From the moment I arrived at the 38th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo and entered its breath-taking double height Sky Lobby, I just knew that this would be an unforgettable hotel stay, writes Andrew Forbes.
This landmark hotel, in the Cesar Pelli designed skyscraper, is an exclusive, vertical urban resort. It has world-class dining, including the Michelin star Tapas Molecular Bar and the exquisite Sushi Sora Edo-mae style sushi; a Spa in the Sky with serene treatments; guestrooms with classic Japanese details such elegant Yukata gowns, and luxurious amenities; and of course, the signature MO attention to detail and service.
Tokyo is undoubtedly one of the world’s great mega-cities and from the exclusive and privileged perspective of the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo’s lobby one can begin to comprehend the magnitude of the almost endless cityscape stretches out to the far horizon.
To the west I could see the Imperial Palace Gardens, and Mount Fuji in the distance. To the east, the Tokyo Skytree dominating an urban skyline that is bigger than anything I have seen before in my life.
Even the bathrooms have great views!
The Mandarin Oriental Tokyo occupies the higher floors of the sleek Mitsui skyscraper, found in the chic and exclusive Nihonbashi district near Ginza, close to the area’s landmark Mitsukoshi department store, and the Nihonbashi ‘Bridge of Japan’ which was historically considered the km 0 of Tokyo.
The hotel echoes Japan’s fascination with nature. It has been interior-designed by Reiko Sudo who has presented the tower as a tree, a place of shelter and community, bringing the notion of nature into this elegantly and refined built environment.
…from the sky lobby the elite facilities of this hotel branch out
The ground floor entrance has richly textured design motifs, fabrics and wall coverings, that combine to inspire thoughts of tree roots. As one takes the high-speed lift to the sky lobby on the 38th floor, one arrives as if in the tree’s canopy, from where the elite facilities of this hotel branch out to the main public spaces on the 37th and 38th floors. These include the stylish bars and eateries such as the innovative ‘Tapas Molecular Bar’; the award-winning ‘Sushi Sora’ authentic sushi counter restaurant; and the Michelin star ‘Sense’ offering Cantonese cuisine.
On the 37th floor there is also an exquisite wellness area, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo which has spacious treatment suites with floor to ceiling windows offering skyline views, and innovative signature therapies.
The Mandarin Oriental Tokyo has become, over the last decade and more, part of the city’s elite dining culture. Not only popular with visitors, business travellers and MO ‘fans’, the hotel is a favourite with locals thanks to its diverse dining offering.
…try the hotel’s signature cocktail, the aptly named ‘Nihonbashi’
The hotel’s 37th & 38th floors are dedicated to eating and drinking well, with a concentration of exceptional restaurants and bars, branching off from the lobby on 38, and from the central Mandarin Bar on 37 (where by the way you should try the hotel’s signature cocktail, the aptly named ‘Nihonbashi’).
Sushi Sora – Edo-mae style sushi
Sitting at the beautiful counter of Sushi Sora was one of the highlights of my stay at the MO Tokyo. As one of the privileged eight lunch guests in this intimate restaurant, which offers stunning city views (Sora means sky in Japanese) is to witness the artistry of traditional ‘Edo-mae’ sushi chefs. Dexterity, precision and grace define the work of Yuji Imaizuma & his team. Delicate dishes of seasonal fish are served at the polished sushi counter made from a single piece of 350-year-old Japanese cypress – a place where tradition and modernity meet.
Dexterity, precision and grace
My lunch was prepared by Mitsura Hoja, sous-chef at the restaurant – it was mesmerising to see him work with such skill.
Here is an image I captured on my iPhone of Mitsura Hoja finishing a presentation with a little wasabi paste. The dish included slices of glistening mackerel which lie beside a piece of pen shell clam, halibut and giant clam, with white radish and flowering mint.
My meal was even more memorable thanks to the award-winning, bi-lingual sake sommelier who introduced me to some extraordinarily subtle and refreshing sakes, each served in different types of glasses, that were perfectly paired with the almost endless selection of dishes.
