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A visit to Tokyo can feel simultaneously like travelling 100 years into the future and 200 years into the past. The city (and Japan in general) is a grand dichotomy of cultural traditions mixed with mind-bending technology. Finding a hotel in this vast expanse can be overwhelming, so we’ve hand-selected some of the best places to stay in Tokyo that showcase Japan’s past, present and future.
When you stay at the Park Hotel, book a room on the 31st floor, where you’ll find 31 rooms hand-painted by 31 artists. Each of these Artist Rooms offers a unique experience, and the bold murals provide an introduction to Japanese culture in their designs, which feature sumo wrestlers, geishas and local flora and fauna. This modern high-rise also has a one-of-a-kind whisky bar with 100 varieties of single malt ready for sipping, in addition to a classic kaiseki restaurant serving the traditional multi-course dinners, with 50 different types of shochu liquor to wash down that Wagyu. For a taste of history, visit the Hamarikyu Gardens next door, once owned by an Edo-period Shogun.
Situated in the uber-posh area of Ginza, this modern boutique makes design-lovers drool. Converted from a newspaper publishing building, the hotel pays homage to Tokyo’s media and entertainment history while giving guests traditional Japanese touches such as providing yukatas (light summer kimonos) to wear in the rooms. A 10-minute walk from the hotel brings you to the Kabuki-za Theatre where you can watch Japanese dance dramas unfold and marvel at the 400-year-old history of the art form. Whisky lovers should make a stop at Bar High Five or imbibe cherry blossom-infused gins at the hotel bar.
The Andaz bucks the prim and proper trends of Tokyo’s hotel industry and provides a laid-back experience with 52-storey views and possibly the most spectacular rooftop bar in the city. Inside, you’ll find nods to Japan’s cultural history in its eight-seat, omakase-style (chef’s selection) sushi joint or the Tavern Grill with snow-aged beef on the menu. An otherworldly spa, meanwhile, provides Japanese-inspired treatments with modern techniques. Nearby, you’ll find more history at the Atago Shrine, built in 1603, and the Zōjō-ji Buddhist Temple, which dates to 1393.
History buffs will discover a lot to love at The Celestine Tokyo Shiba. It’s just south of Shiba Park which houses ancient sites including the Mausoleum of the Tokugawa Shoguns, the Zōjō-ji Temple and the mysterious Shiba Maruyama Kofun, an unknown ancient tomb from the 5th century. Luckily, the hotel provides a useful map of the Edo-period spots for easy navigation. Inside the hotel, you’ll find Komon design touches plus a Japanese-French fusion restaurant which sources produce from the southern region of Kagoshima.
Easily the coolest hotel in Tokyo, TRUNK is a small boutique in Shibuya that goes big on minimalist contemporary design. Everything in the hotel is made from local recycled materials, giving guests and locals something to feel good about while swigging down their world-class cocktails. Behind the hotel is a 130-year-old shrine, which inspired the popular Onden Guardian Dog cocktails. A short walk from TRUNK is the massive Yoyogi Park which houses the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken and opened in 1920.
The highlights of this hotel are its 600-year-old, three-storey pagoda and a 100-year-old traditional tea house, which is designated as a national treasure. Surrounding the history is a 7ha (17-acre) garden that backs up to the Kanda River, and has endless rows of cherry blossom trees that pop every spring. Japanese culture is on full display at Chinzanso, including at Mokushundo, a small restaurant in the garden that serves iron-kettle kaiseki cuisine atop lava rocks from Mount Fuji. The hotel also offers traditional kimono fittings and tea ceremonies to immerse you in the area’s customs.
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn and Hotel Niwa attempts to give guests a feel of these lodgings with a contemporary twist. Rooms are modern in terms of amenities (the rain showers are a nice touch), but the design with shoji screen windows and tatami-mat inspired carpeting is meant to bring you back to a simpler time. For one of the most relaxing dining experiences, check out the Yukuri restaurant set in a Zen garden. Bookworms should take a stroll to nearby Jimbocho, Tokyo’s used bookstore district, where you can peruse more than 150 bookstores for rare finds.
A new take on the classic Tokyo capsule hotel, this iteration entices millennials with free beer, free breakfast, free coffee, and ample meeting and work spaces. Inside the capsules themselves, you can project movies onto the wall from your phone or computer, fully recline the beds and programme an alarm to gradually wake you. Welcome to the future indeed.