Tokyo's newest hotel blends modern minimalism with boutique luxury.
In Tokyo, having the word "hills" in an address is the ultimate in prestige.
It all began with Roppongi Hills, a complex built in 2003 incorporating a 54-storey skyscraper, commercial office space, a residential tower, the Grand Hyatt Hotel, restaurants, a shopping mall, a TV studio, art museum and parkland. Embraced by locals and visitors alike, this "city within a city" came to represent Tokyo's future, where business mixed seamlessly with pleasure, and where art and culture are presented with panoramic views of the city.
Eleven years later, another "hills" development dominates the Tokyo skyline: Toranomon Hills, straddling a new arterial road connecting Shinbashi and the old Edo district of Toranomon. Opened in June this year, it's officially the city's second-highest tower at 257 metres, and touted as the place to work, live, shop, dine and stay.
Claiming the prize of the top six floors is Tokyo's newest hotel, Andaz. As part of Hyatt's growing portfolio in Tokyo, this boutique, minimalist eyrie scores a triple whammy when it comes to local appeal: popular hotel branding, incredible views and proximity to two beloved icons - the vast gardens of the Imperial Palace, and Tokyo Tower, twinkling at close range in all its red-and-white retro glory.
As just the 12th Andaz globally, however, most locals are still unfamiliar with the name, which means "personal style" in Hindi. My taxi driver certainly is, looking at me blankly as I hand him a slip of paper written in Japanese script. "What is the address?" he asks, confounded.
"Toranomon Hills." Ah, instant recognition. Everyone know this new landmark, it seems.
After the cab drops me at an unimposing ground floor entrance, I am greeted not by a bellboy, but by an Andaz "host", who politely wheels my suitcase through automatic doors and into a private lift. My ears pop as we rocket 51 stories through space in just 14 seconds, emerging into a cavernous, art-filled lobby humming with pre-dinner preparations and the tinkle of piano ivories.
Something is missing, however. There is no check-in desk, no reception or concierge; instead, my host escorts me into a guest lounge to personally take me through the arrival formalities over a welcome drink and snack. This is all part of Andaz's philosophy - to remove barriers and scripts, to make the stay as personal as possible, and for guests to "arrive a visitor, leave a local".
The host then accompanies me to my room, located on the 50th floor. The lift doors open to reveal long and silent corridors, totally zen with handmade washi paper panels resembling the pure, furniture-free spaces of traditional Japanese ryokans.
The indigenous theme continues in my room, with partition-designed white walls and tactile, live-edged wooden furnishings. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame views to the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Skytree, a broadcasting tower piercing the distant horizon, with a long banquette providing a comfortable viewing platform.
Behind ingenious folding doors - once again harking back to traditional design - is a divided bathroom, featuring a rain shower and a blissfully deep, round tub, inspired by Japanese bath culture. And of course, in true Nippon fashion, even the toilet is a work of art, with bells and whistles to wash, spray and dry the nether regions.
As simplistic as the interior design is, it's the details that impress: an exquisite wooden amenities holder, neatly packaged like a bento box; a Nespresso coffee machine, pods hidden in a blue and cream mini-bar alongside complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and snacks; and a cotton yukata, or dressing gown, a charming feature of traditional Japanese accommodation.
Back on the 51st floor, it's Happy Hour, and I join other guests in the lounge for wine and nibblies, provided free of charge between 6 and 8pm. Once again, attention is lavished on me by a host, who helps me plan my evening entertainment with local dining suggestions. The Toranomon tower alone has more than 15 restaurants, including an udon bar, sushi restaurant, tapas bar and a cafe overlooking green space where jazz musicians regularly perform. After a week on the road in rural Japan, however, I'm in need of comfort food, and settle for a terriyaki chicken burger, French fries and draft beer at BeBu, a ground-floor eatery operated by Andaz. Like Andaz Tavern, the signature restaurant on the 51st floor, BeBu sources seasonal, locally-grown ingredients, presented with a wholesome, western twist.
Andaz's crowning glory is its Rooftop Bar, a modern take on a traditional Japanese tea house. Although technically under cover, the slatted roof allows fresh air to flow through the cathedral-like terrace, while there are more intimate seating areas indoors, with cocoon-like rattan furniture. It goes without saying that drinks here are not cheap; but the fruit tea-infused, sake-based cocktails are divinely decadent and so very Japanese in their presentation.
And then there is that view, with Tokyo Tower flashing cheekily in the foreground and the twinkle of lights over Tokyo Bay. A mesmerising sight from the top of the hills.
The writer was a guest of Andaz Toranomon Hills, Tokyo.
Andaz Toranomon Hills, Minato-ku, Tokyo. An Andaz King room starts from JPY50,000 (around $A510) plus tax for two people, with an Advance Purchase rate of JPY42,500 ($A433). Personalised service by helpful, cheerful staff. There are modern artworks throughout the hotel and welcome eclairs from the ground-floor patisserie. That bath!
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A dip with a view in the 37th floor indoor swimming pool, with picture windows overlooking the Imperial Gardens.