Tokyo's Peninsula a palace not to be missed

 
 
Published5/10/2008 6:51 PM

Out and about on a recent visit to Tokyo, I ran into a couple of women in Kabuki dress. Their white-painted faces gleamed in the sun as they chatted in front of a theater steps from my hotel. We communicated with our eyes, theirs saying, "go ahead" as I raised my camera to take a shot of these beauties in their traditional kimonos.

Trying to be gracious in a gracious world, I offered a "domo arigato" in their direction before rushing back to my room to get dressed up myself.

 

My attire wasn't quite as interesting, but I didn't hold back on trying to display some style, knowing full well the crowd in which I was about to mingle would have done the same. After all, I was staying in Japan's most-talked-about hotel, the brand-new and very avant garde Peninsula Tokyo.

Our gathering that evening took place inside the rooftop Peter restaurant, perched proudly on the 24th floor of this cutting-edge property. An arched bridge entrance, a grove of chrome trees and a selection of interactive video walls set the scene at this exciting eatery, a theatrical place definitely meant for seeing and being seen.

I carried my purple sequined evening satchel with pride as we sat down to a sumptuous meal inside a private dining room decorated from one end of the ceiling to the other by a metal bird's nest sculpture I worried would be difficult to keep clean.

In between courses of Tasmanian salmon with glazed fig and Yonesawa beef brisket confit with caramelized white turnips, a round table full of discerning colleagues kept up an upbeat banter to fit the mood of the place. Then, suddenly, all conversation stopped mid-sentence as a scene out of a movie took place on the small balcony outside our window overlooking the city.

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All eyes turned to see a ballerina garbed in a requisite pink tutu emerge from a hidden door, on point and smiling wide even though she was getting drenched in a pouring rainfall. This diva didn't seem to mind, instead performing perfect pirouettes as we watched in awe and silence. It was probably the most memorable pregnant pause I've ever experienced at a dinner meeting and definitely provided sheer delight for all of us lucky enough to have witnessed this unexpected interlude.

But that's what The Peninsula Tokyo is all about.

From the giant bamboo dragon by Japanese designer Keisen Hama that presides over the hotel's sleek lobby with ultra-high walls sporting yards of wood slats to the modern art masterpiece of stainless steel cones wrapped in glowing glass fibers that are suspended between the 8th- and 23rd-floor atrium by high-tension cables, the Pen and its special frills are dynamic.

So are the guest rooms, filled with innovations not to be found elsewhere, such as a mobile phone that turns cellular once you hit the streets of Tokyo and a walk-in, sit-down closet that includes a dressing table with built-in nail dryer.

But, for all this intense art and luxurious technology there's something warm and fuzzy about The Peninsula Tokyo. I realized this while waiting for my colleagues the first day when General Manager Malcolm Thompson stopped to speak with me. It was a casual, small-talk conversation mainly addressing the needs of our college-age kids, both of whom attend a university in California. Indeed, the extra effort this busy man made to make contact made me feel very much at home in this veritable palace called The Peninsula Tokyo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So did the rest of his staff, from bellhops to front desk personnel, all of whom smiled warmly but with pride whenever I passed by.

And well they should.

To be sure, their magical work place is a place not to be missed on any trip to bustling Tokyo.

For further information, go to http://tokyo.peninsula.com.

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