Formerly known as "Lifetree Ueno", the hotel is easy to spot from Ueno Station as reviews say.
You can see the L-shaped outline of the tall building from a distance made of offices on the lower floors while the upper 20+ floors are the hotel rooms.
Following Google Maps it's around 10 minutes walk from the train station where you'll probably end up passing a Pachinko parlour.
It's a really busy area during the night being next to the Ameyoko shopping district. You'll pass through plenty of greasy food stalls. Rats too.
You could take a detour towards the JR Ueno station to go round the area but obviously it will take longer.
I didn't manage to arrive until 21:00 for check-in and was greeted by what sounded like Thai receptionists. Wasn't expecting to pay on arrival.
It's fairly much like the basic room I stayed in towards the end of my last trip.
Clean Your Own Room
Room cleaning only happens every 3 days. Until then you leave your trash and used towels outside your door.
There are no guidelines about how you leave your trash and towels out so people do it differently. First day I just put the whole bin out since I didn't know how I'd get a new liner for it and then piled towels on top.
There should actually be a number of extra liner bags at the bottom of the bin.
Once the cleaning staff has done their rounds, new towels come in a bag so you can use that for the old towels. Seems you get towels hung on your door regardless of whether you put any out. They come in full sets too instead of whatever you put out so not exactly "environmentally friendly".
At one point this dropped out onto the floor while I was using one of the "clean" towels... Thought it was a giant bug. Saw staff leave towels on floors once outside their stock cupboards in other hotels so always wondered if they were clean.
Turned out to be a hairball...
The sporadic cleaning isn't a bad thing since it means you can leave your belongings lying around really (and you probably will because there's no storage at all). You're not expected to split up the trash such as burnable and non-burnable so that's good at least.
There was a microwave next to the lifts so handy if you want to get a ready meal bento from the conbini shops. I did this a lot although being in the same area as the rooms you probably wouldn't want to use it too late in the night.
You can only access the floor you're staying in by using your key card and the good news for the socially awkward like me, you don't need to pass through reception everyday - unless you've opted in for the buffet breakfast maybe.
On the other hand the lift always stops on 20 where the reception is so be careful you don't exit at the wrong floor. I did once at least.
Single Room with Skytree View
I had a view of Skytree but it was a very small single room.
There's no storage which meant I had to keep everything in my suitcase.
I recommend bringing a separate padlock if you don't already use one because it can become cumbersome just zipping to the correct position everyday when you need to lock something inside.
There are other rooms you could opt for such as ones with a washing machine.
If you don't specifically ask for a Skytree room you'll probably end up overlooking Ueno Park in which case, you can see Mount Fuji on clear days too.
Lifts say no laundry service but I found it odd there were laundry forms in the desk.
When I checked with reception, it turns out that only applied if you go for the bigger rooms that has their own washing machine (they only have a view of Ueno Park though).
There's always the option of using the laundrettes nearby too of course.
Rooms can be quite loud. You can hear voices and walking from outside the room. Even someone's phone vibrating from the next. Fridge was noisy at night for some reason and maybe the ventilation too at certain intervals so ended up getting woken up quite often.
Always have some foam earplugs handy on trip which I learned from staying in noisy Shibuya the first time.
Lights and aircon goes off when you leave the room but mains plugs stay on unlike the Nagoya hotel I stayed in before thankfully so you can leave something charging while going out for a meal. Last time my friend discovered an extension plug by the fridge we could use to get round that but not an issue this time.
Aside from that there are plenty of amenities both at the reception and your own floor. Toothbrush and toothpaste are the disposable set kinds; one pack one brush so I ended up just buying my own again.
Weekends they seem to have these pin badges featuring pandas which Ueno is known for.
Might be because of the influx in families dining in during that time but I could be wrong.
Interestingly enough, the mini bar was now permanently gone despite still being advertised on both hotel search sites and their own homepage but, the lounge area is still available for viewing Skytree if your room isn't facing it.
You get some slippers. Japanese keep one pair for the toilet and another for the rest of the place because they consider it the dirtiest spot in a place.
My room wasn't exactly the cleanest. I had a bunch of hair on the wall... Upside bath is clean; no signs of mold or dirt like other places I've stayed.
Saw this sign and thought shutters were going to happen at 20:00 on weekdays due to the office floors but it only applied to the office side of the building. Thought it was strange a hotel had a curfew!
It can get quite cold at night during November when I was walking around in a light down. Fortunately the room's aircon can be set to heater mode.
I generally had mine around half 7 and it's okish. Few people around during that time as the graph in the elevator showed. Once it hits 8 it gets crowded and you'll have to queue for the mini buffet.
Weekend it seems to be busy regardless of the time. Possibly because natives decided to spend time travelling during that time.
Mix of Western and Japanese food.
There's some bread you can toast, coffee, tea bags and a drinks machine.
I just had some rice and pasta but not a fan of the latter because it's both sour and cold. Food actually isn't very warm, mostly cold.
There's a bit of added variation every couple of days.
They added meatballs, shredded chicken and mini rolled egg omelettes while I was there.
The Ueno Park side will most likely be where you came from if you travelled via the Keisei Skyliner from the airport (Narita Express doesn't stop at Ueno unfortunately). Some of the buildings are visible from the canteen area.
Other than the 7-Eleven right next to the hotel entrance there are plenty of other conbinis (convenience stores) within walking range as with everywhere in Japan. Another 7-Eleven just 5 minutes walk away even or Family Marts.
With the mini bar gone, you can enjoy the view your room doesn't offer while having breakfast. One side the "concrete jungle" featuring Skytree and the other overlooking Ueno Park so there's more greenery, where you can see the cocoon from Shinjuku, the Bunkyo Civic Centre and Tokyo Dome roller coaster.
First impression the Skytree view room is actually kind of dull. No colour just lots of dots from rooms. Not much illumination or neon lights with colour other than Skytree.
The upside is on this side of the hotel, you can watch the sunrise! I wasn't really expecting this so this was a nice bonus to the sky line timelapses I had planned.
For the everyday view, it looks better during the day.
Overall, pretty good value for money with a fairly good balance of privacy, convenient location within a short walk of the stations. Just a lack of storage in the single rooms and no self-service laundry facilities.