Just steps from the fashionable Ginza district in Tokyo, guests of the the Park Hotel sleep surrounded by floor to ceiling art created by Japan’s most esteemed artists.
The sprawling metropolis that is Tokyo offers visitors an abundance of options when choosing where to stay while visiting. More a collection of cities than a unified settlement, there is incredible variety between the different districts and each has its own distinct character. Some are full of historic architecture, others are known for their entertainment options, yet more are hives of financial activity conducted in shiny modern high-rises.
After weighing up the various options, we chose to stay in Shiodome – one of Tokyo’s newest neighborhoods. Occupying a privileged location close to the shopping district of Ginza, the traditional city center, and Tokyo’s port, Shiodome has only really come into existence over the last twenty years. Despite its location, this area was previously home only to underutilized marshland and a large train station. Its transformation is dramatic, and now it is a mass of glass skyscrapers...it’s beautiful.
Shiodome is a great place to stay to get that futuristic atmosphere which you see in photos of Tokyo, but another of its advantages is its proximity to Ginza. We actually spent much of our time in the neighboring area because it offers a slightly more rounded experience for visitors, and of course fantastic shopping!
There are countless shops to wander in and out of, ranging from designer boutiques, to the many small interesting independent stores. We recommend just walking down the main street and checking out whichever of the interesting looking shops takes your fancy. We spent an hour in a toy store, another hour in a paper store – places which we wouldn’t normally have any reason to visit. I couldn’t help but marvel at how much respect the shop workers have for their products and their customers. No matter the cost of your purchase, they will make you feel like you’re buying something extremely valuable and special. The formal care they have for something as simple as money exchange is inspiring… I wish shopping always felt this special!
We had opted for the Park Hotel for our accommodation, as it has a great location in central Shiodome, and is known for its artistic design choices. At first glance it appears to be a bland business hotel. The building is just another skyscraper – indistinguishable from the office blocks which surround it. Yes, it is large and impressive but it doesn’t scream quirky and artistic by any means. Step through the doors and head up to the reception however, and you could be forgiven for believing that you have walked into a gallery.
It begins in the lobby, where a rotating selection of exhibits liven up the space. When we visited, they were showcasing the work of Go Ogawa, a local artist whose current work is based around the use of prisms. The walls were covered in hundreds of colored translucent three dimensional triangles which caught the light and created a beautiful spectacle. More of his creations could be found dotted around the hotel’s corridors, making the mundane act of going to your room fun and interesting.
The hotel’s true creative credentials are established in the rooms however. While there are plenty of standard rooms available, the entire 31st story has been given over to artists. The project started in 2012 and is yet to be finished, but the vast majority of the guest rooms on this floor have been turned into unique masterpieces by some of the most well known Japanese artists. Each one is different to the last, and the painters are given full creative control over their projects. As you would imagine, these rooms are often booked up, but it is possible to see some of them when they are unoccupied. There is even an in-house art concierge who will show you around, as well as providing you with background information about the pieces.
Our room was the work of Hiroko Otake, and was named ‘Cherry Blossoms’. Two walls were white with a sakura tree winding across them. Falling off its branches were clumps of pink blossom, while golden clouds floated serenely in the background. The other wall and the ceiling, were painted navy blue and had a stream of gold butterflies fluttering over them.
It was the view from our room that really stole the show. It looked directly onto the Tokyo Tower, the endless city, and even Mount Fuji on the horizon. At night it was lit up by the glow of a million lights, and watching the traffic flow down the busy streets was mesmerising. The room itself was on the small side, but it has everything we needed as well as attractive, minimalist furnishings.
There are a view different food options at the Park Hotel. There are a couple of restaurants, as well as a café, and even a bakery. This gives you the chance to choose between western or local food depending on your mood and preferences. Breakfast consists of a large buffet, and again there are local and foreign options.
Aiming to embrace the local culture as fully as possible, we went for the Japanese restaurant - Hanasanshou – and had our first ever Kaiseki experience. Kaiseki is the Japanese equivalent of Haute Cuisine. Rather than being a type of food, it is a complex and formal way of ordering a meal which included many courses traditionally served in a specific order. It was great to try something new, and understand Japanese society a little better, although there was a little too much seafood for my taste. Everything was so quiet and efficient, while the waiters took great care in doing their jobs exactly the way tradition proscribes. Even the vegetables were special, being supplied from a farm in Kyoto that has been growing vegetables for over 400 years.
We also enjoyed the drinks we had afterwards at Society, the hotel bar. It serves cocktails, beers, and wines in a dark and cozy atmosphere, but they pride themselves most on their whisky selection. The Japanese take craftsmanship very seriously and at the bar you can see what I mean. The bartenders are well versed in the art of “ice” and were able to take a cube of ice and carve it by hand into a ball. Incredible!
We spent our other evenings out in Ginza which, alongside the daytime shopping, is also packed full of great places to eat. There are a slew of izakaya shops under the subway tracks, and the smell of burning grills wafts in the streets. Just find a place that looks popular (identifying the names is tough, especially when everything is in Japanese characters!), head inside and if needed just point at what you want. It’s usually inexpensive and incredibly delicious. This part of town is also very well connected, so pretty much everywhere in the city can be reached quickly and easily.
The Park Hotel couldn’t really have a more different ethos from what you would expect based on its exterior. It is a quirky place, and your stay there will be much more interesting than in a regular hotel. Its location is a real selling point, and it makes a great place to base yourself when staying in Tokyo.
For more information about this hotel, please click the link below: