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Hotel Claska

Japan flag. Hotel Claska Tokyo

claska. Open the web site for Hotel Claska and a gauzy David Hockney-like pop-up swims up onto your screen. In the center floats a checkered art-nouveau building surrounded by ominous clouds that recalls an early work by Frank Gehry.

Little noticed, however, are the busesequally artfully rendered, but nevertheless actual fume-spewing city busesparked in a depot in the foreground. And thus begins our adventure to Claska, Tokyo's only boutique hotel.

On the left side of the pop-up is the Chinese character for kurashi (living or livelihood), on the right a bilingual invitation to enter. Clicking on English the following statement appears: The many answers to the question How to live.' (Moving over to the Japanese section, later, we learn the origin of the name Claska: Dou kurasu ka? in Japanese means How to live? Or How best to live?) Trembling, we push on. From the Concept page we learn that Claska is where adults come to play and that there is a Dog Man dog salon on the first floor.



Located in a pricey residential area on Meguro Dori miles from any train station or department store, decent restaurant or boutique, the hiparrati arrive in their two-door late-model sports cars, expectant Bazenji panting in the back seat.

While checking in they and the pooch are pampered over by front desk persons in crisply tailored Italian slacks and jackets with a white dress shirt open at the collar. The look is completed with highly coifed hair and the hint of expensive cologne or perfume. They flit in and out of the politest verb tenses while clicking away at their IBM mouses, pausing to glance reassuringly at the client every so often. It is then rumored that there are guests in the lobby more famous than those now checking in. Heads turn.

In the lobby are a DJ booth and the aforementioned dog salon, plus an overseas book store essence Powered by Hacknett.' Upstairs, every room is different and idiosyncratic. Claska was the brainchild of Tei Shuwa of Intentionalities, which is best known for its line of cooking appliances; and the British design firm Tomato, whose clients include Nike and MTV.

In a previous life, the hotel was a drab 1960s era business hotel. Now it has nine guest rooms that range in price from 10,500 to 84,000 yen ($97-$775) a night.

The elevator is vaguely art deco, a dark red temple that glides silently up and down; the fifth floor hall is hushed with off-white walls. We enter Room 503, which has perhaps the largest bed we have ever seen. The bell person slides noiselessly out of the room. To the right are the bathroom and toilet, which are in full view behind a wall of clear glass. In the front of the room spreads a window that affords a view into the center of Tokyo. The room is all soft wood and stainless steel and lovingly designed boxes filled with among other items a matchbook with ten blue-tipped matches.

claska-hall. After the bullet train ride up from Kyoto, a shower is in order. Herbal Amino Shampoo (Awake), Herbal Amino Conditioner (Refresh), and Handmade Organic Soap all eagerly await.

After using up much of Meguro Ward's daily water supply, we close the curtain, crank up the AC, and spread out on the bed after lengthy consideration of which part of it to use. Below, the traffic thrums along Meguro Dori, and buses squeal and heave into parking spaces in the depot as we ponder who also may have once used this massive bed.

Again, from the web page's Concept section: The many answers to this question [how to live'] led to the birth of a hotel that has no equal, Claska. Paradise has been found, and it is waiting for you on Meguro Dori.

C. Ogawa


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