One of the biggest stories of 2015 was the opening of the “robot hotel”, Henn na Hotel, in Sasebo, where guests are served by artificial staff.

The “Strange Hotel”, as its name literally means, promised “a commitment for [sic] evolution”. The gimmicky hotel received a lot of press attention in Japan and overseas, but it has proved to have staying power beyond its wacky concept. Certainly, the likes of Pepper in SoftBank stores and other places has also contributed to the ordinariness of seeing robots in Japan today.

The Henn na Hotel is now expanding. The first branch opened in Huis Ten Bosch amusement park in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, in July last year, but a new hotel is coming to Tokyo Disney Resort in March 2017.

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The hotel will be an 18-minute walk from JR Maihama, which is the station passengers alight at to enter Disneyland or DisneySea. As such, the hotel is well located to catch overseas tourists, too, since Disney Resort is a prime destination for Asian visitors to Japan.

The new hotel will feature 100 rooms. As in the Sasebo branch, guests will be checked in by a dinosaur robot and android. Guest rooms are assigned automatically, which also helps lower the actual number of workers required behind the scenes. We might call this android neoliberalism: robots are not just a gimmick to attract guests, but can also reduce overall labour costs.

Here is how the operators bill the Sasebo hotel:

Excitement meets comfort. Introducing state-of-the-art technologies, Henn na Hotel is the world-first hotel staffed by robots.

At the front desk, you will be greeted by multi-lingual robots that will help you check in or check out. At the cloakroom, the robotic arm will store your luggage for you, and the porter robots will carry them to your room (only available in A Wing). Mechanic yet somehow human, those fun moments with the robots will warm your heart. Furthermore, once you register your face with our face recognition system, you will be free from the hassle of carrying the room key around or worrying about losing it.

One of the definitions of the Japanese word “Henn” is “to change”, which represents our commitment for evolution in striving for the extraordinary sensation and comfort that lies beyond the ordinary.

Staying at Henn na Hotel is filled with unexpected and delightful surprises. The unique experience will take our guests one step into the future.

Additionally, two more hotels are planned for, respectively, Aichi Prefecture in summer next year and near Universal Studies in Osaka by the end of 2017.

The Aichi branch will be inside Lagunasia, a theme park in the city of Gamagori operated by major travel agency H.I.S., Huis Ten Bosch’s parent company.

“The hotels are sure to be a big success, as they will be installed near outstanding theme parks,” said Huis Ten Bosch President Hideo Sawada.

It goes without saying that the location of these hotels in resorts and theme parks highlights the novelty of them, and we think it will be quite some time before we see regular business hotels or the like manned by machines.

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