Japan Travel Guide
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”.
When Four Seasons Kyoto made it onto our list of openings to be psyched for in 2013, it was really a mix of hope and wishful thinking on our part that secured it a spot on there, following the announcement the year before that the Canadian group was developing a property in the former imperial capital of Japan (which, incidentally, gets a staggering 50 million visitors a year).
Having had a chance to walk by the construction site this week, we’ll be readjusting our expectations significantly and shooting for a 2016 to 2017 completion. The Four Seasons sign is proudly displayed though at the 5 acre site in Higashiyama-ku, just to the east of the city’s Kamagawa river and less than 10 minutes by taxi from Kyoto’s JR / Shinkansen train station.
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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.
Just in time for the fourth installment of Transformers movie, comes a hotel suite that is perfect for Autobot or Decepticon fans of all ages. The Asahikawa Grand Hotel in Hakkaido, Japan has transformed one of their Grand Deluxe twin rooms into a suite decked out in everything...well, Transformers.
Even just the basic theme is perfect for the younger fans since guests will be able to sleep under a character comforter, watch classic cartoons on a Matrix of Leadership-style monitor and play with plenty of toys from Bumble Bee to Megatron. Some of the room art has been swapped out from the hotel's usual Japanese garden scenes to action shots from the movie featuring fan's favorite characters.