If there’s one thing Tokyo doesn’t lack, it’s hotels. From traditional ryokans to contemporary high rises, the city’s offerings span all styles — as well as every major international hotel brand — all unified by world-renowned Japanese hospitality and consistently high prices.
At first glance, the arrival of the uniquely named Prince Gallery Kioicho in 2016 appeared to be just another addition to the city’s crowded hotel landscape. Its defining features read like a checklist for all modern Tokyo boltholes: high-rise, mixed use building, double height atrium lobby, unrivalled views, etc. Yet somehow, Prince Gallery manages to eschew that all too familiar feeling of sterility that usually accompanies such properties (especially those developed by the big name groups — Starwood’s luxury arm, The Luxury Collection, is behind this one). Instead, not only do guests here receive a concentrated version of the country’s famed hospitality but the exceptional service is matched by an unmitigated attention to detail. For example, on arrival a team descended on us with flannels in hand to dry our suitcases, which were wet from the rain outside. First impressions, indeed.
The monotony that also accompanies large hotels is also snuffed out by Prince Gallery’s presence in the Tokyo Garden Terrace, a new mixed-used building which houses offices, shops and a surprisingly good selection of restaurants. Two hundred and fifty guestrooms occupy the top seven floors, each one framed by impressive panoramas, surely now a litmus test for every new high rise, especially here in Tokyo. From the glittering lights of the city’s many illuminated windows, lanterns and headlights at night to Mount Fuji on a clear day, the hotel’s views take it all in thanks to its sky-scraping heights.
In truth this is a business hotel. The area, described by a local as the Tokyo equivalent to Westminster, teems with suits and there is not a Harajuku girl in sight. Yet this is far from the soulless monolith depicted in your favourite Sofia Coppola movie. Designed by The Rockwell Group, each space in Prince Gallery is infused with an ethereal aesthetic and frequent references to nature and levitation abound, no doubt inspired by the building’s large scale and its proximity to traditional Japanese gardens. Guestrooms come with all the modern amenities one would expect from a luxury Japanese hotel. A toilet with a dozen buttons provides hours of fun, while expansive bathrooms offer guests a traditional Japanese bathing experience, complete with stools in the walk-in showers for a comfortable pre-bath rinse (the same rituals can be experienced on a grander scale at the multifaceted top floor spa).
Elsewhere, in a nod to the hotel’s ‘gallery’ moniker, art by up-and-coming Japanese artists lines the walls. The climax is a kaleidoscopic glass waterfall installation by Japanese artist Mari Noguchi, which provides a stunning backdrop to the hotel’s bar and at night emits a soft undulating glow. The nature theme continues at Washoku Souten, one of three restaurants, where water and ice are brought to life via crystalline transparent sake cellars and opaque teppanyaki griddle and sushi counters.
Then there are the small touches, which anywhere else in the world would seem anal, pretentious even, but in Tokyo they somehow seem just right. Plinths to rest your bag on at the check-in desk, lest you get your Chanel dirty on the floor. Bathroom doors that sense motion and automatically open as you approach. And how could you forget the elaborate fruit baskets — with grapes the size of baby’s fists — replenished in rooms every night for turndown. They’re superfluous and entirely unnecessary, but are they welcome? Absolutely. That’s the beauty of staying at a property like Prince Gallery in a city like Tokyo — there’s no rush to leave because even in a great metropolis like this, staying in is almost as attractive as going out.
Prince Gallery, Tokyo. 1-2 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: +81 33 234 1111. Doubles start from JPY48,514 per night. For more information, including details of other properties in the portfolio, visit www.princehotels.com.