1-8-1 Yuuraku-cho Chiyoda-ku 100-0006 TOKYO JPTokyo, Japan -See the map
Amy AdejokunSection editor
The Peninsula Hotels is originally a Chinese chain, but being used to attaining excellence in terms of quality in the hotel industry it just had to branch out to Tokyo, where the very best awaits visitors. The hotel opened in 2007, after 25 years of careful searching for the best location. A mix of the finesse of Japanese crafts and modernism, their Japanese masterpiece is not far from being the perfect hotel.
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They spent 25 years looking for the best location, and they've found it. The Peninsula is situated opposite the Imperial Palace Gardens, with the Ginza district at the end of the street, a 3-minute walk away, and the central train station 7 minutes away. Those arriving with light luggage can walk to the hotel from the Narita Express terminus. What could be more practical? In addition, there is also direct access to the Hibiya underground station from the hotel, with direct trains to Omote Sando and Shibuya in one direction, and to Ueno and the old town in the other. Lastly, just 50m from here is a JR overground train station, the circular line that links all of Tokyo's tourist sites including the Shinkansen train station. In terms of location, it doesn't get any better than this.
The hotel has 314 guest rooms spread over about twenty floors. The corridors are not huge but they are well padded, and in any case the carpet cushions even the slightest noise. Of course, everything here is peaceful and Zen. The 'smallest' guest room is 54m2; the size of a decent city apartment! The decor is fairly simple and timeless: light-coloured carpet and walls in shades of greige (grey-beige). You have to look up to discover the woven cedar ceiling, just like you see in the temples. The doors are made of untreated chestnut, and the furniture of precious wood. A large double glazed double window covers one entire wall; the ultimate weapon against noise, which is then again somewhat hushed outside. In Tokyo it seems as if everyone, including the cars, makes the least amount of noise possible. The bed head is huge and almost touches the wooden slat ceiling, fashionable in Kyoto. Curious, on investigation you will find a fax and printer along with the desk (and free ultra fast Wi-Fi Internet access). Thrilled, on further inspection you will find a magnificent piece of cherry wood furniture (from Japan of course) with a minibar, Lavazza coffee machine, DVD player and other high-tech equipment without which life would be just that little bit duller. Fascinated, you'll notice the thermometer which gives the outside temperature, the wind speed, its direction, the humidity level etc...You'll also soon discover that the telephone gives the time in Tokyo and, a thoughtful touch, in your home country. The shutters are electric, and you just need to touch the control panel to dim the lights. The dressing room is immense, almost a room in itself. There is a double cupboard where you can collect and replace the newspaper delivered in the morning or your shoes in the evening, which are returned shined like never before.
Already astounded? Just wait until you see the bathrooms. Decorated in the onsen (hot spring) style, the fitted Japanese bath tubs are designed to overflow, with a special groove in the marble for the run-off. There is no visible tap; the water comes out of the marble and granite wall like a spring on the slopes of a volcano. You just need to press the 'Spa' button for the lights and music to dim and the 'Do not disturb' sign to light up. Bathing is a Japanese ritual, therefore a lot of time is spent in the tub: a television, telephone and Ipod docking station are all provided. Of course, there is also a separate shower stall and two wash basins. All that's left are the toilets, Japanese naturally, state-of-the-art and with no fewer than 19 functions. The seat even opens as you approach, and closes when you leave. Cool! We won't harp on about the number and quality of the complimentary toiletries, but we will mention the nail dryer - how could anyone live without one?
To ensure you have a room with a view of the Imperial Gardens, make sure to reserve a Park view. Lastly, if you want a glimpse of the Palace, choose the Deluxe suite with its 2 corner rooms - you'll feel like the Emperor's neighbour during your stay. Banzaï! (Long live the Emperor).
The hotel occupies its own very modern and quite elegant building, from the ground floor to the 24th and top floor. Other than the guest rooms and restaurants, it also has an incredible 20m indoor pool (and when you think of the price per square metre in Ginza!), and a perfectly equipped gym. The Espa brand Spa is amazingly sophisticated. It offers a range of treatments tailored to the hotel's main clientèle, business men, and not forgetting the elegant Tokyoites who come to spend the day here.
