Author Andrew Bender Photography Joshua Paul
DAY ONE / Talk about having your head in the clouds. A touch of a button opens your curtains at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo to reveal the city awakening below—far below. In fact, the hotel lobby (with giant Sam Francis paintings) is on the 45th floor of Tokyo Midtown Tower, the city’s tallest building at 818 feet. The hotel’s service is lofty too. It’s worth sending your shoes out for a complimentary shine just to receive them back in an elegant wooden box. Have breakfast in Forty Five, the hotel’s restaurant, before walking the surrounding neighborhood, Roppongi. Before your walk, ask the concierge to book your tickets for the Kabuki-za Theater tomorrow.
Go downstairs, and weave through the Tokyo Midtown complex, opened in 2007. Bamboo stalks draw the eye up four stories of atria lined with shopping and dining, amid stone sculptures and catwalks inlaid with washi paper. Here, the Suntory Museum of Art is a modernist showcase for ancient Japanese treasures. Across Midtown’s rolling lawn, inside a deceptively large, low-slung pavilion by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Tadao Ando, 21_21 Design Sight offers fanciful takes on design. (Fashion’s Issey Miyake curated the current show.)
Cross the main street. At the next bend, the glass façade of the National Art Center, Tokyo (also new in 2007) roils like ocean waves. Architect Kisho Kurokawa’s affection for the cone is obvious—you enter through one. Have a look; then break for coffee at the café and admire the four-story lobby that could berth an ocean liner.
By lunchtime, go down the hill and around the bend, where Roppongi Hills rises to your left, a 27-acre shopping/office/hotel complex that was a first for Tokyo when it debuted in 2003. Here, inside the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, cozy into a round booth at The French Kitchen, and let servers guide you through the appetizer buffet and on to steaks, seafood, and tempting desserts.
A postprandial stroll through Roppongi Hills provides a feast for the eyes. It’s easy—and fun—to lose yourself in California-based architect Jon Jerde’s motifs of East and West: pilasters, gardens of both the hanging and samurai variety, walls of water, and art by Louise Bourgeois, Martin Puryear, and Cai Guo-Giang.
About a 15-minute walk (or a quick taxi ride) away, Axis is a remarkable collection of design studios and shops. Le Garage sells accessories for fashion-forward F-1 fanatics: racing suits, antique leather helmets, and balloon-powered toy cars. Nuno textile studio, downstairs, has pieces in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The fabrics—inlaid with feathers, stitched with Japanese paper, or woven from metal—are sold by the bolt or tailored into clothing or other creations.
Head back to the hotel for a soak with the city at your feet in the 46th-floor hot tub. Leave around 6 p.m. for dinner, a few minutes away by foot, where chef Masaharu Morimoto of the Iron Chef TV series oversees Morimoto XEX. Descend a spiral staircase, ascend over a fountain, and there, beneath copper range hoods, chefs grill succulent teppan-yaki. After dinner, go upstairs to the lounge for fireside cognac, cheese, and appropriately tiny desserts.
The futuristic Mori Art Museum stays open until 10 p.m. (5 p.m. on Tuesdays), on the top (52nd–54th) floors of Roppongi Hills’ Mori Tower. Exhibits change several times a year, and even if the museum is closed between shows, cap your day with stunning nightime city vistas from the Tokyo City View observatory.