The sun came up over Tokyo and the gal felt good after her Lifetime Introduction to what sushi should be, and can be, all about. The Mandarin Oriental’s gym is sensibly as high as possible, namely on the 38th floor.
As you look out you can see, also, the 634m high Sky Tree, the world’s tallest transmitter, due to be unveiled, or rather lit up, on May 22nd 2012. In celebration this clever hotel is offering a lucky someone the chance to buy out, take the entire, Chinese restaurant Senses.
For a mere ¥6.34 million you can entertain 64 people. As well as having an incredible 38th floor view of the opening lighting-up, you all get a six-course meal with one suckling pig, nine litres of Champagne Pol Roger (hey, this sure is becoming the bubbly of celebrations!), plus seemingly unlimited 2008 Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Les Champgains Jean Rijckaert, 2002 Ch Pichon Longueville Barton Pauillac, Ch Climens 2008 Sauternes, Koetsuryuzan 50-year old Chinese wine, and, to cap it all off, 2008 Gancha Daikoho Blue Oolong tea. And take-home goodies include 6.34cm-wide moon cakes and 63.4cm-lengths of chocolate…
Even if the package does not sell, the hotel has recouped the investment in its creative thinking as it has been picked up by Japanese national television. That is what marketing can do. Take one clever thought and make sure the right people know about it.
And since over half this luxury hotel’s guests are locals, moving in for a weekend break to get away from the confinement of what are sometimes very small houses or apartments with paper-thin soundproofing, getting through to them is very important.
So they move in, bed and breakfast away from the kids or grandma, darling. And if they work out, they find a whole array of fresh fruits, and red and green vegetable juices as well as bottled water waiting for them in the gym. Style, darling.
I saw some of Tokyo’s locals, later, in the atrium of the Caesar Pelli-designed Mitsui building which houses the Mandarin Oriental. They were either gazing, or shopping, in Sembikiya, an open fruit stand that makes every item appear like a ceramic dummy.
Everything, repeat everything, is perfect. Every strawberry is a clone of its neighbour, every apple is perfection. Strawberries do admittedly share a box but other fruits are individually wrapped, and there are labels with exact provenance.
Pride of place goes to the musk melons, which sell for up to $250 a piece. Yes, that is 250 US dollars each. But these are not bought for the purchaser to enjoy but to give, as a strictly tribal-type gift. You owe something to the chairman of the company you have just bought? A musk melon wrapped in a Sembikiya belt fill the bill…
The atrium also houses the hotel’s own bake shop, where individual gateaux are set out as jewels. Here people are buying (I am the only one merely gazing). They take paper-lined wood trays, about 15 by ten inches, and use tongs to help themselves to, say, big olive-studded bread rolls (a mere five dollars) and croissants.
There are also full-size loaves, made in the hotel’s kitchens and stamped with a logo of a fan. I had some of the bake shop’s breads at breakfast, good stuff. What was memorable also was the breakfast buffet’s set-up. Kiwi halves each have a spoon, exactly upright, ready for eating.
I have my own paper fan, the logo of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, in room 3506, three floors down from the lobby. My fan sits on top of folded kimonos in one of two red-lined black lacquer boxes at the foot of the – unusually comfortable – bed.
The other box holds wrapped pyjamas. These clever people think of everything. I have binoculars for the view, and a full office of supplies, for work, and personalized stationery and business cards, and a proper – a white ‘Mont Blanc’ type but with a different logo, a fan of course. There are three different types of bathsalts, for soaking in the kidney-shaped tub within easy sight of the bathroom television. A rolled yoga mat offers an alternative to going yet again to the gym.
Nothing could offer an alternative to returning to the sensational spa, where the perfect antidote to a long flight followed by the journey in from Narita is the two-hour signature journey, a body scrub followed by a lengthy, pressure-sensitive massage that I slept through blissfully (I woke up to look out over the treatment room’s jasmine-strewn infinity bathtub to the now-dark view of Tokyo).
Both men and women’s spas, by the way, have pretty sensational vitality pools, where you can lean over infinity edges to watch city life, from 37 floors up.
You need more time here than you envisage. The hotel is a living museum. The lobby, like two squash courts end on, pairs pale woods and stone with fibre-art wall sections.
The bar’s magnetic centrepiece, a working fire, has rough-hewn stone over, matching smooth stone either side. Room 3506’s bedhead is six by six inch squares of light wood, rising to height of ten feet: the rest of this wall is dull sage fabric, which continues up to, and right over, the ceiling. Hanging lamps have bongo-shaped cream paper flecked with bits, like the endpieces of a historic book.
The fabrics here are so special, indeed, that the hotel GM, Christian Hassing, has published a brilliantly descriptive book of them, Woods and Water: Textiles for Mandarin Oriental Tokyo.
The whole effect here is, indeed, a museum of beauty. Head for the spa, lie down on a white-covered table with your face looking down through its intended ‘hole’, and you have a vision of sweet-smelling jasmine.
And, of course, take a PhD in understanding sushi, here at Sora, and you understand the beauty of Japanese cuisine…