It is amazing what one can do with bamboo. At Soneva Kiri on Koh Kood island, Thailand, just west of Cambodia, there is a 40-foot diameter treetop-set ‘pod’ that is the kids’ club. It looks like a massive, hollow, ball of knitting wool, and it was designed and made by a Rotterdam artist called Olav Bruin.
But the gal is in Japan still, and she is now back in Tokyo. And this bamboo sculpture is called Lying Dragon Gate, by a local female artist, Keisen Hama. It graces the rear of the soaring lobby of The Peninsula Tokyo.
Having been put on the Nozomi train in Osaka – stand at an exact spot on the platform and at the exact moment the train stops exactly there – our intrepid traveller was taken off it in Tokyo (the meeting greeters, from the hotel, stood at an exact spot on the platform and at the exact stated time the carriage door stopped exactly there).
We found the Rolls Royce, in Peninsula green of course, and purred along the periphery of the Imperial Gardens and turned left, to the drama of the 24-floor hotel. Architect Kazukyo Sato has made it look like a soaring wedge of cheese (obviously only the most refined Stilton will do), standing acute-angle towards you.
It is illuminated outside now, though to save power it was dark for many months after the tragic March 11th, 2011 earthquake.
Artists Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu have installed The Void in this void. 24 stainless cones covered with Schott side-glass fibres appear, though motionless, to be doing a ballet. They are marvellous to admire, impossible to photograph.
Thank goodness food is easier to snap. We head up to the rooftop Peter, the restaurant named for the Peninsula group’s COO, Peter Borer, and dedicated by him to his father, Gerold Borer. It is a fashion fantasy designed by the fabulous, whimsical Yabu Pushelberg duo.
You feel as if you are walking in along a catwalk, with metal trees separating you from the bar area to your left. The dining area, which seats 128, is multi level (don’t fall, dear – just like a supermodel challenge). Wherever, you look out, from your 24th floor eyrie, to the lights around.
There are lots of menu suggestions, from chef Patrice Martineau, born in the capital of Champagne, Reims. Choose his Peter suggestions, and you might start with his Peter plate, foie gras, eel and a salad.
Come up here on Christmas Eve and it is the most romantic night of the year, I am told. This is when proposals are made, I am told (by someone who did just that, December 24th, 2011, and he will marry in the hotel this June).
Hold your wedding at The Peninsula and you are, typically, already legally married at a civil ceremony. Spend the night-before-the-wedding in a suite here. Dress up in your finery, rented from the hotel of course, go out through a back door, get into the Rolls and drive elegantly around the area, which as you would imagine includes some of the best brands – the hotel’s own shops, for instance, include jewellers Graff and de Grisogono.
Come back to the hotel’s front door, parade through the lobby – the afternoon tea venue of choice for Tokyo’s Haute – and everyone claps, and then the ‘religious’ ceremony begins, followed by the meal, and then perhaps you go on somewhere else to a bigger event to which more people are invited.
All this is being recounted as I enjoy the Tasmanian salmon, Peter-style, served as a confit in a soup bowl, with poached Japanese vegetables, an orange broth consommé and crispy yuba fritters.
Generously, the Peter menu comes with unlimited wine (90 minutes’ maximum drinking): your choice of The Peninsula Champagne, by Deutz; The Peninsula Chablis Premier Cru 2006, by Gilles de Lamoire; or The Peninsula St-Estèphe, Ch Calon Ségur, 2006.
And then it was time to retire, for the night but not from life. All 314 rooms have such fun things as built-in fingernail dryers and, being Peninsula, full office supplies. Diplomatic Suite 2001 has the added advantage of being in the wedge of the ‘cheese-shaped building’ so it was just too tempting to order room service breakfast.
First, today, came a work-out in the gym, with lots of foreign visitors, followed by a swim, with lots of Japanese, in a pool surrounded by what feels like a cocoon-sculpted shape. Soothing and peaceful, words that are good to start any day.
Back home as breakfast arrives, on a well-set tray, I look out at the Imperial Gardens, and feel almost sorry for the family that lives within its impenetrable walls (is it true the Crown Prince and his brother cannot even call each other without courtiers acting as go-betweens?).
But gosh, this, despite being soothing and peaceful, is a busy life. I head down to the spa, an Espa escape. The relaxation room has English-language and Japanese magazines and whole fresh fruit. The therapists, in chic black suits, not only know what they are doing but do it well, and flatter you magnificently.
On the way out I notice the beauty of the spa’s desk and wall panels, washi paper behind glass. Soothing peace and ready to face the world.