We looked up at what is the narrow end of a 34-floor wedge-shaped building, deliberately designed by architect Kazukiyo Sato to resemble a folded lantern. Inside, it was more like a two-floor, circular café – a very upmarket café – than a hotel. Walls were composed of ceiling high wood slats, with six-inch gaps between, and, diagonally ahead left and right as you enter, upper level cantilevered platforms where live musicians perform in the evenings. Overhead hangs a chandelier with a difference, formed of 1,313 hanging stainless rods with fiber optic lights at the base. Beyond this is a 12-ft wide stylized dragon formed of bamboo lengths turned inside out, by artist Keisen Hama.
At all times of day this café is choc a bloc. Apparently some start standing in line at noon for afternoon tea, which runs from 2.30-5. Others arrive for lunch, and carry on until five pm. At times the waiting line extends up a wide curving staircase out of sight at the right rear of the area (at least they can look into the glittering shop windows of jewelers Chantecler, de Grisogono and Graff, all making their entry into the lucrative Tokyo market).
Guests of the 314-room walk through this hive of activity, to the reception area, half out of sight at the left rear. The desk is manned by the chic-est of chic young women in covetable black suits with casual cream shirts and pearls (all uniforms are by Satoshi Tanaka). Behind the desk is a ten foot-high recessed artwork, a clay composition, with 70 layers of different colors, which apparently is in Hamchiku style, by Shuhei Hasado. Brightly colored ceramic pots stand near the four elevators.
We are in 2201, the 3,000 sq ft Hibiya Suite. Its California King bed, made up with cream Frette linens, faces right out, through all-wall windows towards the Imperial Palace gardens. We have a gym, with LifeFitness elliptical and upright bikes and full weights, an office, and a separate ten-seat dining room. There is a Yamaha grand piano. The bathroom has its oval tub with a flat-screen – one of many in the suite – set into a wall formed of alternating horizontal layers of polished and unpolished grey and white granite. There are Davi vine-inspired toiletries, a safe, and multi-sockets. There are longer and shorter towel robes and a pair of cotton yukata robes. There is also a miniature electric drier set into a table in the dressing room – for drying fingernails: Peninsula technology gurus have also put in bedside control panels that light up if you so much as touch the bedside table in the night, and the Peninsula group’s signature cat-flap, for mail and newspaper delivery, has a lock on it, from both room and corridor sides.
Peninsula has invested in the best, throughout. The smallest of the 314 rooms is 525 sq ft, the spa has a 65 foot indoor pool, with a giant real-time seconds timing clock one end, and an actual clock at the other, and as you swim you admire four giant Dedon planters bearing palm trees, and an array of green bamboo flowers in one corner. And overhead you have a recessed oval in the ceiling, and the oval is itself divided by self-colored curves, with magnificent lighting that says, in such a Japanese way, this is simple art. But throughout the whole hotel, indeed, the feeling is massively sensual. At the basement-level base of the public stairwell is a rippled garden of which sand and pebbles, which is echoed in the self-colored dunes in the ceiling outside the Cantonese restaurant: the Hibiya suite has subtly-lit recessed ceiling panels – the dining room’s is woven wood, the same cream hue as the ceiling surround.