Japan Travel Guide
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Ladies, do you love the catharsis of a good weep? Do you long to spill your tears, but are afraid of the neighbors overhearing? Then boy do we have a plan for you. You need to get yourselves over to Tokyo and book a special “crying room” at the Mitsui Garden Yotsuya hotel.
At your disposal:
The rooms, lap pool, reception, rooftop bar – everywhere we turned at Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills there were pretty stellar views of the Japanese capital, so much so that it won our award for best killer view last year, just six months after it opened (and we walked through the front door). As fresh and sprightly as it may be, the hotel has already made some changes to the highest point from which to enjoy those views: the rooftop bar.
Above what you will find today on the open air terrace, which is a major difference with what we saw last year – and we think it’s for the better. Where previously you had a set of standing tables, a few groups of chairs nearer the windows, and some beach-y furniture (scroll down for an impression), there are now much better defined seating areas in a stylish mix of dark wood and cream, with warmer lighting.
We’ve looked at a few Western hotel brands that have recently made or are making their way to Kyoto: the Ritz-Carlton, Starwood (by way of Luxury Collection), and Four Seasons. That changes things for the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, which for a long time was considered the high-end Western hotel in the city.
Does the Hyatt have a lot to worry about with all this fresh competition? We’d say yes and no, based on our stay. You’ll find the Hyatt a short taxi ride across the Kamogawa river to the east of Kyoto station. Conveniently, our rate for a standard room included breakfast and a one-way taxi fare. Once we had figured out where to find the taxi based on the instructions from the hotel, we pulled up to the main entrance you see above in no time.
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At least that has now changed, and with a website come a few more renderings and the ability to make reservations from March 31 (opening is listed for March 23, though). That takes us right into the heart of sakura season, and the rates are… high. A Superior Room starts at JPY72,000; though with the weaker yen that now translates to about $600 rather than the $720 you’d previously be looking at.
If you want the additional experience of this lovely outdoor deck / garden with wooden bathtub, you’ll have to stump for a Deluxe Room, which will ring up another JPY10,000 ($82). A look at the interior of a room below.
There was a time when the Hyatt Regency was considered the high-end Western hotel in Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan. That changed with the opening of The Ritz-Carlton last year, where a more traditional Japanese experience is still very much possible though in its Tatami Suite. Four Seasons should have been there even before the Ritz, but these photos showed it is years behind schedule, which means the next big brand moving into ancient Kyoto will be Starwood Hotels.
Suiran, part of its Luxury Collection, should open already on March 31 and will be a ryokan-style hotel (a traditional Japanese inn) with just 39 rooms. Above a rendering of the hotel, set within the grounds of the Tenryū-ji temple, which will combine new accommodation with the restoration of historic structures “Enmei-kaku” and “Hasshoken”.
It's that time of year again: the 2014 HotelChatter Awards! Today and tomorrow, we'll be showcasing the best (and worst) of hotels over the past year. But we couldn't do it without you! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or shoot us an email. And the Award goes to...
Andaz Tokyo was on our list of major hotel openings this year, so we felt like a kid in a candy shop when we walked into the giant Toranomon Hills development the day after the ribbon was cut back in June.
Zooming up to the 51st floor, the Japanese capital stretches out in front of you, both its urban density and the green core of the Imperial Palace, providing mesmerizing views both during the day (above) and at night (below) – worthy of our Best Killer View award.
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We were wrong. After a number of delays, and our own gazing up to the top six stories of Otemachi Tower without being able to step inside, we thought Aman Tokyo wouldn’t open this year.
It is. On Monday, December 22, the first city Aman will be here
It is. On Monday, December 22, the first city Aman will be here, and we have some truly luscious photos for you to drool over too. If ever you’ve had a fantasy of staying in a hyper-modern, minimalist penthouse in the sky, floating above the city, start scouting for tickets to Tokyo now (we were just there and confess to doing a quick fare search already). Here’s what else you need to know: Aman Tokyo is the beginning of a new chapter for Aman, with discussions in progress for “city retreats” in New York, London, Paris, and Singapore.
The photo above is of the soaring atrium, up thirty-plus stories from the city’s business district. Nearly 30 meters high, it’s been designed to resemble the interior of a Japanese paper lantern. For a sense of scale, spot one of the chairs next to the pillars on the far left. We love the deep grey stone, the wood (Camphor wood, so we’ve learned), and the simplicity of the furniture design.
In space-constricted Japan (50% of the 127 million people live on 2% of the land), the size of a room isn’t typically looked at by square meter or square foot, but by the number of Tatami mats that fit inside.
That looks something like the above, and no, we didn’t ask The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto to take all the furniture out of the room for the photo: this is the bedroom of a traditional Tatami Suite at the hotel, which means every evening your equally traditional futon-style bed (two singles) will be made up for you. We had a chance to look inside the hotel during a recent visit to Kyoto, four months after the hotel opened on February 7 this year.
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”.