Review: The Imperial Hotel, Tokyo
PUBLISHED: 16:14 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:34 22 August 2018
Sophie Ritchie takes in the swashbuckling elegance and history of one of Tokyo's most desirable hotels
Imagine studying the art of dry cleaning for four years. At the Imperial Hotel Tokyo, the swanky stay in the heart of Japan’s capital, staff do exactly that - along with how to master stitching faultless buttons. I can just about manage the ironing board.
Impeccable service and extensive attention to detail comes naturally to this five-star metropolitan hotel, which has long captivated Western hearts with its ability to treat guests like royalty. Once across the marble threshold and checked in, it feels like your mortal status is whisked away along with the luggage. Even the doormen carry 1,000 and 5,000 yen bills in case a visitor might need change for taxis.
Originally opened in 1890, the regal Imperial Hotel Tokyo has been treating guests with the same timeless hospitality that’s seen it survive everything from earthquakes and fires to World War II bombs. It’s even been demolished and rebuilt - twice. Today, it remains an enormous, thriving property that’s earned a reputation as being one of the best places to stay in Japan. Fans include Keanu Reeves, Marilyn Monroe and even Her Majesty.
For one, it has a highly enviable address. Located in the centre of the city, overlooking Hibiya Park with the Imperial Palace also close by, the building makes an ideal base for exploring. The rooms even come complete with next-generation handy smartphones, which offer useful tips on nearby amenities, as well as hotel services at the touch of the swipe of a touchscreen. Good news if you’’re partial to a shopping spree too - the glittering department store and boutiques of upmarket Ginza are only a short walk away.
As well as being primely located for Tokyo trekking, it’s classic elegance that gives the Imperial Hotel such a high status in the world of luxury travel. Vast, grand and opulent to the oriental core - the lobby alone is filled with marble, shimmering chandeliers and sloping staircases that imitate the feel of a Hollywood blockbuster. Service is also speedy, and nimble with it. Everything runs smoothly like a well-rehearsed ballet performance. Big and bustling, expect to see hoards of slick business folk and afternoon tea tourists alike within the hotel’s many public spaces. But despite the high footfall, there’s still plenty of room for everyone. Offering two shopping malls, three bars and a whopping 14 different restaurants, one thing’s for sure - there’s no chance of going hungry. Getting lost, however… that’s another question entirely.
The Suite Life
With 931 rooms and suites, those found on the upper Imperial floors are the most contemporary, with modern interiors designed by English designer Julian Reed. Rooms on the lower levels are still surprisingly spacious considering the central location, but come with a distinctly more traditional Western feel. For something special, book the Frank Lloyd Wright suite, which is filled with Art Deco furniture and red wood panelling. There’s also an on-site fitness centre, should the call for cardio arise.
Don’t forget to pack your chopsticks. The gourmands can delight in a plethora of 17 restaurants and bars. Feast through everything from extravagant sushi (it puts the British equivalent to shame) to fiery teppanyaki experiences. The jewel in the culinary crown is Michelin-starred Les Saisons, which serves haute French cuisine courtesy of chef Thierry Voisin.
Pitstop for breakfast at Viking Sal (Japan’s first ever buffet restaurant) or park your plate at La Brasserie to try the famed Gratin of Prawn and Sole, aptly named “Queen Elizabeth II” after Her Majesty devoured the same creation at the hotel back in 1975. No matter what your tastebud preference, you’re bound to find it here. And if it’s room service you prefer, the offering is surprisingly versatile.
When venturing outside, there’s plenty to see around the city. Don’t miss a visit to the ancient Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple or a glimpse at Shibuya Crossing (to watch the world’s most populated city cross the street). And of course, don’t think even think about coming home without a cuppa’ at one of the city’s many cat, rabbit and even owl cafés. For the animal lovers, it’s just purr-fect.
Rooms from £296 per night. Visit imperialhotel.co.jp to book.
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