- Detailed Review
- Facts & Amenities
Upon entering The Peninsula, Tokyo, the lofty tower and splendid lobby set an impressive scene, a sentiment which continues throughout this great hotel. From the Green Rolls Royces in the driveway to the white-uniformed bellboys at the door, the Peninsula’s old school hallmarks are unmistakable.
Location is key, set in the well-heeled Ginza district with the Imperial Palace opposite and visible from some of the rooms. This lively area has an infectious effect on the hotel, creating a buzzing, unstuffy atmosphere, a refreshing sight not too often achieved in Japan’s hotels that can sometimes feel rather businesslike. Here, there’s a casual and happy-go-lucky vibe that compliments the grandeur.
The design concept of The Peninsula Tokyo is traditionally grand, but the brand’s attention to detail and the spirit of always going the extra mile for guests ensures a formula that has worked for years for the Peninsula group. It has created a loyal following. However, with Tokyo’s ever-changing skyline, and with fashions dictating that a hotel built ten years ago will inevitably be dated, The Peninsula needs to keep up with competitors. While it’s impressive in parts, the décor is beginning to show its age, not just in terms of trends, but there are areas which need to be better maintained. A gradual renovation is on the cards, but I was assured that it would be in keeping with the hotel group’s emphasis on comfort and service rather than just copying the neighbours.
But don’t overlook this gem of a hotel. What it lacks in modernisation, it makes up for in service, food and ambience. Staff are utterly divine and genuinely helpful throughout. And there are thoughtful quirks not usually associated with such a classic hotel, such as the electric bicycles on offer so that you can zip around the city – a nice touch.
As soon as I arrive, there is a team of staff on hand to greet me. Pulling up by the entrance, I am greeted by two bellboys with crisp white uniforms all the way to their hats. It immediately feels old school. There is someone to guide me to reception, as well as a concierge person to oversee the process. The service is immaculate from the get-go and remains so throughout my stay.
Rooms and suites
The layout of my room has the bathroom and dressing room on either side of the entrance just off a short hallway. There is a beautifully carved wood sliding door separating them from the main bedroom area, ensuring privacy if need be. The dressing table has a radio, weather panel and even a nail dryer, another nod to the lengths to which the Peninsula goes to think of the little details which make a difference.
The king-size bed, on one side of the bedroom, overlooks the city through two vast, floor-to-ceiling windows. The work desk sits next to the windows making the most out of the panoramic views. I’m pleased to see that there are blackout screens incorporated into the curtains, to ensure a calm night’s sleep as Tokyo nightlife goes wild.
The décor and furniture are a little dated, with varnished wooden panelling and somewhat uninteresting tones, but there are some nice touches such as the atmospheric, recessed ceiling light and uplit art.
When it comes to hi-tech features, the hotel gets 10 out of 10 for effort, especially considering the challenges for an older outfit, but these features at times feel complicated. The sofa in front of the bed faces a wall-mounted television with an audio system that I am too analogue to understand. However, the TV itself is fairly self-explanatory, and there is an on-demand movie facility, although the choice is limited. I find a USB socket in one of the drawers – good thinking, and I see universal plug sockets. I also spot a mini Lavazza espresso machine in the mini bar. Most room features can be managed from the bedside control panel, whether I want to turn the conditioning up or close the curtains. The Wi-Fi signal is, of course, high-speed.
One detail worth mentioning is the valet box, or ‘butler’s cabinet’ – a little compartment between the room and the hallway where guests can leave laundry or shoes to be polished without being disturbed, and the valet can leave messages and newspapers and the like. I’ve only ever seen this in The Peninsula Hong Kong, and I love it.
The use of marble, stone and varnished wood feels dated but the views from the bathroom over Tokyo’s futuristic skyline more than make up for it.
Divided into two separate sections, the dressing room and the bathroom are both well designed with plenty of storage space and effective lighting. A large, sunken bathtub takes centre stage with a tap built into the stone wall behind. Glass mirrors occupy both walls, but, somehow, even the embedded flat screen television feels dated.
The separate WC and shower units allow for complete privacy, and the whole room can be closed off from the bedroom. A professional hairdryer is provided, and well-located plug points ensure you can dry your hair or use an electric razor next to a mirror.
There is no shortage of fluffy towels, bathrobes, slippers, Oscar de la Renta toiletries and plenty of amenities from toothbrushes to nail kits.
Facing stiff competition in a city which offers so many exquisite dining options, The Peninsula has cleverly not spread its offerings too thinly. Essentially, this huge hotel houses just three restaurants offering Chinese, Japanese and international food. I opt to eat at Kyoto Tsuruya, where I’m treated to a set menu of velveteen sashimi, feather-light tempura and delicately flavoured pickles all prepared under my nose at the stone Tempura Bar. Watching the chefs work so quickly and yet with such care and attention, dinner feels more like a theatrical experience than a straightforward meal. Menus change all the time to reflect the seasons. As I am here during spring, many of the plates are adorned with blossoms and plants. Each dish is so beautiful; they are almost painful to eat!
