Imperial Hotel: Traditional service in the heart of Tokyo

The lobby of Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, which features architectural touches from Frank Lloyd Wright.
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It seems that there's a little bit of history around every corner in Tokyo's iconic Imperial Hotel


There are the architectural touches of Frank Lloyd Wright, who redesigned the hotel in the 1920s, found throughout the building. And then there are photos of the celebrities and historic figures who have stayed at the hotel over the years, including Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller and the honeymooning Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.

And while the Imperial is something of a living museum, it is also a luxury hotel that continues to provide unparalleled service to its guests. The staff takes great pride in living up to the Japanese tradition of omotenashi, roughly translated as selfless hospitality. Most visitors probably won't even notice that the pink rosebuds in every elevator are replaced with fresh buds several times a day or that the front- door attendants make sure their gloves stay pure white by changing them every half-hour.

The hotel comprises 931 units, ranging from the standard rooms to the exclusive Frank Lloyd Wright suite with furniture inspired by Wright's designs. The main building contains 570 rooms, while the remainder are in the connecting tower, which recently had its top two floors redecorated.

As a guest of the hotel on a recent trip, I stayed in a deluxe room on one of the Imperial floors in the main building, where kimono-clad attendants are stationed near the elevator, acting as personal concierges for the guests. My 450-square-foot room had great views of Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace and a luxurious king-size bed.

The hotel features 16 restaurants, four bars and lounges, 26 banquet halls, two chapels, one Shinto shrine and a traditional tea room, making it a city within the city. There are also about 100 shops located in the lower-level arcade and the tower plaza and a gym and indoor pool located in the tower.

With so many options, it would be easy to spend a weekend trying out the different restaurants and exploring the various shops without leaving the hotel.

But most guests are going to want to get out and explore the city, and as the Imperial is set in the heart of Tokyo, it's the perfect base from which to do that.

I started the first day of my trip with a run around the neighboring Imperial Palace. The palace retains the feel of the castle that originally occupied this spot, complete with moats and immense stone walls.

After spending a day out in the bright lights and crowds of Tokyo, the hotel's main bar, the Old Imperial, is a cozy spot to relax with a cocktail.

Featuring a number of Frank Lloyd Wright designs as well as Oya stone and the terra-cotta walls used in the original building, it's easy to feel like you're back in the 1920s.

Rates begin at about $370. For more information, visit www.imperialhotel.co.jp.

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