Japan: Where to stay in Tokyo

By Adrian Mourby

A Deluxe Room at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. Photo / Supplied
A Deluxe Room at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. Photo / Supplied

MANDARIN ORIENTAL

Towering over fashionable Nihonbashi, the Mandarin Oriental rises like a great glass tree. Reception is on the 38th floor and the lifts rush you there ear-poppingly fast.

The hotel is an oasis; its lofty reception so quiet that you can hear the sigh each time a shop-weary guest steps into this temple of serenity. Down below, Nihonbashi, Tokyo's Knightsbridge, surges with traffic jams and salarymen crisscrossing the streets in identical white shirts. But 600 feet up in the air, all that bustle is forgotten.

The Mandarin Tokyo has won just about every award there is since it opened in 2006. No doubt Sushi Sora, its newly opened sushi restaurant, will soon be adding more trophies to the manager's display case. This most exclusive of dining areas not only has superb views of the new Tokyo Tower (the tallest building in Japan), but it seats only eight people, for whom dishes are individually created by a sushi master.

It's an appropriate addition to Nihonbashi, as many will tell you that modern-day sushi was invented in this part of Tokyo.

The rooms: The 178 rooms are located on eight floors beneath reception, each with vertiginous floor-to-ceiling views down and across Tokyo.

Decor is a calming mix of wood fittings, cream walls, black lacquer and marble. Levels of comfort are suitably extraordinary. Large lacquer boxes at the foot of the bed contain pyjamas, yukata (kimono) and slippers.

The desk lamp is a work of art by Ross Lovegrove (the man who designed the Sony Walkman) that snaps open at you. Binoculars by Olympus are provided for enjoying that view in detail.

As for the lavatory, it is a most complex piece of machinery, designed by Toto, the company that invented the Washlet. Washlets combine the functions of bidet and lavatory with an electronically warmed seat that Europeans find mildly worrying. This state-of-the-art Toto not only has wall-mounted buttons to direct the jets of water but also buttons for "oscillating" and "extra deodorising".

Toiletries are by Aromatherapy Associates.

Food and drink: You'd have to stay a while to eat your way around the Mandarin Oriental. There are eight restaurants, including a French open kitchen and all-day Asian dining on the 37th floor.

Sushi Sora (Sky Sushi) on the 38th is a special experience, with sushi master Yuji Inaizumi preparing the food at a table made from 350-year-old cedar. His eight guests watch Yuji patting and moulding the rice in a series of rapid hand gestures, like a conjurer. Expect to pay 15,000 yen (NZ$257) a head for dinner, excluding wine. Ideally, do exclude the wine if you can. The first drink is free but thereafter Tokyo prices cut in.

Extras: There is a spa that has won 10 awards as best in Asia or Japan. The hotel also has a chapel should you fancy topping off your stay with a marriage ceremony. The couple take their vows standing at an altar surrounded by water. The hotel can also arrange bushido lessons from a samurai master, and tutoring in ikebana (flower arranging) or calligraphy. There is no reason why anyone should be lost in translation at the Mandarin Oriental.

Access: Pets not permitted. Children up to the age of 12 stay free in their parents' room. There is wheelchair access throughout the hotel; also a number of deluxe king-bedded rooms have been adapted for guests with disabilities.

The bill: Double rooms start at 51,000 yen ($875). Breakfast starts at 3164 yen ($54) per person.

Address: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, 2-1-1, Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-8328, Japan (00 81 3 3270 8800).

- INDEPENDENT

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