Traditional one minute, futuristic the next, Tokyo’s whiplash of design styles is best personified in its luxury hotels, writes Natasha Dragun.
If you’re looking for Tokyo’s best luxury hotels – the six must be on your list.
Late Australian architect Kerry Hill captured a sense of place in Aman Tokyo: from the moment you step into the 33rd-floor lobby you’re overwhelmed with tradition. The atrium resembles a larger-than-life lantern replete with an inner rock and water garden where kimono-clad staff pour tea.
Age-old materials are used throughout, from sliding shoji screens to furo soaking tubs and elegant yukata robes in the wardrobe. Views from rooms and suites take in the Imperial Palace gardens and Tokyo Skytree, but the best vista in the house is from the 30-metre-long, basalt-lined infinity pool.
Best for Wellness: the spa focuses on ancient Japanese rituals, and uses products infused with native herbs.
Location In Tokyo’s financial district, within easy reach of the Imperial Palace.
Hot feature The height of the water in the rooftop pool is at a level that blocks out Tokyo’s cityscape, allowing bathers to bliss out while gazing at Mount Fuji.
Palace Hotel Tokyo
The Palace Hotel Tokyo opened her doors in 1961; the property was razed in 2009 and then reopened in 2013, with many of the original flourishes and traditions retained. Like the white grand piano in the moat-side Palace Lounge; the marbled countertops in the Grand Kitchen; and the Royal Bar, with its mahogany bar and purple-velvet armchairs.
It’s been thoroughly modernised, however, with welcome touches including 720 works of contemporary art. Rooms are a shrine to Japanese design: the high-thread-count linens come courtesy of Imabari; there are Maruyama Nori teas, and washi lanterns cast a romantic glow. A deep, window-side tub in the bathroom is complemented by Anne Semonin amenities from France, one of the few foreign influences.
Best for If you’re after an epic meal, the restaurants at this stunner deliver – Alain Ducasse has a fine diner here.
Location You can’t get any closer to the imperial moat than this. It’s an easy walk to Marunouchi’s best restaurants and bars.
Hot feature The Evian spa, only the second of its kind in the world and sister to the original Evian Resort in Switzerland.
The Peninsula Tokyo
The rose-tinted tower that houses The Peninsula Tokyo resembles a lantern – it’s one of the many thoughtful nods to tradition throughout. The guest rooms and suites are exposed in an earthy palette, with expanses of stone, marble and wood and abstract calligraphy on the walls; flop into bed to gaze up at the golden woven bamboo ceiling.
And then there are the high-tech amenities, including in-built nail dryers, hidden coffee machines and Wi-Fi phones. There’s eye candy from top to toe: in the rooftop bar, cocktails are enjoyed overlooking the Imperial Palace in a room decked out with cherry blossom trees made from glass. Enter the lobby, meanwhile, to ogle a suspended chandelier made from 1,313 bulbs.
Best for Classic luxury – from the moment you’re collected in your Rolls-Royce.
Location Minutes walk from the Imperial Palace gardens and the busy streets of Ginza.
Hot feature Immersive cultural tours. Want to learn how sake is made, or see kimono artists in action?
The Hoshino group may be best known for its Zen regional retreats around Japan, but the brand’s debut city ryokan – set in an 18-storey skyscraper clad in a grid motif resembling a kimono – steals the scene.
Each floor at Hoshinoya Tokyo has its own lounge, where you can sip seasonal sake and tea while nibbling nigiri rice balls. Slip away to your room and sink into low-slung futon beds, your surrounds decorated with washi paper screens, bamboo closets, jewel-toned walls and deep tubs – the latter are hidden by frosted glass at the touch of a button. You’ll also want to head to the 17th floor to soak in the spring-fed onsen – the water is therapeutic, and the views are phenomenal.
Best for There aren’t many hotels in Tokyo that come with rooftop onsen, with water piped from mineral springs below the street.
Location You can literally see where the emperor and empress live in their lush Imperial Palace grounds.
Hot feature This place encourages you to ditch your shoes and walk around in robes.
Hotel Gajoen Tokyo
The gracious Hotel Gajoen Tokyo doesn’t quite do itself justice when proclaiming to be a ‘museum of Japanese beauty’. It’s certainly that, but so much more. The library and on-site gallery are filled with antiquities from the 1920s onwards. But so are guest rooms and all public spaces, with works spanning paintings and lacquerwork, ornate woodwork and installations – it’s such a focus that guests can book in to do ‘art yoga’, or perhaps attend a matcha tea ceremony replete with contemporary omotenashi (that untranslatable word that embodies intuitively perfect service).
While you’ll want to linger in rooms – most of which come with private saunas, Jacuzzis and views over the blossom-lined river – you’ll also want to explore the glorious gardens.
Best for Art, art and more art.
Location Calm and quiet, the setting feels peaceful and serene. There are parks and gardens on your doorstep in Meguro, but it’s still easy to access theatres, restaurants and shops in central Tokyo.
Hot feature This place feels like a horticultural retreat, designed with immaculately manicured Zen gardens that unite waterfalls and bridges, koi ponds and leafy reading nooks.
The opulent sister to Trunk (Hotel), the exclusive Trunk (House) comes with just a single suite.
And what a stunner it is, deftly balancing old and new across two floors in a 70-year-old house where geisha were once trained. On both levels you’ll find tea lounges; a calming union of glistening tatami mats, wood and stone.
Upstairs is the low-slung bed, topped with commissioned art and complemented by niceties like leather slippers and a mini-bar stocked with traditional sweets, Japanese beers and organic green tea, which can be brewed 24/7 by your butler. The bathroom is a real hit: a toilet that plays relaxing Brian Eno notes when you enter, an enormous hinoki wood soaking tub, eco-conscious bamboo amenities and organic shampoos. Downstairs, the traditional Japanese garden cuts a calming form beside the House’s most playful side: the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Smallest Disco’. Just try not to have fun.
Best for You have the entire place to yourself. This is social distancing at its finest.
Location Gorgeously residential, on a back alley in Kagurazaka. You’re in the heart of Shinjuku here.
Hot feature The ‘World’s Smallest Disco’, where staff serve cocktails while you sing karaoke in a tiny white-cocooned haven with an illuminated dance floor.