Japan is known for its excellent hotels, from 5-star resorts to traditional ryokan. That said, if you’re looking for a truly unusual place to stay, one of the country’s Henn Na Hotels should be at the top of your list. This Japanese hotel chain is fully staffed by robots programmed to help you with your every need.
If you’re lucky, your check-in clerk might be their English-speaking velociraptor robot for an added touch of surrealism. He bows to guests and even sneezes from time to time.
The humanoid robots can also speak multiple languages, allowing them to help guests from around the world. This isn’t just a gimmick – the Guinness Book of World Records has recognised Henn Na as the first hotel to use robots as employees.
In addition to robots, the property is equipped with other examples of state-of-the-art technology, including facial recognition keyless entry. That’s right – your room will open and close with keyless locking and entry, so you never need to worry about a key.
Part of the hotel’s mission statement is hidden in its name. That’s because “henn” can mean “to change” in Japanese. According to the hotel, this word demonstrates their passion for evolution and “striving for the extraordinary sensation and comfort that lies beyond the ordinary.” Another translation? Strange Hotel – which certainly fits the bill.
Where can I find the Henn Na Hotel?
The original Henn Na Hotel opened n June 2015 in Nagasaki, Japan. Previous owners staffed the 144-room hotel with more than 40 employees, but robots allow the Henn Na corporation to do so with just seven staff members.
After receiving global acclaim and excellent reviews, the chain has expanded beyond its original location, with properties found in three countries. Today, you can find Henn-Na Hotels in cities all across Japan, as well as in Seoul, South Korea, and even in Midtown Manhattan in New York City.
Each location retains its original charm and robotic technology; some are also home to excellent Indian or Japanese food restaurants.
What to expect when you stay at Henn Na Hotel
Staying here is a fun and slightly wacky experience, giving you plenty of photos and stories to share with your friends.
When you arrive, you will be greeted by a robotic clerk (maybe even the dinosaur) who will help you check-in. First, you’ll have your face scanned by a machine, and then your room will automatically open using keyless facial scanning technology.
If you need help with your luggage, a robotic porter can help carry your bags to your room. If you arrive early and want to sightsee before your room is ready, or you need to store luggage after you check out, you can use the automated cloakroom, complete with a robotic arm.
The pared-back lifestyle is part of the experience when you stay at a Henn Na Hotel. The company doesn’t believe in offering “useless amenities,” but all necessities are there. Of course, that includes free WiFi and plenty of tech-savvy tools, detailed below.
Once you’re in your Japanese-style room, the in-house technology ensures your comfort. The Handy smartphone found in each room doubles as the remote control for the AC and TV. You can also use it to place free phone calls, even internationally, and to activate the Smart Plate, a tablet that provides tourist information and allows you to play games.
You’ll stay the perfect temperature as the Radiant Panel Air Conditioning System uses electromagnetic waves to measure and adjust the heating and cooling. Motion sensors can tell when you’re in the room, and they’ll turn off the lights whenever they’re not in use.
If you like to dress to impress, you’ll appreciate the LG Styler, an appliance in every room that helps to freshen and de-wrinkle your clothing. Using hot steam and vibrations, it removes pet hair, pollen, and dust from your garments.
What jobs do the robots perform at the Henn Na Hotel?
The better question is, what jobs don’t they do? The robots handle most jobs at the hotel. They will check you in, carry your luggage to your room, and answer all your questions.
In addition to performing practical tasks, the hotel also features decorative robots, such as the robotic fossilised fish swimming around in the lobby aquarium. Unibo, the robot concierge, can make simple conversation and recommend things to see and do near the hotel.
Before you worry about what would happen in the event of an emergency (or a short circuit), rest easy. There is always at least one human employee on hand to assist whenever the robots can’t handle a request or a task. However, this is rarely needed – most guests rave that all of their needs were met by the robots.
Why are hotels like the Henn Na chain using robots?
By now, you might be wondering why hotels like Henn-Na are using robots instead of human staff. Although, as you can see from some of the cool benefits listed above, you might be wondering why more hotels aren’t using them.
Simply put, using robots in a hotel is a selling feature that sets a property apart from the crowd. After all, you’re reading this very article on the topic. But, of course, it also reduces labour costs and ensures that guests’ needs are met without hiring additional staff members.
According to Miura Tatsuki, the chain’s PR spokesperson, the use of robots goes deeper than just a quirky signature. Henn Na Hotels don’t want their no-frills hotels to seem cold and impersonal like many others in their industry.
For instance, their Maihama branch guests are often going to Tokyo Disney, and they want the fun to continue after they leave the park. The original location in Nagasaki is also located near the Huis Ten Bosch theme park, so it’s all about whimsy and adding value to a guest’s stay.
These days, the chain realises that business travellers, though the polar opposite of families visiting theme parks, also want some of the benefits robots can provide. Some of these benefits include discretion, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. If it weren’t for the robots, you might assume the Henn Na Hotel Hamamatsuchō, located with easy access to Haneda Airport, is just another business hotel. However, it’s attracting people who like privacy, and saving a lot on labour while doing so.
Do you want to stay at a Henn Na Hotel?
Now that you know a little bit about Henn Na Hotels and their cast of robotic employees, can you see yourself staying there? While you might expect to pay extra just to interact with the robots, this chain is often priced lower than other comparable hotels in the area. While they don’t all have restaurants on-site, there are always restaurants and other amenities close by. That makes them a smart choice for families and businesspeople alike.
The final verdict? Japan is known for its cutting-edge technology – a night or two at a Henn Na Hotel can immerse you into the future of hotels while also saving you a few yen on your accommodation.