Tokyo is a city of extremes and in search of just a little luxury, I was delighted to discover that I could only find it in droves. Hosting me either side of my OTT dining experience at Pierre Gagnaire was ANA Intercontinental Tokyo, thanks to a generous invitation from IHG Rewards Club. From its imposing entrance hall to the tiny details in our suite, AIT was a five-star experience through and through.
As regular visitors to the residencies of Intercontinental Hotels Group will know, its Rewards Club offers loyalty incentives in the form of points. Whether you’re staying at a Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza or Intercontinental, you’ll gather points along the way. They can be reimbursed for thrilling experiences, lavish items or, as in my case, stays at some of the world’s finest hotels.
The whole city is sheer madness (seriously; I cannot wait to share my experiences of the infamous Robot Restaurant with you). At Shinjuku station alone, 3.5 million pairs of feet rush through it every day. For a country bumpkin and all-round serenity seeker like myself, moments of quiet respite are a necessity. Rising majestically out of Tokyo’s populous skyline, the ANA Intercontinental Tokyo beckoned with this promise in mind.
As much as I would discourage such activity (or lack thereof), it would be entirely possible to not leave the building and still have a fantastic time. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji from the top of the building (it’s quite a distance; that’s impressive). There are 14 dining options, from room service, to private dining, to cafes, bars and of course, Michelin-starred restaurants. As well as the obligatory spa, fitness centre and pool, there’s a plentiful shopping arcade for you to get rid of those pesky Yen.
For me, it was the little details rather than its exuberance that made ANA Intercontinental Tokyo so outstanding. As a Rewards Club member, we had a dedicated check-in area (which came with the ego massage of a red carpet). VIP treatment is a continuous theme for those visiting under the Rewards Club: I was given a warm welcome by the hotel manager at the front desk, and they had kindly left me a personalised box of chocolates in the room. After being escorted skywards, we found our room to be beautiful and perfectly sized. The thoughtfulness of having a traditional Japanese foot massager in the cupboard to rest those weary feet after covering ample ground out in the city was appreciated, too.
Here’s one very important nugget of knowledge for those travelling to Japan: free public wifi isn’t a given. At all. I’ve pondered the reasoning behind this and I’m drawing a blank. I’ve heard two suggestions: that it isn’t offered because students will take advantage of it (so just change the passcode every 12 hours), or that public 5G access is so strong that wifi isn’t a Japanese consideration (but surely they have data limitations? And perhaps a consideration of those visiting the country and contributing to its tourist economy?) Most restaurants, cafes, general establishments don’t have wifi, which ended up being thoroughly infuriating at some points (I’m sorry to report that you can’t rely on the promises of free wifi in the metro stations, either). I begrudgingly ended up spending a disproportionate amount of time in Starbucks to access its shaky connection as a result; though I wasn’t the only foreigner to have that brainwave. On more than one occasion, the Starbucks was so replete with wifi-hungry travellers that I had to hover near the straw station and awkwardly use it as my table.
Thank goodness we had high-speed internet in our room at AIT. Discussing free wifi access feels like a moot point, but it’s a rarity you’ll come to appreciate, until Japanese hospitality catches up with itself and wifi for visitors is considered with the seriousness it deserves. An indebted round of applause to ANA Intercontinental Tokyo for leading the way in what ought not to be an innovation.
Ok, wifi rant over.
I was pleased to find the heated bathroom mirror prevented that little annoyance when, in the aftermath of a hot shower, the room is too steamy for proper usage. And although I’m not actually religious, I found the Teaching of Buddha to be an enjoyable bedtime read. Having said that, I felt a touch ironic as I read its advice on the simple and selfless lifestyle: I was fresh from a 20-course meal and reclining in a bed big enough for a small family. But hey; everything in moderation (including moderation itself).
After spending your Tokyo daytimes expecting the unexpected, the reliably luxuriant hospitality of an Intercontinental Hotels Group establishment is a must-book for any decadent visitor to this absolutely crazy, kooky city.