Sense – Cantonese Dining
Japan historically was quite isolated, but through trade was influenced by neighbouring China. Cantonese cuisine is popular in the city, and at Sense one can enjoy contemporary interpretations. Sense, by the way, means ‘fan’ in Japanese, so a fun double meaning for the MO.
Lunch here was a pleasure; I loved the simplicity and sophistication of the presentation of both the restaurant and the dishes, such as classic dumplings served in bamboo steamer baskets.
The restaurant’s interior design is by Ryu Kosaka and includes many details exceptional, such as the Murano glass lights – and the views, well they are stunning.
Italian to French
The MO Tokyo probably has more eateries than any other MO property in the world, and they are standout.
There’s private dining at The Cellar; gourmet snacks at The Mandarin Bar; family-friendly Mediterranean fare downstairs in the lofty Verntaglio; Italian favourites at the informal Pizza bar on 38th or the stylish K’shiki; or high-end French fine-dining at Signature.
The hotel also boasts Michelin starred dining. Take a seat at the Tapas Molecular Bar, within the Oriental Lounge on the 38th floor, and you’ll be one of just eight diners per seating to experience the restaurant’s outstanding 2-hour menu of innovative tapas of bite-sized dishes served in the traditional sushi bar style.
This is can be enjoyed in western style on the 38th floor; or, one can partake in a traditional Japanese breakfast, as I did, in the neighbouring Mandarin Lounge.
There are 157 guest rooms and 22 suites at the MO Tokyo. My Mandarin Grand room on the 36th floor had a splendid view over the city district of Shinjuku, looking towards Mt. Fuji.
Sometimes, world-class hotel brands can make guest rooms look pretty much the same across the planet. Here though, there is a very strong sense of the hotel’s Asian provenance.
The welcome amenity included pristine grapes, from Osaka. Here in Tokyo, home grown, perfect fruit is the ultimate luxury. For example, whilst in Tokyo I found a boutique that was selling ‘perfect’ fruit, including melons for 260 euro each! Very Japanese!
Also at the foot of the bed, in polished lacquered boxes are his & hers fine-cotton Yukatas with belts; whilst at turndown calming essential oil was left out in a dish.
There was also an air purifier (popular fixture in Japanese city life); and other smart details such as a house-keeping closet that opened from the inside and outside, allowing for laundry to be collected and left; newspapers delivered and shoe shine facilitated, all without casually being disturbed in the room.
…an exclusive selection of amenities and grooming products
The bathroom, as one might expect in a MO property was spa-like and impressive, with an exclusive selection of amenities and grooming products.
The 37th Spa in the Sky has the most luxuriously appointed spa suites I had experienced. I enjoyed a two-hour Kiatsu treatment, provided on a double futon on the floor of the suite – I think I might have fallen asleep!
Spa Manager Sara Godnor and her team were welcoming and friendly. Before my treatment I was shown to the men’s dressing area which has a water circuit, all with exceptional views.
The fitness area is above on the 38th. However, unlike some other 5-star hotels in the city, the MO Tokyo does not offer guests a swimming pool.
Of course, the defining element of any hospitality experience is how the team make you feel. MO has a company has made excellence in service the mainstay of its hospitality offering. The MO Tokyo is no exception. The property is over 10 years old and as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approach more 5-star luxury properties are opening in the city. Yet the MO Tokyo remains as popular as ever, since the team are exceptional. Admittedly the service can sometimes feel a little over-attentive, as the staff are trained to keep a hawk’s eye on guests in order to anticipate needs. So, if you prefer a more relaxed tone to hospitality, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. Yet in my experience, from front desk, to concierge, housekeeping to dining, the staff is consistent, elegant, helpful and of course, in Japan, extremely polite.
Small gestures made all the difference – for example I wanted to go out an explore on my own, and public transport, not a chauffeur driven car. So, concierge prepared an itinerary for me, with ideas of places to visit, and gave me a preloaded digital transport card so I could hop on and off the metro or take taxis.
I’ve stayed at MO properties in HK, Singapore, London and BCN and the MO Tokyo was completely on point.
Address: 2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-8328, Japan
Tel: +81 (3) 3270 8800