All eyes are on Tokyo becoming Asia's next bucket list destination as the city prepares for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The arrival of the Games has spurred a variety of urban developments, including the much-anticipated Kengo Kuma-designed stadium.
The Olympics will only strengthen Japan's growing inbound tourism market, which soared to more than 24 million visitors in 2016 according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. Those seeking curated luxury experiences have plenty to discover amid the soaring skyscrapers and bustling city streets.
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017, recently completed the latest benchmark in a multiphase renovation, positioning the five-star hotel as one of the city's most luxurious properties and bolstering its programming to cater to the most discerning clientele.
Positioned on the top nine floors of Tokyo Midtown (the city's second-tallest building, located in the Roppongi district), the Ritz-Carlton offers soaring, 360-degree views of the sprawling metropolis, but it is the hotel's interior that delivers the ultimate wow factor, both in terms of design and the brand's personalized service.
The hotel's most recent reveal is the redesign of the Modern Japanese suites by Design Studio Spin. Highlights include sukiya-style architecture that draws inspiration from traditional tea ceremonies, Nishijin fabrics from Kyoto and fusuma, floral-painted sliding doors.
The Ritz-Carlton Club Level Lounge has also elevated its offerings with four defined spaces where guests can retreat to enjoy a quiet breakfast, afternoon tea, cocktails, reading or to plan off-site activities with a dedicated concierge.
Though the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo can boast a Michelin star for chef Shintaro Miyazaki's contemporary French fare at Azure 45, to experience the quintessential Japanese dining experience, the omakase (chef's choice) sushi at Hinokizaka is not to be missed. The lacquered sushi counter lit by exquisitely hand-cut glass pendant chandeliers by Toru Horiguchi offers spellbinding city views as meticulously sliced fish is presented in numerous courses. A recent luncheon included more than 10 courses from sweet scallops to prawns, sea bream and ikura (salmon roe).
Sushi and sake go hand in hand, and the Shichiken tasting experience offers diners the opportunity to delve into the brewery, which dates to the mid-18th century. The highlight of the three-sake tasting flight is the signature Junmai Ginjo, an exclusive collaboration between the Ritz-Carlton and Shichiken. The semidry sake is made from rice and water sourced from Japan's southern alps.
Japan has also embraced the booming whisky trend in recent years, as exemplified by the 234-bottle collection at the Bar on the 45th floor. Patrons can taste their way through selections from three Suntory distilleries, including Yamazaki 12 year (medium finish with citrus notes), Hakushu 12 year (fruit forward with a touch of orange peel) and Hibiki 17 year (lots of oak and dried fruit). Aficionados should also inquire about the bar's acquisition of Hibiki's rare 35-year-old limited edition.
Nightly rates begin at $754; see www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/japan/tokyo.
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo’s Modern Japanese suite, which takes design cues from rooms hosting tea ceremonies.
It's best to approach Tokyo with a game plan. Here are highlights to maximize time in this bustling city:
• Culture: Several museums are within easy walking distance of the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, including the Suntory Museum of Art, located in Tokyo Midtown. The 21_21 Design Sight museum offers immersive, interdisciplinary installations that challenge and explore the interplay between design and society. See www.suntory.com/sma and www.2121designsight.jp/en.
• Shopping: The luxury mall is having its moment in Tokyo. Of the major shopping districts, Ginza is at the epicenter for luxury brands with Chuo Dori as its main artery, but look in any direction including up and retailers' neon signs will beckon. The latest mall to open its doors is Ginza Six, a 13-story complex with nearly 250 shops, a rooftop garden and an epic art installation by Japan's famed Yaoi Kusama. To help navigate, the Ritz-Carlton can source a private shopping guide (starting at $30 an hour) to seek out some of Japan's most sought-after designers such as Issey Miyake and Sacai. See www.ginza6.tokyo.
• Dining: Hidden culinary gems exist around every corner, but it takes an insider to help decipher authentic haunts from tourist traps. Arigato Food Tours founder Anne Kyle brings nearly 20 years of experience to her small-group tours, which range from the famed Tsukiji Fish Market and hidden gems of Shimbashi to the street food of Shibuya. Private tours with set itinerary are $350 per couple, while a custom experience from $800 may include a sashimi-making class or a visit with a wagashi dessert master. See https://arigatojapan.co.jp.