The Chinzanso has the most illustrious history of any hotel in Tokyo. The land and garden were painted by Hiroshige in the 17th century and owned by an elder statesman around the turn of the 19th century then subsequently developed as a free-standing hotel. The garden is without doubt one of the finest in Tokyo with well-tended trees, a three-story pagoda, a traditional tea house and manicured paths that meander around the central pond – all in all, a sublime environment, which is arguably at its best during cherry blossom season. The Kanda River is also just a few mere steps away, and is especially scenic during the summer months, when fire flies come out to cast their romantic glow around.
The garden is by no means the only highlight of the property. It impresses on arrival with a beautifully curated lobby with lounge sofas, chandeliers and artworks that look as if they have been transported from a penthouse in Europe. This style was very much in vogue after the war and is still appreciated by the largely Japanese clientele. This does put it at risk of becoming a museum piece, but the Chinzanso feels fresh, unlike some of the other heritage hotels which feel rather musty and dated now.
The rooms are a delight. King beds with sweeping garden views through floor-to-ceiling windows and some of the most spacious bathrooms of any hotel in Japan are incredibly welcoming – as are the little touches like L'Occitane products and the fresh fruit and English-language newspapers that are provided each morning. While staying here, one can relax in Yu, The Spa - which includes an open-air pool and even a hot spring onsen bath – and use the well-equipped gym.
The Chinzanso boasts half a dozen restaurants with a range of cuisines - French, Italian and Japanese - where guests are bound to dine as the hotel's only disadvantage is its location. It is a taxi or train ride to dining areas such as Shinjuku or Ikebukuro, but this distance does add to the sense of an oasis of luxury that is neither halfway up a skyscraper nor bustling with people like the downtown hotels.
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
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