Danielle Demetriou checks into one of Tokyo's classic hotels, recently remodelled.
Hotel Insider: the Palace Hotel, Tokyo
With its airy, double-height ceilings, bold modern art, and glass walls framing the Imperial Palace moat, the ambience upon entering the hotel's main atrium is more opulent country club than inner-city hotel. A second, more functional lobby, with a check-in desk and luggage trolleys, is hidden around the corner. Despite its history - it's been a stalwart on Tokyo's luxury hotel scene for nearly half a century - the new tower is luxuriously modern (the old building was knocked down and rebuilt during a recent three-year closure).
There are few more prime locations than the upmarket business hub Marunouchi, which is both central and peaceful. The hotel sits opposite the Imperial Palace, which includes the main palace, a museum and the imperial family's private residence (its green roof can be spied from the upper levels of the hotel).
Clean-lined and roomy, the 290 rooms are designed in a palette of cream, white and green. My deluxe room with balcony has an open-plan bathroom, making it spacious. High-quality Japanese touches include 300 thread-count Imabari bed linen, towels from Ehime prefecture and Maruyana Nori green tea. The obligatory high-tech gadgets are all present, from the multi-button toilet to the enormous LCD TV. Best of all, however, is not the view (as is often the case in Tokyo's luxury hotels) but the fact that more than half of the rooms have balconies - a rarity in the city. Ask for a south-facing room looking across the Imperial Palace.
Impeccable in a hushed and discreet "please-let-me-bend-over-backwards" kind of way. Despite being heavily pregnant during my visit, the staff didn't bat an eyelid when I waddled into the fitness centre for a swim in the pool. I was also politely guided to my destination whenever I took a wrong turn - which happened several times as I snooped around the vast, labyrinthine interior.
It changes, depending on where you find yourself in the hotel. Well-dressed women tuck into afternoon tea served in tiered jubako boxes in the Palace Lounge on the ground floor. Up on the sixth floor, business people gather at the dimly lit Lounge Privé. But the most atmospheric spot is the Royal Bar, an intimate old-school affair with classic drinks and cigars on the menu after dark.
Home to no less than 10 restaurants and bars, the tricky part is deciding which to choose. Highlights range from the hotel's original French restaurant Crown, which first opened in 1964, to Amber Palace, serving Chinese delicacies. A favourite is Wadakura, a network of Japanese eateries on the sixth floor, including the tiny six-seat tempura bar Tatsumi, with its seaweed, sakura and soba-flavoured "salt tastings"; and a sushi bar run by the Michelin-starred chef Shinji Kanesaka.
An Alpine-themed spa in the heart of Tokyo may sound incongruous but the minimalist evian SPA (the first such themed spa in Japan) works quite well, from the origami-inspired ceiling installations to its Japanese-inspired, trigger-point body treatment (16,000 yen [Dh630]) for 50 minutes. On a surreal note, the wedding facilities - reflecting the nation's booming wedding industry - include an enchanting white chapel and an austere red Shinto shrine.
The queue for Sunday breakfast at the Grand Kitchen was patience-testing but worth the wait, from the fresh breads to the outdoor tables overlooking the moat.
Modern and luxurious with the right amount of history and design touches, plus an enviable location. A refreshing addition to Tokyo's luxury hotel scene.
The bottom line
Double rooms cost from 58,150 yen (Dh2,270) per night, including taxes. Palace Hotel Tokyo, 1-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (en.palacehoteltokyo.com; 00 81 3 3211 5211)
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