Over the course of the next year or so Japan will host both the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics — if that's inspired you to take a trip tot his fascinating country, Edwin Smith recommends the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo as a wonderful base.
Occupying the upper reaches of a towering skyscraper in Tokyo’s financial district, the Mandarin Oriental is long on spectacular views.
On a clear morning, it’s possible to see the 12,388ft snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji, more than 60 miles away. In the evening, glittering city lights fill the floor-to-ceiling windows and make you feel as if you’re at the heart of the action.
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The best thing about the hotel is the general feeling you get from being here: of being comfortable and cosseted. Partly, that’s down to the rooms, which blend marble, wood and luxurious soft furnishings with spaciousness that’s hard to come by in a city of 13 million people.
It’s also down to the staff. Those you see are unfailingly polite, but those you don’t might be even more impressive. The care with which rooms are tidied — effects carefully arranged and charger cords wound Marie Kondo-style — as well as the small gifts left behind mean your heart lifts every time you open the door. As Tokyo hosts the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympics, the city will thrum with yet more energy. Here, however, you sense an oasis of calm will prevail.
Rooms from 80,000JPY (around out £550) per night – see www.mandarinoriental.com/tokyo. The writer was sponsored by the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Mitsui Fudosan Co and Suigian
Food and drink
The food in Japan is one of the country’s great joys, but even in the city that has impressed Michelin Guide judges more than any other in recent years, the Mandarin Oriental outdoes itself. There are three separate starred restaurants in this one hotel — something which almost seems a little greedy, though that’s hardly a concern if you’re a guest. There’s sushi and Cantonese-inspired fine dining, but the most eye-catching cuisine is at Tapas Molecular Bar.
If you’re lucky enough to secure one of the eight seats at the kitchen table in Molecular Tapas Bar, the 14-course tasting menu is a must. Chef Ngan Ping Chow invites gastronauts on a journey of discovery with dishes such as ‘spherified’ onion soup and deconstructed California roll with olive-oil ‘caviar’.
The hotel bar is also worth a stop. It offers guests the chance to sip a cocktail (try the Tokyo G&T) beside a two-storey water feature or enjoy a dram of local whisky with a cigar from the well-stocked humidor.
Things to do
The hotel’s spa provides a health-conscious way to unwind with a massage or a soak in a modern version of a traditional Japanese onsen (bathing suit optional) as you enjoy the views from the 38th floor.
Explore the Nihonbashi neighbourhood on your doorstep with its traditional craft and food shops nestled among the glass-and-concrete monuments to finance.
Walk down the brightly coloured, noisy Takeshita Street, spiritual home of Harajuku girls and kawaii (that particularly Japanese cutesy aesthetic), before decompressing with a visit to the neighbouring design district, home to architectural masterpieces that house marquee stores for brands such as Prada and Comme des Garçons.
Become acquainted with the calm contemplation of Shinto at a shrine such as Meiji Jingu. In spring and autumn, the changing colours of the tree-lined avenues make the shrines even more of a spectacle.
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