Tokyo Travel Guide
A casual glance at the above photo of the lobby at Palace Hotel Tokyo shows a number of things: gleaming grey marble, moss-green carpet and bench, painting, flower arrangement, chandeliers.
The painting isn’t the only piece of art in the photo though, with the white wall behind reception revealing its secret as you get closer: it isn’t just a white wall, it’s a whiteout wall. More specifically, it is a mixture of artificial marble, crystal powder, and whiteout correction fluid (!) brought together to depict endangered species of Japanese flowers. Talk about symbolism – a close up just below.
Hotel Okura might be preparing itself for a multi-year closure–demolition–redevelopment cycle next year (if the Monocle petition to keep it won’t throw a spanner in the works), but another iconic Tokyo hotel will have shrugged when they read that news and thought: been there, done that, way ahead of you.
Above is what Palace Hotel Tokyo looked like in late 2008, presiding over its own moat in its second incarnation, after starting life as the government-run Hotel Teito just after WWII. The following year it closed and reinvented itself over the span of three years into something worthy of the theme “Before and After” – check it out after the jump.
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Even more surprising perhaps? By the time the film crews zoomed up to the 41st floor lobby and 52nd floor New York Bar & Grill, the Park Hyatt had already been around for nearly a decade too, which means this month the hotel is celebrating its 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, you can sample the “Timeless Passion” cocktail (above) while taking in the consistently awesome views from the hotel. There are a number of events over the next few months at the various restaurants and bars, and while nothing is confirmed yet, we think there might be some more news on a refresh of the rooms in the works.
Tokyo’s Toranomon Hills Tower may have only just opened, Andaz hotel and all, but one of the classic hotels nearby is planning its own future skyscraper already: the Hotel Okura Tokyo – famous for its 1960s time capsule lobby – will close next year August for four years of redevelopment.
Come February 2019, a brand new two-tower complex should be finished, which will increase room count from just over 400 to 550, adding office space in the process. Design will maintain “traditional Japanese aesthetics” while bringing in all the latest technological equipment – and looking at some of the room photos on the hotel’s website, they look like they could use some work. Half of the hotel’s grounds will be turned into a green “metropolitan oasis”.
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We’re always up for a hotel stay, but when it comes with the chance to take in that freshly opened new hotel smell? We’re all over it. Such was our luck at Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, where we walked through the front door the day after the ribbon was cut last week.
One of the tallest structures in Tokyo, Toranomon Hills tower (the big one in the middle in the above photo, with a bonus appearance of Tokyo Tower on the left) dominates the skyline south of the vast green expanse surrounding the Imperial Palace. Andaz spreads across six floors of the building, with reception on floor 51, rooftop bar, function space and wedding chapel (yes, really) on floor 52, spa on floor 37, and 164 guestrooms between floors 47 and 50.
We had high hopes for our Andazm at Andaz no. 12 and we left pretty satisfied after a night in one of its rooms. Why? Here are five things that made it work for us.
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Aman Resorts might be known for its luxury resorts in exotic locations, but the hotel group should be branching out to its first true city hotel this year, after dipping its toe in the somewhat urban water – quite literally as it were – in Venice.
And where better to take the next step than Tokyo, a metropolis if there ever was one? We had hoped Aman Tokyo would have been open by the time we were in Japan, but pre-summer became post-summer as it tends to do for hotel openings, with the latest we’ve heard being sometime in September. We did walk over to The Otemachi Tower complex that the hotel will be part of to get a sense of its setting, so read on for a first impression.
The fact that Andaz Tokyo is indeed very much open is something we can vouch for, typing this as we do in one of its rooms on the 50th floor of the equally new Toranomon Hills tower, with the above view over the city and the Imperial Palace stretching out in front of us.
We paid an opening rate of about $370 USD (39360 JPY) but we're clearly getting a lot of bang for our buck. From big views to small amenities (the minibar and WiFi are complimentary), there is lots to talk about, which we’ll do soon.
