The Japanese have a remarkable ability to take a foreign concept, perfect it, then add their own flair to it – a technique showcased at the Prince Park Tower Tokyo – where DOSE writer Rosie experienced a meeting of the best of the West and Eastern luxury.
I’m sipping Louis Roederer champagne while working my way through a plate of exquisite cheese and chocolate truffles, watching the sun set over what looks just like the Eiffel Tower.
Only this is not Paris: I’m in Tokyo, indulging in the best of both Eastern and Western cuisine and hospitality from the Prince Park Tower’s luxurious Premium Club Lounge. Here, French patisserie concoctions and cheese boards are served alongside platters of sushi and sashimi during cocktail hour every evening, with every table boasting views of the mighty Tokyo Tower that rises 333 metres high alongside the hotel.
And it doesn’t stop there: the view is just as impressive from the balcony of my Premium King Room, where I watch day slowly turn to night and the skyline transform into a twinkling sea of skyscrapers.
The ultra-modern room is equipped with every kind of gadget imaginable, from USB chargers to a toilet with a full control panel of options (note to future guests: be careful which one you press!). Alternatively, for guests looking for a more traditional experience, Japanese-styled rooms offer futon beds and views of the hotel garden.
Photo: Prince Park Tower Tokyo
Dining options in the hotel are equally diverse, from western restaurant Brise Verte to Japanese restaurant Shibazakura where diners are seated – or, if you want the full experience, kneel – in private booths and served by waitresses wearing kimonos with intricate obi sashes.
Although my knees lasted a mere two minutes before my legs got dreadful pins and needles and necessitated a shame-faced recovery walk, I was determined to make the most of dining in the traditional Japanese way – so asked my server to recommend a glass of sake to begin. As she poured the clear liquid into a wine glass, I had visions of unpleasant past experiences with alcoholic spirits, but to my relief the drink tasted fresh and sweet – the ideal alternative to wine.
The meal began with a plate of the most delicious sashimi I’ve ever tasted: strips of salmon and tuna that melted in the mouth and were so flavoursome that it felt like a crime to douse them in soy sauce as I would back home.
After a cup of fresh matcha to cleanse my palate, it was time for the main event: shabu shabu. My waitress laid out an array of fresh vegetables, noodles and thin strips of beef to tantalise me while she heated a well of water to boiling point and dropped them in, stirring elegantly with her chopsticks then handing me bowl after bowl, which I chomped and slurped with much less sophistication. Fortunately she took more delight in my enjoyment of her preparations than offence at my heavy-handedness with chopsticks.
I was surprised at how healthy the whole meal was: everything is cooked in hot water, which is then served as a flavoursome broth with noodles once you’ve finished the meat and vegetables. For those looking for a unique and authentic experience while remaining healthy on holiday, look no further.
Photo: Club Lounge, Prince Park Tower Tokyo
I decided to sustain the health kick with a visit to the gym and spa the next morning, joining a mat Pilates class where Japanese ladies more than double my age put me to shame with their grace and flexibility – clearly the diet works wonders for the physique too, as I didn’t see a single fat person during my entire two-week trip to Japan.
In need of some relaxation after my surprisingly strenuous Pilates class, I did a circuit of the hot springs area, another traditional touch not to be missed in the hotel. With a wood sauna, plunge pool and various different temperature pools, there’s no better feeling than being cocooned in the warmth of one of the hot pools while you contemplate what you fancy for breakfast.
Back in the Premium Club Lounge, there’s everything from teppanyaki steak and eggs cooked to your liking by the chef, to pastries better than those I’ve tasted in France. Overlooking the Tokyo Tower once again, I’m not sure a Parisian breakfast next to the Eiffel Tower could top this. I might not be in the city of love, but as I eat a bowl of strawberries and cherries, I begin to fall for the Japanese capital instead.
The love affair continues as I step out to the Zōjō-ji temple, a majestic cultural landmark amidst the modernity of Tokyo’s skyscrapers that is situated a stone’s throw from the hotel. Wandering around the surrounding Shiba park immerses you entirely in ancient Japanese culture, yet step outside and you can’t escape the hustle and bustle of Japan’s high-flying business district.
This eclectic mix of traditional custom and modern trends is one of the most striking takeaways from the fortnight I spent in Tokyo. I can’t think of a better setting to epitomise this fascinating fusion than the Park Tower’s Club Lounge, where I absorb the view of skyscrapers and temples for one last time. As my phone notifies me of a tube strike that’s planned for my return to London, I realise that there’s so much we too could learn from this unique culture. There’s something about being in such a high-functioning, efficient and respectful environment that makes you strive to be a better version of yourself, and I feel like an injection of Japanese tradition is just what fellow Londoners could do with when City stress starts to get too much.