Some say the most-respected global hotel assessment is Institutional Investor magazine’s – look at past winners, which include such luxury hotels as Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and Four Seasons Milano, Italy. Current top in the world, rated by 208 senior financial executives, from 44 countries, who average 40 nights a year in luxury hotels, is Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo, part of the Marunouchi Trust Tower Main. The gal looks at some wow features. First, its ballroom, big enough for 200 diners. The black glass wall behind top table is decorated with flowers. Programme ceiling-set DL2 Digital Lighting and the flowers appear to tremble, or fireworks seem to erupt.
Head up to the 37th floor Horizon Club lounge and there is a big Apple Mac waiting. Sincerity, Humility, Respect, Courtesy and Helpfulness are five core values for a hotel that is five years old this year. They are obviously appreciated by Japanese, who use this hotel, literally above Tokyo Station, for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and meetings and weddings. Take afternoon tea. The lobby lounge, on the 28th floor, is a sell-out daily, so now they do an Italian afternoon tea, in the Italian restaurant Piacere. Nibble on baby tiramisu pastries looking up at Murano chandeliers in a gorgeous setting designed by André Fu. To celebrate those five years, Piacere has a lunch and dinner five-course Elements menu (wood is represented by a chocolate dessert platter).
Back up to the lounge. At breakfast, from 6.30, your table is set with yellow orchids, and silver and wood Peugeot salt and pepper mills. At the far end of the lounge a large cabinet opens to reveal lots of breakfast offerings, but there is also à la carte, and once again GirlAhead wants to stress the value of buying-up, wherever, to a club product. Not only do you get a stress-free breakfast but, generally, excellent selections of complimentary evening cocktails (Fairmont’s club lounges operate an honour system, but most others do not charge). Shangri-La stands out in that, company-wide, its Horizon Club lounges are consistently good.
But no other Horizon Club lounge has such a view as here in Tokyo, down over the dozens of tracks of Tokyo Station to the Imperial Palace park, only five blocks away. And few other Shangri-Las have 2,000 art pieces, owned, like the hotel, by the Mori Trust. The Lasvit chandeliers throughout the hotel are memorable – one is like falling rain droplets, in the stairwell of the staircase leading down from the 29th floor via the lobby to the 27th floor, and its circular wedding chapel, and the magical ballroom. Behind the 28th floor front desk, by the way, is a mythical Japanese scene, real gold on black marble, about 15 feet across by two feet high.
Many little things add up to make institutional investors, or bankers or other financiers, feel good about a place. Here, it is rather weird if you arrive by car as the vehicle plunges down to the subterranean carpark, but there is a proper hotel entrance there, with a red-coated bellhop, and a big chandelier overhead. You are escorted up, past the pedestrian entrance – another red-coated bellhop, and an even bigger chandelier – up to the lobby level, and on up to your room. There, I find an unusual, but so Japanese, welcome. A bamboo mat is wrapped around fruits, tiny clementines, an apple and a grapefruit, and a chest holds Japanese delicacies. A sense of locale adds to top travellers’ satisfaction.
This luxury hotel is run by a Dutchman, Jens Moesker, who presumably had to buy some business-type clothes when he moved here from the Maldives. His wife Kristine is actually into fashion. She has started a clever niche business, exporting leg-wear, on demand, to her native China. Japanese tights are often humorously original and justly covetable: they have patterns and come in bright colours. Chinese women order the tights they want, pay into a Chinese bank account, and, thanks to Japan’s outstanding courier system, the tights will quickly arrive. I have never actually used Japan’s couriers, but after ILTM Japan last week several people couriered suitcases back to Tokyo to save having to carry them on the Shinkansen from Kyoto. Apparently, couriers will pick up from your home, or wherever.