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A Shodoshima Island retreat in central Tokyo

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By Louise George Kittaka

Located just a short walk from Hamamatsu-cho station, Hotel Rilassare Tokyo is a tranquil oasis of calm in one of Tokyo’s busiest transportation hubs. The concept and design have been inspired by the island of Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, and I had a chance to experience this charming boutique hotel during a recent stay.

While Shodoshima is part of Kagawa Prefecture, the nature and climate of the sunny island leads to frequent comparisons with the Mediterranean area. This is reflected in the name of the hotel—which means “relaxation” in Italian—and perfectly encapsulates my own experience as a guest.

Thoughtful Design Inspired by Shodoshima’s Nature

Rilassare is less than five minutes on foot from Hamamatsu-cho station, located on a quiet street. I enjoyed the welcoming sight of seasonal flowers in the hotel’s small front garden before stepping through the discreet entrance. Shodoshima is famous for its olives, which inspired the calming color palette in the cozy guest lounge adjacent to the reception area. I was pleased to see state-of-the-art coffee and tea capsule machines, freely available at any time of the day or night.

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Stepping into my guestroom,  I was immediately taken by the spacious layout, with a double bed and carefully curated “mini-areas” for working, reading, eating or watching TV. This aspect would be particularly appreciated if traveling with a partner or friend, as each of you could work or relax in the room without disturbing the other. Unlike most Japanese hotels,  I also liked the fact that the room offered a selection of lighting options, to suit a range of needs and vibes. It was clear that a lot of thought has gone into creating a room that is multi-functional as well as comfortable, making it a welcome haven after a long day of traveling, sightseeing or attending meetings.

Tasteful Options Abound

After a restful night, I headed to the nearby Yuhigaoka Shokudou, a restaurant offering all-day dining options and which is also open to the public. Hotel guests can choose from a selection of hearty breakfast sets, or simply enjoy a drink and fresh items from the bakery. The restaurant is becoming popular with businesspeople and local residents, too.

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In addition to Yuhigaoka Shokudou, the company operates Ristorante Casa Setouchi next to the hotel, and Teppanyaki Seto a few minutes’ walk away. The cuisine at all three restaurants highlights Shodoshima’s food culture, including soy sauce, lemons and olive products, and some of the fruit and vegetables come from Calore, the company farm on Shodoshima. 

On my way back to the station I stopped by Ponte Seto-umi, a select shop on the first floor of the same building as Teppanyaki Seto. It features a variety of products mainly from the Setouchi area, including some produced with ingredients from Calore, and I chose a few treats to enjoy at home.

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Connecting People, Food and Culture

Rilassare is the brainchild of Hiroshi Kasai, who has ties to both Shodoshima and the Hamamatsu-cho area. Born and raised on Shodoshima, Kasai grew up in an environment where it was natural to make the best use of seasonal ingredients, and to look out for others, in a friendly spirit of community cooperation. 

Having worked in Hamamatsu-cho after coming to Tokyo at the start of his business career, Kasai felt an affinity for this area of Tokyo, which he notes is a hub for land, air and sea transportation in and out of the capital. Drawing on his experience in running a popular hotel on the island, Kasai aspired to create a small Shodoshima oasis where people could experience a taste of his hometown’s nukumori: a feeling of warmth and welcome. 

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“We have added touches of Shodoshima and its nature throughout the hotel. For example, the building is surrounded by stone blocks from the island, and we commissioned local artist Ryo Date to create original paintings for each room. They feature typical scenes and nature of the island,” Kasai explains.

“Our mission is to use food, art and culture as a platform to connect Shodoshima and Tokyo. We’ve already hosted performances by Shodoshima musicians at Ristorante Casa Setouchi next-door, and we hope to hold such events  in our lounge here at Rilassare in the future, too,” says Kasai. “When I was a child, helping each other and building connections was one of the most important things in life. I feel that is missing from modern living in the big city and I would love to bring back that feeling with our hotel and activities.”

Warmth, nature, relaxation and human connections—we could all use more of these enduring qualities in our busy daily lives.  While I also recommend visiting beautiful Shodoshima, the next best thing to being there is a relaxing stay at Rilassare in the heart of Hamamatsu-cho.

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