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Luxury hotel in Japan: Conrad Tokyo

Conrad Tokyo: This luxury Japanese hotel is the perfect five-star city escape.  

Hotel Review: Conrad Tokyo, Japan by C. James Dale

Goodbye Tsukiji, hello 2020. Our writer finds out how this five-star luxury hotel is looking ahead to the next big thing as the Conrad Tokyo prepares to lose its famous fish market neighbour. 

There’s something about the taxi ride to the Conrad Tokyo that only helps to enhance the guest experience. The cab cruises away from Haneda Airport International Terminal and speeds up before rolling onto the expressway, eventually racing across Rainbow Bridge, skirting alongside the glittering Tokyo Bay as it makes its way deeper into the metropolis.

It’s a view you can enjoy from some of the Conrad’s 290 guestrooms and suites. The ones that don’t face the bay overlook the sprawling city, including the lush and landscaped Hamarikyu Gardens, located at the mouth of the Sumida River. From a handful rooms, you can even spy a slice of the action at the world’s largest wholesale fish and seafood market, Tsukiji Shijō (Tsukiji Market), where refrigerated trucks start arriving in the hours before midnight and tourists line up before dawn to watch the famous tuna auction.

Until the market relocates in late 2016, the Conrad is its closest five-star hotel neighbour, making it the perfect sanctuary for those wanting to wander the spacious site’s narrow walkways and scan tables that groan under the weight of all manner of sea creatures, from Abura Bouzu to Yari-Ika. And if you sleep through the tuna auction, fear not: “When I take people there, I go around 7am when the guys who bought the tuna come back to their stalls to cut it up,” one Conrad staff member tells me.

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 Fine dining at Conrad Tokyo

Some of the myriad marine products sold at Tsukiji are reinvented and reinterpreted at the Conrad’s handful of restaurants, among them Collage, where Michelin-starred chef Shinya Maeda and his team use their 28th-floor perch to create modern takes on French cuisine. At lunch, I enjoy the business course, forsaking the city view so I can watch the staff work their magic in the light-soaked kitchen, my eyes returning to see these culinary craftsmen cutting and torching food one moment, peeling watermelon with the precision of a sculptor the next.

Plate after plate emerges, beginning with rolled sole and green onion that is a visual play on sushi. A beetroot, goat cheese, and pine nut trio follows, only to be upstaged by the risotto verde, with slices of summer truffle and pea leaves encircling an unassuming egg yolk, all surrounded by a tide of whipped-up green froth. A couple of glasses of Champagne and crisp white wine mean a double espresso is required to ward off the encroaching afternoon fatigue. The dessert also provides plenty of buzz: the so-called peanut mousse, dark chocolate revolution (a revelation). The one-word review: outstanding.

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Japanese art hotel

The elements of design at the Conrad Tokyo are similar to those you’ll find at some of the Japanese capital’s top luxury hotels, with the cherry blossom motifs infused into the walls, carpets and headboards as small plants in glass vials grace entryways (which change with the seasons and holidays). Also on display, works of art by nearly two dozen master craftsmen and artists, from Nobuyuki Tanaka’s glossy red ‘Purification’ sculpture at the entrance to Kyotaro Hakamata’s sublime tribute to the comings and goings of guests, ‘Bird Valley’.

The design touches continue at Mizuki Spa (mizuki being a portmanteau of the Japanese words for water and moon), which is billed as the largest hotel spa of its kind in Tokyo. The 10 treatment rooms, especially the one for couples, are cloistered sanctuaries, the city’s steel and glass expanse feeling so close yet so far. Nearby, guests also feel the pull of the 25-metre pool, the bottom of which is decorated in the style of sumi-e, or Japanese brush painting.

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The road to 2020

These days, though, the folks at the Conrad Tokyo aren’t just boasting about what’s inside their hotel. For them, it’s all about location, location, location – present and future.

“We’re a 15-minute taxi ride away from the Olympic Village,” one staff member tells me. Right now, that doesn’t mean much. But 2020 isn’t that far away. So when the world comes to Tokyo for the Summer Olympics, more than half a century after they did for the first time, managers of this five-star property are betting guests from myriad nations will come calling. By then, the competition will be even stiffer, as more luxury hotels have popped up in recent years (Aman Tokyo, for example) and will continue to fill the skyline (including the much-anticipated Hoshinoya Tokyo).

For now, the Conrad Tokyo is hoping its proximity to the shopping, bars, restaurants of the vibrant Ginza and Roppongi neighbourhoods will continue to be a selling point. It seems to be working. Occupancy rates have been soaring and the hotel’s MICE business is booming. One event on the calendar involves friends of Signature Luxury Travel & Style, the International Luxury Travel Market. Organisers of the global travel event have picked the Conrad as their home-away-from-home in 2016 as they shift the annual ILTM Japan get-together to Tokyo from Kyoto.

“To reinforce the potential of both the inbound and outbound Japanese luxury travel markets, we are moving to Tokyo as a natural next step for this maturing market and exciting event,” notes Alison Gilmore, senior exhibition director of the ILTM Portfolio. “We look forward to working with The Conrad Tokyo.”

It ain’t easy being popular. Better lock in those reservations soon.


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