In the meantime, here are a few shots to whet your appetite: from the lofty heights of the 52nd floor rooftop and expansive lap pool to old-timey switches on the nightstand, paper artwork in the elevators and bonsai trees in the lobby. Stay tuned for much more.
If you’ve been to Tokyo, you know it’s possible to go from historic serenity in one of its temples to futuristic frenzy among its skyscrapers in a split-second. That proximity of the traditional and modern comes through at the Peninsula Tokyo as well; pick the right aspect and you can gaze out from your technology-filled room over the Imperial Palace, and when it’s time for a ride in the house car, your options range from a restored 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II to a very 21st century Audi R8 sports car.
Not much longer to wait!
The Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills will officially open its doors on June 11, making it the first Andaz in Japan and the 12th Andaz hotel overall. Here are a few words from the hotel's general manager:
“We are thrilled to introduce the Andaz brand to this exciting city to become a bridge between Tokyo’s fascinating past and dynamic future,” said Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry, General Manager of Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills. “We look forward to offering the boutique lifestyle hotel concept to both guests and locals, which is something quite new for the Japanese hotel market. The Andaz brand is deeply rooted in local culture, and we are committed to providing an unscripted, Japanese-inspired experience to guests that will help them feel truly connected to the heart and soul of Tokyo.”
We couldn't find a room online for June 11th (it said the hotel was sold-out) but we did find a special opening offer for June 16th for about $375 a night for an Andaz King. Remember, this is Andaz, so complimentary WiFi, minibar snacks and non-alcoholic drinks are included.
The list of places present and future to have an Andazm is growing rapidly (hello Munich), but nearest on the horizon is Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, opening this summer. Most of the visuals we’ve seen so far of the 52-story tower have been renderings, but now we have what looks like actual photography of the rooms.
There will be 164 of them on the tower’s top six floors, which means stupendous views of both Tokyo’s urban maze and, if on the right side of the building, the Imperial Palace in the distance – giving local cousin Park Hyatt some serious killer view competition. A ten-minute walk from Andaz takes you to Shinbashi station, connecting you to the Yamanote line, which loops through central Tokyo and is sure to be one of your main modes of transport when exploring the city.
It's no secret that hotel rooms are used for trysting but we were in for quite a shock when we saw this happening at the Conrad Hotel in Tokyo. Yes, that's right. We're talking about the two teddy bears getting too close in a cup inside one of the guest rooms.
All joking aside, the snapshot from Ken E. Lee in the HotelChatter Flickr Pool gives us an up close and personal look at the sweet teddy bears, which are only available to guests. (The hotel also gives guests a Conrad duckie too.) You can purchase these directly from the hotel but you know, you have to go to Tokyo to get it. Otherwise, eBay it.
Rates start at around $400 a night for a King City room with seriously stunning views of the skyscrapers in Ginza and Shiodome. Check out more of Photo: Ken E. Lee/Flickr]
It looks like Andaz Hotels made a very good decision in adding Tokyo to their list of new cities, now that Tokyo has been selected as the site of the 2020 Summer Olympics. (The Andaz is set to open sometime next year, giving it plenty of time to get things in order before the crowds arrive. )
As with all host cities of massive events like the Olympics, we can expect many more new hotels to pop up as the date approaches, as well as lots of renovations by existing hotels. Remember London last summer? Insanity.
Of course, we need to contain our excitement as these Olympics are still a good SEVEN YEARS AWAY. Nevertheless, according to the Wall Street Journal, Tokyo plans on having 87,000 hotel rooms available within a 10 kilometer radius, and 140,000 rooms in a 50 kilometer radius. And Forbes.com believes the rates and prices will remain "fair" especially compared to other cities (cough, NYC, cough.)
We just wonder if more hotels will break out special Hello Kitty suites , perhaps with an Olympics theme?