A modern classic in Tokyo
278 Rooms / 12 Suites
Leafy green trees, modern skyscrapers and the sparkling waters of the moat circling the Imperial Palace: There are perhaps few more eye-catching urban landscapes than the surroundings of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Palace Hotel Tokyo in the Marunouchi district. An iconic fixture on the city’s luxury hotel scene since it first opened its doors in 1961, the Palace Hotel took the bold step of knocking down the entire building during a three-year redesign and replacing it with a gleaming new 23-story tower that opened in 2012.
Inside the airy main lobby, double-height ceilings, walls of glass, plush carpets and splashes of modern paintings ensure that the ambiance is more grand residence than luxury hotel — no mean feat for an establishment of its size.
Center stage are the surprisingly un-urban views of a perfectly manicured maple tree giving way to the still waters of the Imperial Palace moat, with its resident swans. A second more functional lobby complete with check-in desk and luggage trolleys is discretely located around the corner.
Hints of its historic past remain throughout the hotel — from the original white grand piano in the Lobby Lounge to the aji stone walls echoing the Imperial Palace stonemasonry at the entrance.
Spacious and light with clean-lined, contemporary fixtures, the rooms have been designed in a natural palette of whites, greens and woods. Testimony to the Tokyo hotel’s Japanese roots, the glass-walled white bathrooms come with 300-thread-count Imabari towels and you can sip Maruyama Nori green tea in Mashiko ceramics. Of course, you’ll also find the requisite tech amenities, such as Blu-ray and DVD players, international power outlets, VoIP telephones, and LCD televisions in the bathroom, bedroom and living areas. Best of all? More than half have spacious balconies, complete with stylish wooden tables and chairs — a luxurious rarity in the city’s hotel scene. South-facing rooms offer dynamic views across the Imperial gardens and the rooftop of the emperor’s palace with a silhouette of futuristic skyscrapers lining the horizon.
Carefully scattered throughout the hotel are no fewer than 10 restaurants and bars. The six floor’s iconic Crown restaurant is a glamorous French affair serving contemporary culinary creations that date back to the original hotel’s 1960s heyday (the new restaurant was built at the same height as the original to capture identical vistas). Expect delicious jewels like roasted lobster tail and claws with saffron, pureed porcini, a macadamia nut spinach salad, matsutake mushroom chips and a shiraz sauce.
Other highlights include Wadakura, an atmospheric network of Japanese establishments — including Sushi Kanesaka, an intimate sushi restaurant run by star chef Shinji Kanesaka, as well as Tatsumi, a temple to tempura, where you can indulge in soba, sakura and seaweed “salt tastings.” In the spaces, contemporary design touches are rooted in traditional Japanese crafts, from the earthy plasterwork on the walls and woven copper ceilings to the sound of water flowing down a stone wall.
Back on the first floor, afternoon teas adorned with seasonal leaves and flavors are served in traditional tiered jyubako lacquer boxes in the Palace Lounge, while next door, the bustling Grand Kitchen rustles up hearty morning meals, like the Japanese Breakfast with grilled fish, toasted nori, congee (porridge), a seasonal vegetable ragout and more. Tip: The best seats are on the terrace overlooking the moat.
After dark, the hotel’s legendary martinis are expertly mixed in the dimly lit Royal Bar, a plush enclave of dark woods, leather and velvet.
The Palace Hotel debuted Japan’s first Evian Spa in 2012. Set on the fifth floor next to the fitness center (with Under Armour gym clothes on loan and great views of the palace gardens, there’s no excuse to skip a workout) and 65-foot-long pool, the spa offers five treatment rooms and a suite, reclining baths, cold plunge pools and a cedar-scented marble sauna with LED light therapy that mimics the light cycle in the French Alps. While you’d expect the well-known water company’s French Alps theme to permeate the spa, you’ll see Japanese touches like an origami ceiling installation that resembles a swarm of birds. And the Vitalizing Signature — acupressure energizes you and then a deep-tissue massage balances — is an Eastern treatment unique to the Tokyo spa.