Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho hotel review: The future is here, again

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

Finally, the future is here.

I grew up in the '80s, a time when Japan was an economic powerhouse that caused fear in the West – Japanese cars were outselling American ones, while Japanese developers bought up property on the Gold Coast.

As a child, Tokyo seemed like some kind of futuristic metropolis of neon and robots – the kind of city depicted in Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

Many years later I visited Tokyo for the first time and was disappointed to find it wasn't the technologically advanced fantasyland I'd dreamed of as a child. It wasn't that Tokyo wasn't on the cutting-edge of technology, it was that the rest of the world, over the previous two decades, had caught up.

No longer did consumer electronics come out in Japan first, years ahead of the rest of the world – these days new products are released globally on the same day. And the hotspots of technology have moved away from Tokyo to Silicon Valley and Seoul.

Tokyo is still a wonderful, fascinating city to visit, but it no longer feels like the future.

Except at the Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho hotel.

Opened last year, the Prince Gallery truly does feel like stepping into some near-future sci-fi film. On the top seven floors of a high-rise building in the Kioicho district, the modern structure sits between two of Tokyo's much older sites – the to east is the Imperial Palace, to the west Akasaka Palace.

Inside our room, one of 250 at the hotel, we're greeted by incredible views across the city. A bench seat running the length of the window lets me sit and look out across the landscape and see straight down to the ground 34 floors below. From up here, Tokyo does indeed look like the futurescape of Blade Runner, with dozens of towers with blinking warning lights for aircraft and bright neon signs advertising all manner of products.

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We see commuter helicopters buzzing across the skyline, presumably carrying high-powered businessmen or government officials who don't have time to battle Tokyo's traffic or the labyrinthine train system.

In a sign of the cutting-edge technology of the Prince Gallery, the room comes with a tablet computer that displays a photo of the room. To control something you simply tap the item on the photo. Want the lamp on? Tap the lamp. Want the blinds open? Just tap on them and watch them automatically retract. No need for pesky menus or languages.

The bathroom is a glass cube, the shower fully visible from the rest of the room, offering little privacy. That is, until I press a few of the mystery switches on the wall. In an instant, the clear glass of the shower becomes opaque. I've no idea how it achieves this effect in the blink of an eye, but it's another futuristic feature.

Although the hotel is not in one of Tokyo's main tourist districts, like everywhere in Tokyo, they can easily be reached by the excellent train system – Shibuya, Ginza and Akihabara are just a short ride away.

But it is, admittedly, hard to drag ourselves away from the hotel. The hotel's two restaurants, its executive club lounge and the spectacular lobby bar (fittingly officially called the Sky Gallery Lounge Levita with its huge, multi-level windows that indeed turn the skyline into a work of art) all offer new angles on Tokyo's skyline and watching the lights of the city come on while enjoying cocktail hour is a highlight.

Much as we've enjoyed the views though, one thing has been missing. We'd heard that on a clear day, the elusive Mount Fuji can be seen from Tokyo.

Having passed the iconic mountain twice on bullet trains during our visit, only to find it completely obscured by cloud, we're still hoping to catch a glimpse. Yet, despite being blessed with clear blue skies during this winter visit, Fuji remains hidden.

We learn that our room faces away from the mountain, as does the restaurant where we have breakfast. We try the bar.

"Is that it?" my partner asks as we make out a shadow in the far distance. It doesn't seem big enough to me, but then it is a long way off.

I try one more option on our last morning before checkout – the spa. Looking out across the pool, there's still no sign. I ask a staff member if Fuji should be visible today. It is, he tells me, just come into the massage room. From here, facing southwest, there's no mistaking. Beyond the sprawl of the city, Fuji rises, white-capped, like an iceberg floating on a sea of grey concrete. There's no mistaking it and I laugh at my naivete in thinking the comparatively low shadows on the horizon could possible have been this awesome site.

And as much as I've enjoyed this journey into the future of hotels, it's still nice to finish my stay looking at this ancient peak that lies about 100 kilometres – and an entire world – away.

TRIP NOTES

Fly

Jetstar flies daily between Sydney and Tokyo and Cairns and Tokyo, with connections to other Australian cities. See jetstar.com.au

Stay

Rooms at the Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho hotel start from $497 per night for a deluxe king or twin room. See princehotels.com/en/kioicho

The writer travelled as a guest of Jetstar and Starwood Hotels.