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Signature checks in to … Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi

Signature checks in to … Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi

The Four Seasons foothold in the Japanese capital is an elegant boutique hotel that takes travellers to Tokyo’s toney Marunouchi district, says C. James Dale, which rubs shoulders with glitzy Ginza and is a short distance from the historic Imperial Palace, home of the Emperor and Empress.

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, which is just around the corner from Tokyo Station and its myriad shops and restaurants, manages to hold its own in a crowded, five-star neighbourhood that’s also home to The Peninsula Tokyo, Aman Tokyo, and Palace Hotel Tokyo.

The facts

Traveller: C. James Dale
Room: Deluxe One-Bedroom Suite
Address: 1-11-1 Pacific Century Place, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6277
Date: December 2018
Best for: Travellers in search of simpler, smaller-scale luxury accommodation with excellent food and beverage options close to tourist sites, shops and top-notch restaurants.

The Signature factor

The property, the rooms and the Japanese onsen-style spa all made me feel relaxed and right at home. But it was the food from morning until night at the hotel’s one and only restaurant, MOTIF, that I would go back for, especially the multi-course Saison menu.

The concept

The hotel opened in 2002, but still maintains its modern feel. Its 51 rooms and six suites are spread out over seven floors in a 31-storey building. The design is straightforward and relies on a mix of wood, stone, glass and fabrics to create a chic yet uncomplicated aesthetic. The architect and designer was Yabu Pushelberg, part of the creative teams behind properties such as Four Seasons Toronto, the W Hotel, Times Square in New York and the Viceroy Maldives Resort.

First impressions

The building itself is set back from a busy street in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district. Guests walk down a narrow, understated pathway that leads to a modest, tastefully decorated lobby where they check in. After a seasonal welcome drink, staff will escort you up the lift to your room. The hallway decor is warm and calming. The hotel itself, which is family friendly, is easy to explore given its modest size. The spa and gym are both small and compact. The urban views from MOTIF Restaurant & Bar are charming: Tokyo Station surrounded by tall steel and glass structures, with local and high-speed shinkansen trains rolling up and down the tracks with mesmerising regularity.

The room

The deluxe one-bedroom suite isn’t like that sprawling room you may have stayed in before, one that conspires against your ambitious sightseeing plans, luring you to stay inside with the “do not disturb” sign firmly fixed to the door. It’s functional luxury: elegant decor, well-appointed bathroom, comfy king-size bed. No complaints about these digs per se, but they definitely could use a bit of pizzazz. Perhaps some enticing drinks in the mini-bar and surprising snacks left on the side tables or desk, along with a better selection of coffee table books and magazines.

Top suite

Guests looking for more space and grander views should book a night or two in the Chairman’s Suite. The 160-square-metre room boasts floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of Tokyo Station and Marunouchi. The top-floor room also has a home theatre system and a dining area that can seat up to 10 people.

On my plate

Dining at the hotel’s French-influenced restaurant, MOTIF, was definitely a highlight of my visit. The breakfast buffet had the requisite breads, cereals and fruits. But be sure to order the apple compote (served inside a carved-out apple) and the softened, sliced oranges with a side of honey. Also, consider skipping the Western fare for a morning and order the healthy, scrumptious Japanese breakfast: rice with raw egg, grilled salmon, miso soup, nori and more. Another must is the Saison dinner menu, billed as a farm-to-table culinary experience. It ranks among my favourite food journeys in Japan (and that’s saying something given I’ve lived in the country for six years). On my plate: a dollop of caviar atop a small mound of rice; fresh seasonal vegetables with herbs; a palate-cleansing grapefruit sorbet with a wee bit of wasabi; and boiled lobster with daikon and sauce américaine. For drinks, I enjoyed nicely paired white and red wines, plus one cheeky M.G.T. (MOTIF gin and tonic, a feast for the eyes and the palate), and one turbo-charged double espresso martini to go along with a delightful sherbet with sautéed strawberries.

