What is more inviting, relaxing and sumptuous than a nice hotel stay? For this wanderlusting babe, absolutely nothing. Since I was just a wee little frequent flyer, staying in hotels has always been a tremendous treat for me. I’ve always loved – and still do – the ritual and practice of all things hospitality… the service, the smells, the crisp linens, the tiny toiletries, discovering a soaking tub in a well-appointed bathroom, all of it. When my teachers would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would reply with “somebody who lives in a hotel.”
Hilarious, indeed. However, (and quite luckily), this little blog life at times gets me close. It’s these experiences that I truly relish and particularly so when I have the opportunity to stay somewhere like The Imperial Hotel Tokyo. A hospitality locale steeped in such a deep and rich history, it is pretty swoon-worthy to take it all in.
You’ll typically choose a hotel based on a great location, fine dining, amazing decor, a specific price point, or a few of those factors combined. The Imperial Hotel is a unique master of all trades in ticking every one of those boxes, and then some. Rarely have I ever stayed in a hotel that was an attraction in itself. But this hotel exceeds expectations and I was able to spend a full day exploring, enriching and engorging Tokyo’s vast history without ever leaving the property.
Although the property itself dates back to the late 1800’s, when Japanese aristocracy wanted to cater to Western travelers, it was this particular rendering of the hotel from its Frank Lloyd Wright era that completely floored me. Wright fully redesigned the Imperial in 1922 in the grand craftsman fashion as seen above, and was a true architectural masterpiece. Discovering Wright’s ties to Japan was fascinating, I had known so little about his time there and being able to see so much of his legacy in Tokyo was just brilliant. Living in Chicago currently, where Wright’s architecture is so predominant in the surrounding areas, this was an odd touch of home in Tokyo that I did not expect to find.
The Imperial Hotel Tokyo has since had to redesign the hotel again due to damage caused by earthquakes and fire, but much of the Wright décor, furnishings, and original artifacts of the time are thoughtfully preserved and still in use today. A particularly stunning homage to Wright can be found in the Frank Lloyd Wright suite (available only to very special guests). Wink.
Afternoon tea with our lovely nakai-san (or, room attendants) was a highlight in the Wright suite. These ladies have such fine attention to detail and ensure you have everything you need during your stay; from fresh fruit in your room, to a beautiful display of origami, to dinner reservations, and depositing small gifts daily, they provide service at the highest caliber. Prepare to be impressed.
If an extended tea service is more to your liking, The Imperial Hotel Tokyo has you covered there, too. The “Toko-An” traditional tea ceremony room is open to all guests (reservations required) and allows you the experience of a traditional ceremony replete with tea masters, light snacks and a true history of tea and its symbolism. I can not highly recommend this enough — if you visit The Imperial, it’s a do not miss.
Of course, there are those of you – very much like myself – with a heartier appetite. The thirteen restaurants and three bars and lounges in The Imperial Hotel Tokyo will be instrumental in quelling all or your dining and imbibing needs. The restaurants at The Imperial are stylish and dapper, with service that aims to please, and menus prepared to arouse and excite. I barely scratched the surface during my visit, hitting up only four of these delectable spots, but what I had was so very dreamy. From perfectly executed omelettes at Les Saison, to a full kaiseki lunch at Isecho, and hand-poured drinks in the famed Old Imperial Bar, every morsel was perfectly executed with taste and precision.
The kaiseki lunch was certainly the standout of the bunch. Boasting an 8-course traditional Japanese menu that rotates seasonally, it’s as close as you’ll come to what feasting on a celebratory meal in the home of a real Japanese family must be like. Imagine kicking off the meal with appetizers of peanut cake, seasonal vegetables, pumpkin potage and roasted chestnuts and then segueing into a rich, custardy chawanmushi and a tempura course, and that’s all before the soup has even been served. Accompanying dishes of cold snow crab, buttery scallops, smokey grilled rockfish and a platter of fresh sushi had me weak in the knees — and feeling insanely full. This lunch could’ve easily been my swan song.
My day of exploring was capped off with visits to The Imperial Hotel wedding shrine, grand hall and banquet facilities. Not that I need an excuse to party.
From just this one visit, I’ve become completely enamored and exceedingly fond of this historic, proud, impressive place… to call it a hotel is a doing it a major disservice. It’s a destination, and one that beckons many returns and return I shall. Please keep the Wright suite warm, Imperial, I’ll see you very soon. Arigato!