in. Also, toilets and bathrooms are shared per floor, but it’s not much of a problem – you rarely come across anyone else, and they’re kept squeaky clean!
So would I stay here again?
I would. I really would. It gives you a taste of a regular Japanese neighborhood, the staff’s great and helpful (our favorites were Aya-san and Hiro-san), and heck, the place is a cross between a hostel and a ryokan. It also doesn’t hurt that the design appeals to me a whole lot.
Andon Ryokan is located at 2-34-10 Nihonzutsumi Taito, Tokyo, Japan.
Visit their website here.