I wish I could take home …

I’ll leave this one to my five-year-old daughter. She was famished when we arrived at the hotel late one evening from Haneda airport, so we ordered spaghetti bolognese from the in-room dining menu. In true Japanese style, this Italian dish was rendered almost better by the cooking staff, just as some restaurants in Tokyo raise the bar on everything from burgers to pizza. Months after our visit, my daughter continues to ask for that particular spaghetti bolognese. Guess we’ll have to go back!

Spa life

The spa is tiny compared to those at other five-star hotels, but it offers a good variety of body and facial treatments, from massages to reflexology to facial treatments that include collagen masks and peeling gels containing 24-carat gold. I was only in town for a short period of time, so I opted to visit the Japanese-style hot spring bath. Guests should note that this is not a true onsen. The water doesn’t come from deep underground and, therefore, isn’t chock full of minerals believed to have healing, detoxifying and replenishing properties. But it’s still a nice place to have a soak and feel rejuvenated.

Staying in

One of the best things to do, aside from eating at MOTIF, is to grab the corner table near the bar (dubbed ‘The Living Room’), sink back into the plush seating and watch the trains come and go through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests can choose a classic cocktail or a seasonal variety. We were there close to Christmas, so how about a ‘Santa’s House’ (strawberry, orange and cherry liqueur, lime juice, syrup, champagne) or an ‘Apple Pie Old Fashioned’ (rye whiskey, homemade apple pie syrup)? Happy Hour or ‘Yu Nomi’ is daily from 5pm to 7pm.

Stepping out

This is where it gets difficult because, with Tokyo, the possibilities are endless. Guests could consider trying out the hotel’s Tokyo by Four Seasons experiences or forge their own paths. Go hunting for some of Ginza’s hidden cocktail bars, among them Star Bar Ginza and Bar High Five. Ginza is incredible for shopping, too, but don’t overlook Naka-Dori Street in Marunouchi. Travellers should also add visits to the Imperial Palace and the restored Tokyo Station, which is full of fantastic food and beverage options. In addition, take time to wander the back streets at night, soak in the ambience and enjoy some yakitori, noodles and ice-cold ‘nama beer’ (生ビール).

The accolades

  • 2019 Forbes Travel Guide: Four-Star rating for hotel and spa
  • 2018 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards: Number five in “Top 5 Tokyo City Hotels”

Insiders’ tips

The hotel is a short walk to the Tokyo Station train hub, where travellers can link up with local and high-speed shinkansen trains. But the station is sprawling and there are different ways to enter and exit. Be sure to carefully review the map with the concierge. The hotel has a jogging stroller and bicycles that guests can use for exploring the surroundings.

Room for improvement

Tokyo is one of the cities in the world where space is at a premium. But the spa rooms just look too small and uninviting. The suites are cosy, but they rely a bit too much on browns and earth tones. Staff should consider leaving surprises for guests during turndown service, be it sweets or traditional Japanese treats.

Green thumbs up?

If only the hotel was in tune with the times on reducing its impact on the environment. Towels left to hang-dry were taken away. Plastic bottled water is provided in the rooms, despite the fact that Tokyo’s water is perfectly fine to drink. And worse, when I tried to leave one of the empty bottles at the front desk for recycling, I was told they don’t recycle (even though I know you can recycle plastic bottles in Tokyo).

Final verdict

The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi bills itself as a boutique hotel. It is indeed smaller than some of its nearby, five-star competitors. But it’s definitely worth considering as a place to stay for families that are passing through the Japanese capital or business travellers. If you can wait, though, it might be even better to check in at the Four Seasons hotel that’s scheduled to open in the Otemachi district in 2020, the same year as the city’s second go as host of the Summer Olympics. This property will have approximately 190 guest rooms and will occupy the upper six floors of a 39-storey building.

Where to find Four Seasons Marunouchi

1-11-1 Pacific Century Place, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6277, Japan