TOKYO -- When the elevator doors opened on the eighth floor of a multitenant building here, a bar counter appeared behind the lattice of the old-fashioned sliding gate.
I was taken aback by the unexpected setup, but the staff member handling my check-in spoke to me casually over the counter and handed me amenities, including towels and shampoo.
The Book and Bed Tokyo, introducing the new concept of an "accommodation bookstore," reopened on Jan. 21 in Tokyo's Toshima Ward after a renovation. The expanded facility now features a bar lounge, enabling guests not only to sleep and read, but also to drink alcohol.
It is turning into a big draw for foreign tourists in Japan.
The bar counter doubles as a reception desk. Five non-alcoholic and 10 alcoholic beverages are served, including a variety of Belgian beers. Because I do not drink alcohol, the bartender recommended a "bottle green" ginger and lemon grass cordial.
As eating and drinking are not allowed inside bedrooms, I decided to drink on the sofa in the communal lounge.
As a non-drinker, I often feel hesitant to go to a bar by myself, but I enjoyed the bar atmosphere at The Book and Bed Tokyo.
Bookcases stretching out against one wall display a rich array of books, including picture books and foreign-language books.
At least 1,900 books are available to read on the eighth floor, which has been newly added to what was previously the Book and Bed Tokyo's one-floor incarnation. Books can be brought into the guest beds, or read on the sofa in the lounge.
Guests' beds are located behind the bookshelves, with spaces between the shelves leading to each guest room. Although the beds are not as comfortable as those found at conventional hotels, guests can get their hands on the basic necessities, including outlets and hangers.
Curtains offer a certain degree of privacy.
I had such a good night's sleep that I forgot I was sleeping "inside the bookshelves."
It also boasts exceptionally low prices -- overnight stays start at 3,500 yen ($31.06).
During the daytime, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., customers can use the facility without staying the night, for 500 yen per hour, or a flat rate of 1,500 yen.
Popular with foreigners
In recent years, experience-based accommodations have been booming among foreign tourists in Japan. Such facilities are growing in number as hoteliers see a valuable niche market.
The Book and Bed Tokyo has proven a hit among foreigners looking for novelty, and they account for a third of all guests there.
The facility's innovative concept as well as the warm and friendly ambiance appeal to adventurous travelers.
The main attraction is the lounge space where guests can relax on the sofas. The facility's staff members actively chat with guests in their spare time, and the books offer a chance to strike up a conversation with other guests.
The seating arrangement in the new lounge, forming an L-shape and a square, facilitates face-to-face conversations.
The Book and Bed is enjoying popularity -- 80% of the beds on the new eighth floor are already booked for the next three weeks.