The definitive first-time Tokyo traveller’s saviour, The Peninsula Tokyo not only has some of this city’s largest, most elegant hotel rooms and suites, its legendary concierge service delivers the virtual ‘keys to the city’.
Japan’s cultural saving grace – and the tourist’s greatest challenge – is that it is a world unto its own. Put simply, if you’re only stopping in Tokyo for a few days, or even a few weeks, kickstarting your stay at The Peninsula will be the difference between experiencing a delightful taste of this city’s vast cultural riches and futilely attempting to negotiate the uncompromising labyrinth of Japanese procedures, protocols and practices.
In the days prior to departure, I have to admit to a sudden urge to re-route our trip altogether. An earthquake had struck just north of Tokyo the weekend before our departure, and countless hours spent unearthing attractions to give us a taste of Tokyo old and new had come to nought; addresses and opening hours were all available in English, but when it came to booking a visit, the forms were all in Japanese. I had run out of time – and patience – and we were now due to spend three days in Tokyo with an inevitably jet lagged toddler and nothing to fill our days!
Admittedly, the fact we were staying at The Peninsula meant we could opt to ‘get to know’ the incredible facilities, including the spa’s nine treatment rooms, thermal suite and shaved ice fountains and the fitness centre’s gym and 20-metre swimming pool. But the thought of being in a country as culturally rich as Japan and hibernating in a hotel (even of such glorious calibre) seemed nothing short of a Tourism Fail Card.
So, when I mentioned to The Peninsula’s concierge, upon arrival, that we would have loved to visit the Ghibli Museum, see one of Japan’s legendary martial arts in action, and that our toddler was currently enamoured of robots, it was mostly to regale her with the tale of my failure in the face of Japanese protocol. By 6pm that evening we were all set for an afternoon slot at the Ghibli Museum the following day, had a map drawn up for our walk to Tsukiji Fish Markets first thing in the morning, had options for karate, aikido and sumo demonstrations, and were holding a detailed travel plan for getting to The Museum of Science and Emerging Innovation in time for the daily Asimo robot demonstrations. So yes, even if you’d usually baulk at a luxury hotel, make an exception in Tokyo – it will save you time, anguish, arguments and (believe it or not) even money!
Suddenly we’d gone from being lost in translation to fully immersed in Tokyo’s cultural riches. Why had I wasted all those weeks trying – and failing – to make head or tails of the uniquely Japanese systems when I had the Peninsula’s fairy godmother-style concierge to hand?
As for rooms – upon introduction to our Deluxe Park View King Room, Oliver declared the massive ‘soaking’ bathtub a “swimming pool” (ideal, as we weren’t keen on letting him know he was two years’ short of the minimum age for the hotel’s pool), and stated with a wise nod of his head that he was “home”. Indeed, in a city where the average ‘dwelling’ is around 66.8 square metres, the Peninsula’s minimum 51-square-metre rooms (for a Superior Room) mean it is pretty close to home size – at least for the locals. In our 54-square-metre Deluxe Park View King Room, there was not only the spacious bedroom-cum-living room complete with dining table, a 42-inch television and dedicated work desk, but also a separate dressing room (complete with nail dryer) where we spread out our luggage, and a granite and cherry wood bathroom – which, by itself, was larger than rooms in other hotels. Other touches that made all the difference for a jet lagged family were blackout blinds; a DVD player and 5.1 speaker system; the crucial 24-hour room service – which saved us on at least one night when a wakeful, hungry two-year-old would settle for nothing less than fish and chips.
However, what really locked the Peninsula in as a lifetime favourite for Oliver was when the hotel’s Rolls-Royce limousine pulled up outside the hotel to whisk us away on his Toy Shop Wonderland tour – one of the brilliant Peninsula Academy options for children. Admittedly, the toy shop in question is an easy enough 15-minute walk around the corner, but watching Oliver’s eyes widen (not to mention my husband’s) as we rode in the custom-fit interior of this motoring classic, was definitely a brilliant part of our Tokyo travels. Upon arrival at Hakuhinkan, the toy shop wonderland destination, we were happily guided through the five floors of playtime paradise to a selection of true Japanese classics, versus mere tourist traps, and soon had a bijou collection ready to transport back to our Tokyo ‘home’.
Design Architect Kazukiyo Sato’s design envisioned the hotel as a traditional Japanese lantern, drawing local and international guests to experience Japan’s seasons. The concave chandelier in the Lobby resembles a cloud of hanabi (fireworks) or hotaru (fireflies), while the pine needle pattern in the carpet links the space to the pines of the Imperial Gardens beyond. The bamboo sculpture taking pride of place in the Lobby is by Japanese designer Keisen Hama and represents a dragon – a Chinese symbol of strength, harmony and good luck. Designer Yukio Hashimoto’s room interiors feature red Japanese lacquer, cherry wood and horse chestnut wood for the spectacular sliding door, while the metal room number panels beside each door have backlights shining through washi paper panels. Granite and cherry wood bathrooms are designed to deliver an onsen Japanese hot spring ambience with large soaking tub and stone faucet. The void – a space that sits alongside the elevators and behind the Lobby – was destined to sit vacant and empty but has instead been turned into a haunting sculptural landscape at the heart of the hotel.
Rooms There are 267 Rooms (from 51 to 63 square metres); and 47 Suites (from 81 square metres). All rooms have bathtub; blackout screens; dressing area; work desk; sofa and coffee table; 42-inch plasma television, DVD and 5.1 speaker stereo; complimentary wi-fi; fax machine with private number; and 24-hour room service. Guests staying in suites are also offered complimentary use of chauffeur-driven Mini Coopers for up to three hours within a 10km radius of the hotel between 10.30 and 19.30.
Eating The hotel hosts five restaurants – including the Michelin star Peter rooftop restaurant with spectacular 360 degree views across Tokyo and the Imperial Palace Gardens. The Lobby is where breakfast is served, and Room Service is available 24 hours a day. The hotel’s location means that there are also plenty of options within a short walk of the hotel.
Facilities The stunning swimming pool is located on the 5th floor, and is open to all guests ages 4 and up. From here there are stunning views over the Imperial Gardens, while the oval shape of the ceiling resembles the moon when reflected in the water, and stepping stones linking the pool and Jacuzzi further echo principles of Japanese design.