Aug 16, 2021
NO KIMONO-CLAD STAFF glide down silent halls, no tatami floors or papered shoji screens grace the rooms, and there’s nary a sushi counter in sight. But the locality of the new Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi is impossible to miss, embodying a quintessential Tokyo trait: the ability to transform elements of traditional and borrowed culture into something unmistakably modern and singular.
Opened in September 2020 in the financial hotspot between Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace, the 190-room hotel occupies the top six floors of a 39-story building and offers panoramic views in every direction, including landmarks Tokyo Tower and Skytree and even revealing Mt. Fuji on clear days.
The views inside provide just as much sense of place, however. The whip-smart design by Jean-Michel Gathy’s firm Denniston weaves threads of traditional craftsmanship through the airy contemporary spaces, creating an immersive experience of Japanese culture that avoids cliché. Some are so subtle you might miss them, like the red lacquer accents around the first-floor entryways that obliquely evoke Shinto torii gates. Others, like modernist ikebana creations by Tokyo artist Namiko Kajitani of zero two THREE or the painted dome over reception by free-form calligrapher Nobuko Kawahara, boldly claim the center of attention, drawing clear lines between past and present.
Throughout the hotel, the design finds ways to evoke wind and the light, nods to the wabi-sabi embrace of transience. A billowing Issey Miyake-inspired artwork of bamboo strung with natural and chlorocarbon fibers stands at the entrance to THE SPA as a reflection of their ethos of combining natural materials with advanced technologies. Note their two signature treatments: one uses oils from millenia-old yakusugi cedars while the other uses radio frequencies for a subdermal facial. Inside, a Japanese-style ofuro bath and neighboring heated swimming pool and lounge area share a vantage over east Tokyo that glows rosy gold at sunset.
In the rooms, enlarged digital photographs of sheer fabric in motion by Namiko Kitaura are used for accent walls, creating a sense of animation, softly illuminated by hanging lamps enfolded in cut washi paper and lampshades cleverly backed with hammered copper to diffuse the light. While the standard class offers a Sophie’s choice of garden or city views, the spacious two-room Panorama Suites have both, with the bedroom thrust out into a glass-wrapped corner that feels like sleeping on the edge of the skyline.
Tokyo has far and away more Michelin stars than any other city, many awarded to non-Japanese restaurants. The F&B offerings at FS Otemachi also gleefully borrow from abroad, giving traditional techniques a local spin and searching out rare ingredients with intense otaku passion.
At fine dining resto est, chef Guillaume Bracaval exhaustively hunts up hidden gems of local terrior to marry with his classic French cooking, drawing from a network of small domestic purveyors that spans the archipelago. This partnership results in fascinating fusions like soy hummus sprinkled with a savory dark-roasted kinako left over from soy sauce making or a hirame carpaccio given a natural umami boost by being pressed for hours between blades of kelp. Even the cheeses are domestic, sourced from Cheese Koubou Takara in Hokkaido. The elegant cream-and-gold decor is inspired by Japonism, naturally, and is full of coquettish details like a spiderweb map of Tokyo hidden in the glimmering pattern of the haku wallpaper.
The restaurant shares a towering book-lined entryway with bar VIRTÙ, which brings Tokyo into the années folles of 1920s Paris with an Art Deco design of brocade murals and stained glass and a menu of vintage French spirits and rare cognacs. Sipping superb cocktails like the Shiragiku (“white chrysanthemum”), a blend of house-aged Japanese gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau and Suze, at the eight-meter central counter of tiger-striped Bubinga wood, you can almost imagine the ghost of Fitzgerald flitting through the buzzing crowd.
At all-day dining PIGNETO, Italy-trained chef Yoshihiro Kigawa indulges a fondness for full-bodied paesano fare from Lombardy to Sicily amid a stylish aesthetic of herringbone marble, Edo Kiriko cut glass lamps, and textiles in deep Mediterranean blues and grays. The sharable a la carte menu has Naples-style pizzas and hearty pastas like tagliatelle with spicy salsiccia and mushrooms, but the standout is undoubtedly the massive T-bone Fiorentina with an original red wine salt. During these travel-sparse times, the chef is also sating our appetite for exploration with a monthly course menu focusing on a different region of Italy.
A small quibble about the experience is that the very youthful staff haven’t fully developed the ability to anticipate guest needs without being asked. For example, bringing out salt and pepper with eggs at breakfast or setting out a larger robe size in the spa for those of us—ahem!—that need it. But as this hospitality mind-reading is one of the hallmarks of service at the OG Tokyo Four Seasons at Marunouchi, it’s surely only a question of time and observing their senpai (i.e., congenial elder mentor).
Take it from a long-time Tokyoite: the new Four Seasons Otemachi gets what makes this city great.
fourseasons.com/otemachi; doubles from ¥45,000.
All photos courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts