In July, I had a unique opportunity to stay the incredible 5 star New Otani Hotel in Tokyo Japan, which is part of the Otani chain of hotels headquartered in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. New Otani Hotels operates 18 hotels in Japan and two hotels outside of Japan. The flagship hotel in Tokyo has been around since 1964 and their management is nothing short of top notch.
The service is beyond exceptional….but it doesn’t stop there. Upon arrival, I was escorted to my room by the hotel manager since my flight was so late and I managed to catch the last limo bus of the night which put me into the center of Tokyo well after 11.
One of the first things I fell in love with beside the ability to manage every light from a series of controls next to the bed, was the heated toilet seats. I soon learned that heated toilet seats were a big part of Japanese culture, at the very least Tokyo culture. I ran into heated toilet seats throughout the city in various establishments and each one had a number of controls which were far too complex for the ordinary brain. Regardless, I quickly fell in love with them even if I couldn’t always figure out how to flush them ‘properly’ or which control to use.
The hotel also had a fabulous carpeted walk in closet with plenty of space for hanging clothes and other storage and a cozy seat in front of the main mirror in the bathroom which sat atop a round cozy and furry rug.
Like most Japanese hotels, I would soon learn, they had a cupboard with a traditional Japanese tea cups, together with a selection of teas, and Green and Jasmine teas were of course among them. They also had assorted coffees, spirits, wines, saki and beautifully presented tea serving sets, as well as glasses for soda, and juice.
On a clear day, apparently you can also get a distant view of Mount Fuji, which of course wasn’t the case over the few days I stayed there (wrong time of year). The style is traditional but most definitely modern, from the bed design to the bathroom, artwork and windows.
There’s a main hotel tower and a Garden Tower adjacent to it. The main tower houses the two floors which have access to the premium Executive Lounge which also gives guests access to the spa, sauna and swimming pool in the same building every morning from 7 am to 10 am. There’s also a beautiful pool outside which is open to guests.
There are four restaurants – Satsuku, which has a buffet of Japan and Chinese items for breakfast and other meals, Top of the Tower, which serves a Breakfast buffet, the Nadaman, which is where I went for my very first breakfast in Tokyo, which serves traditional Japanese meals and lastly, the Garden Lounge, which has lovely views, great lights and is spacious but is more focused on traditional western/American food.
And then there’s breakfast. Yum!!! Below are some shots of my breakfast at Nadaman which was so delicious, I wanted seconds.
Above, breakfast at New Otani’s Nadaman Restaurant
Below is the Zen Executive Lounge in the Main Tower on one of the upper floors, which also serves food in the morning and late afternoon/early evening for what a “happy hour” period. During that window, they have wine, appetizers, cheese and fruit, beer, fresh juice, raw vegetables, pickles, crackers and nuts. There are light meals served four times a day here.
Above, the New Otani Executive Lounge
I also had an opportunity to experience the spa at the New Otani, which is fairly formal in nature. The experience was in true New Otani style, somewhat formal while offering exquisite service. They have a private gym as well as a main gym, an area for relaxation, a hot (dry) sauna, steam room and two adjacent hot tubs.
Above, the Spa at the New Otani Hotel
On the way to the main outside pool, you need to walk through the infamous gardens of the New Otani property. They walk is beautiful and makes you feel as if you’re far away from a city center, with nothing but peace and tranquility bathing you from all sides. As serenity overtakes you, you feel as if you can get lost in the gardens’ endless greenery and flowers.
There’s a stunning little red bridge that crosses a river area loaded with colorful fish.
With its 400 years of history, the Japanese Garden at Hotel New Otani is one of the most renowned gardens in Tokyo. The vast ten-acre ground, surrounded by the outer moat of the historic Edo Castle, houses numerous kinds of trees, flowers and foliage. They have stone gardens and lanterns, carp ponds and waterfalls.
The highlight of the Garden is its traditional stone gardens, called Karesansui. Pine trees with stones of different sizes represent mountains, while white pebbles and sand are water with rake marks depicting its ripples.
One of the most recognizable structures in the Garden is a square-shaped pagoda, a style which has been kept intact since the Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392).
They also have 42 stone lanterns, some along the pathways and slopes, and some by the pond. For example, the Kaneiji Lantern is a dignified looking lantern from the Kamakura Era (1183-1333), that was acquired by Yonetaro Otani from the Kaneiji Temple in Ueno, Tokyo.
- The Kasuga Lantern has twelve animals of the Japanese zodiac engraved on the hexagonal surface, each facing the direction it represents. The Nuresagi Lantern dates back to the Edo (or Tokugawa Shogunate) Era (1603-1867). And, there are countless ones you can view taking a stroll through the gardens.
One day during my stay, they had a media event by the pool where Japanese swimmers entertained us for an hour or so with a variety of dances in and outside the pool.
The music was lively and fun, and people were tapping their feet and smiling ear-to-ear while they sipped Bombay Sapphire Gin under colorful umbrellas to protect them from the hot summer sun.
Below is a quick video I shot of the performance.
Conveniently located a stone’s throw from the Akasaka-Mitsuko stop on the Ginza line (other lines also pass through here), it’s hard to beat the area as a place to base yourself. Within five minutes, I was on a main line to get me to the most important parts of the city.
We give it two thumbs up and would definitely recommend putting New Otani on your list for your next trip to Tokyo. As for other choices, there are a few traditional western 4 and 5 star chains but in our opinion, why would you stay there when you could stay in a more authentic Japanese hotel? And since I’m a known snob when it comes to stellar service, you can’t go wrong with the New Otani, who consistently proved themselves again and again — from check in, the spa and loung area to their dining experiences and shops.
We were planning to check out the Palace Hotel near the Imperial Palace, but it didn’t pan out so we didn’t have an opportunity to do so. While it looked great from the street and the lobby (I visited briefly one day), we’ve heard mixed reviews from various sources and since we didn’t have a chance to take a deep nose dive, we can’t verify which sentiment is valid or not.
What We Most Loved:
1. The modern style of the rooms that were astonishing prestine.
2. The fabulous cabinet with the adorable traditional tea kettle and cups, together with the assorted teas and coffees.
3. The walk in closet (sweet)!.
4. The sitting stool atop the plush furry throw carpet in the bathroom.
5. The light controls that are accessible from the bed.
6. The heated toilet seats.
7. The view of the gardens below. (I had a stunning view and while I may not have been able to see Mount Fuji, it was still stunning).
8. The flow of the room (someone with feng shui design sense was involved in the decision making).
9. The service was through the roof (above and beyond — makes many American 5 star hotels feel merely like 5 star wanna-be’s).
10. The traditional Japanese breakfast. (see our separate write-up on Japanese food in Tokyo and beyond, including the New Otani Hotel).
And of course, the traditional spa and Executive Zen Lounge where you can get away from it all throughout the day.
New Otani Hotel