Hotel Review: Japan: The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo

Hotel Review: Japan: The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo
In a city known for towering hotels, the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo ascends to new heights rising up between the 45th and 53rd floors of Tokyo Midtown, the capital's highest building in the fashionable Roppongi district famous for high-end shopping and nightlife. The hotel also tops the price list even in spendy Japan, featuring the country's most expensive place to lay one';s head – the 3300-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Suite with views of Mt. Fuji, that rings in at over $20,000 a night.

Opened in March 2007, Japan's second Ritz-Carlton -- like its sister hotel in Osaka -- is a favored destination of locals who flock here in their most bedazzling threads to see and be seen. And part of the draw appears to be that, with rare exception, the hotel is so un-Japanese. With a decor blending art deco and modern, the high-ceilinged 45th floor studded with massive wood columns and wrapped with windows spilling views of the dazzling white city (with glimpses of Mt. Fuji beyond) is the hub of activity, being site of reception, the lobby lounge, martini bar, and two stellar restaurants – the French-influenced 45 restaurant and wine bar and the Michelin-starred Hinokizaka, one of Tokyo's favorite Japanese eateries. Marble tables and floor inlaid with striking designs of black granite-like stone as well as beaded chandeliers and light fixtures of Murano glass, smoky cigar-shaped floor lamps and floral textile patterns are a throwback to art nouveau, while oversized modern paintings by American painter Sam Francis (a big name in Japanese art circles) hang from the walls not far from the lobby's indoor waterfall.

The lobby lounge, where guests take in high tea during the day (or perhaps the $60 Kopii Iuwar coffee, the world’s rarest) turns “fashion show” at night when locals flock here to drink in old-style cocktails and sultry live jazz as they sip the trademark $80 “lobster martini” – made with Belvedere lobster, caviar and organic tomato choice – or the Bleu Cheese martini (chilled Tangueray #10 with jumbo olives hand-stuff with Danish bleu) a few even dropping some $20,000 for the “Diamonds are Forever” Martini of Gray Goose served over a 1-carat gleaming Bulgari “rock.”

The art deco theme spreads into chic Restaurant 45, with adjoining wine bar and chocolate shop, where diners sit in stylish cut out chairs, and embark on remarkable feasts of course after course of specialties such as timbales of lobster, avocado and caviar, followed by seared Hokkaido scallops, grilled scorpion fish, rack of Tasmanian lamb, each course expertly matched with glasses of wine. Off to the other corner of the lobby, minimalist wood designs wrap the hotel's famous Japanese restaurant Hinokizaka, which also encases one of the Ritz-Carlton's gems: a 200-year-old teahouse – complete with old-fashioned tea hearth – transported here from the countryside.

Decorated in greens and golds with wallpaper of ornate fans, rooms – including three dozen suites – showcase the amenities for which Ritz-Carlton is famous, starting with the bed (and Frette linens) that can lull a hardcore insomniac into deep slumber. Handsome upholstered couch and chair sit windowside allowing fine view of the city, large flat screen TV offers channels in English (hard to get around here) and in the bathroom, where another TV allows viewing from the deep tub, there's also a free standing rain shower, Bulgari amenities, plush towels as well as high-tech seat-heated loo. Club rooms and suite also come with access to the 53rd floor club lounge where one can drink and dine from morning to night on everything from glazed pastries and fine cheeses to sandwiches and succulent shrimp.

Another draw: the 46th floor spa with large heated indoor pool, sauna, gym and spa treatment featuring Espa therapies. Choose from baths of rose petal and myrrh, hot stone massage, sea salt scrubs and essential oil rubs.

Melissa Rossi, the author of What Every American Should Know about the Middle East (Plume/Penguin USA, January 2009), is currently researching an upcoming book about Asia with photographer Steve Warner.