In addition to the three restaurants, a small café in the basement plays host to a limited breakfast buffet, but most guests take the morning meal in the lobby area à la carte. It’s a reasonably varied menu, however, the setting, as guests come and go, isn’t particularly relaxing – reminiscent of an airport lounge. Even with a suspended crystal chandelier and excellent service, it still feels somewhat transient as guests check in, check out, rush for a transfer, and meet their guides and drivers.
Afternoon tea, also served in the lobby and accompanied by live music, is from 2.30pm all the way into the evening, and for some reason by this time, I mind the constant stream of visitors coming and going. Nevertheless, tea is a reviving and decadent pit stop but more than this, the spread is a work of art. The chef has had fun not just creating old favourites like macaroons and finger sandwiches but exquisite, colourful cakes and pastries delicately decorated with edible butterflies, ladybirds, flowers and flourishes. It’s quite an extraordinary show.
Other restaurant options
The Hei Fung Terrace is more relaxed and much quieter serving upscale Cantonese food, definitely the place to go if you want privacy as there are a few separate rooms and secluded areas within. The venue also does a cracking afternoon with dumplings and free-flowing champagne.
The Peter Bar at The Peninsula is a great place to go pre or post dinner. It’s adorned with glitzy cherry blossom tree installations for a similarly trendy crowd, and it has a buzzy but intimate atmosphere. The sought-after 360 views are worth a drink or two – The Peninsula Highball is especially potent. The adjacent Peter’s Grill is also the place to indulge in western food with a Japanese twist, and while it’s technically not fine dining, it’s a stunning setting.
Within easy walking distance, there is an overwhelming number of superb eateries, and the concierge can help you make bookings. Don’t forget to explore the many atmospheric street-level bars and (excellent) fast food joints, especially on a Friday night when local businessmen let their hair down in style.
Spa and wellness
The 6th floor spa is a much-needed retreat after walking around Tokyo, and the all-silent ethos (no mobile phones) encourages a serene ambience. There are nine treatment rooms, each with private showers and heated beds and a relaxation area with steam rooms, Japanese dry saunas and ice fountains.
Of course, pampering don’t come cheap here. Signature highlights include Swiss facial treatments, such as the rather daunting Super-Lift Haute Couture Facial at nearly £300 a pop.
The 5th floor gym feels like a bit of an afterthought in a dark room lacking any style, atmosphere or even natural light – a shame considering the views of Tokyo from the rooms. Having said that, the Technogym equipment is top of the range fitted with screens and sound systems, and there are free weights as well as machine weights and cardio machines. Personal trainers are also available.
Pool and beach
The 20m-heated swimming pool enjoys panoramic vistas of the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park. Adjacent to the pool is a vitality pool complete with massage jets. We’re high enough for scenic views, although I’m conscious that we’re eye level with neighbouring offices. Banana leaves and ferns line the deck chairs which help to make it feel a little more lush. There is no poolside service, although there are lifeguards present.
Tokyo is a great place for families, but The Peninsula, like a lot of the high-end hotels in Japan, does not cater specifically for children. No children under the age of 16 are permitted to use the spa, and there’s no sign of floating toys or balls in the pool. Children under 12 have to be accompanied by an adult in the swimming pool, and they are expected to behave quietly and respectfully.
That being said, when in Tokyo, it’s all about getting out and about with family entertainment on every street corner. In spite of the lack of children’s entertainment, the hotel does however feel family friendly, and staff seem to go out of their way to accommodate various requests at meal times.
Staff and service
One of the real highlights of The Peninsula is the unwavering, faultless service throughout. The staff are delightful and will go out of their way to ensure guests are happy. On requesting the use of a bicycle for longer than the standard 1-2 hours normally permitted, the concierge gives me a conspiratorial wink and simply sends me on my way telling me not to worry – come back whenever I like. For a hotel of the size of The Peninsula, the service feels effortlessly personal, and I feel part of a large family while here.
The check-out process was just as seamless as the check-in experience. The bill is settled quickly, my bags taken care of, and I am on my way in a matter of minutes.
Being in Tokyo in the heart of the city, the hotel attracts a mix of nationalities. At my leisurely breakfast, there are individual travellers, couples, groups of friends and large families, mainly casually dressed tourists, but there are a number of clients in suits. I even overhear two bodyguards discussing their plans on the neighbouring table one day, suggesting there are some high profile guests staying.
How to get here
25 minutes by road from Tokyo Haneda Airport
314 rooms & suites