Moving onto food, we'll start with breakfast, which can be eaten on the basement level next to the cake shop with its glass window through which you see the cake laboratory, or in the lobby. Breakfast is a refined affair (the breakfast pastries are to die for) but there's no buffet. The Japanese restaurant is part of a renowned Kyoto chain (the gastronomic capital), and of course the Chinese restaurant is excellent (Peninsula Hotels being a Chinese chain). On the 24th floor, the 'gourmet' Peter restaurant proposes a clever French-Japanese fusion cuisine. Pastries and cakes are very popular in Japan, and the hotel serves afternoon tea all afternoon. Everything is, obviously, expensive. Here's a tip: go to the restaurants at lunchtime. Lunch is always a fantastic bargain in Japan, and even more so in the luxury establishments. A menu will cost between £12-£18, £25 for a gourmet menu.
Normally, 'Palace' implies a grand reception area; not here. You might even be disappointed: the lobby is barely bigger than that of a Mercure hotel on the outskirts of town. As is often the case in Japan, luxury is in the details. On the one hand, a small reception hall ensures peace and quiet for guests, and keeps away curious visitors. On the other hand, if you let your eye wander you'll notice the quality of the space. You're gaze will fall on the white dragon carved from white wood on the back wall, said to protect the world, the backlit wood-lined walls like those you see in traditional houses, and finally the carpet with its yukata-style pattern, or kimono as we would call it. It's impossible to miss the chandelier, however, with its 1,313 lights and just as many wires! If you look up just slightly you'll see...the Void. This work of art is a glass fibre sculpture suspended in a dark cage between the 8th and 22nd floors. Expect to be amazed! Guests can borrow an Ipod from the hotel concierge with audio commentaries on some 1,000 works of art spread across the hotel.
Remember the film from not so long ago: Lost in Translation? Well it was filmed in the Park Hyatt hotel in Tokyo. The bar is still in the same place, with a view of the whole city. At night it is truly magical, and in the daylight you can see Mount Fuji with its perfect cone-shaped peak. This really is an exceptional hotel, where the refinement and quality are unrivalled. The guest rooms are situated between the 42nd and 52nd floors - in other words you'll have Tokyo literally at your feet.
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Mandarin Oriental Tokyo
Value for money6.88
Warning: this is the top of the top! In terms of comfort, view, style and service. It's magical. Unfortunately, the price is less delightful! Although you might have to break the bank or win the lottery to stay here, it is one of the best hotels in the world. The M.O (as the Mandarin Oriental is known by those lucky enough to have stayed there) occupies the top floors of an ultra modern building, the only one in the district, overlooking all of Tokyo. When you hear that reception is on the 36th floor and that the guest rooms below continue down to the 30th floor, you'll understand that this is an upside-down hotel of sorts. Certainly an exceptional hotel in any case.
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The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo
Value for money6.53
It's not what you think: there are no Japanese women in tiny bikinis ready to welcome guests. 'Strings' refers to actual string, of course. In this case it refers more specifically to the strings of a musical instrument, a balance of tension and relaxation. The architect was instructed to create a calming environment: mission accomplished. The renovation works carried out in 2008 on this old hotel have been a model of perfection, even if you won't come across many Japanese at the Strings, seeing as the hotel is mostly popular with Western tourists. Part of the excellent Intercontinental chain, the hotel has a yield policy (optimising prices) that will often get you a great deal in Tokyo.
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Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa
Value for money7.4
It's not the size of this ochre brown building located at the heart of the Shinagawa district that impresses, but rather that it is a lovely place surrounded by gardens, cherry trees and manicured lawns. It is also not overly large. Its kitsch side actually adds to its charm. The only real reasons you need to stay here are that you will be very comfortable and the rates are very reasonable for a hotel in this category. Another reason for visiting it.
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Sunshine City Prince
Value for money7.2
A beautiful 37-storey tower right in the middle of this slightly out of the centre but pleasant area. The architecture and the shiny marble hall probably won't do much to impress you, but it should be noted that the 1,000 guest rooms inside come at very reasonable prices and levels of comfort.