While the term “iconic” may be overused when speaking about Tokyo’s landmarks, The Okura is without question an establishment that lives up to its icon status. Indeed, it occupies a special place in the city’s modern history. Originally launched as the Hotel Okura Tokyo ahead of the 1964 Olympic Games, the original property was a modernist masterpiece that captivated design aficionados the world over. So when the owners announced a complete rebuild in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics, there were fears the landmark’s inherent charm would be lost. Happily, the 2019 rebirth strikes a perfect balance between maintaining the artisanal elegance of its predecessor and bringing the storied hotel into the 21st century, embodying the old-meets-new ethos of Tokyo itself.
The Okura is located in the skyscraper-filled Toranomon business district, a corner of central Tokyo frequented by the city’s elite and affluent. Notably, the American Embassy lies just down the road and the U.S. ambassador’s residence stands across the street from the hotel entrance. A 10-minute stroll to the south will bring you to the upscale neighborhood of Roppongi, home to countless fine-dining restaurants and world-class galleries. Three metro stations—Kamiyacho, Toranomon Hills, and Roppongi-itchome—are all within easy walking distance from the hotel, while another two can be found about 15 minutes away on foot.
Don’t be fooled by the sleek glass-and-steel facades of the two towers that make up the property. Stepping into The Okura Tokyo feels like traveling back in time while experiencing Japan at its most modern. Yoshio Taniguchi, son of the architect who was among those responsible for the original hotel, oversaw the design of the new build to ensure it stayed as true to form as possible. Hence the careful reconstruction of the famed lobby with its matcha- and sand-hued checkered carpets, geometric latticework, and fine art details (the distinctive pendant lights and mid-century modern armchairs were thoughtfully retained). That painstaking precision and attention to detail is woven throughout the public and private spaces. Traditionalism lives strong here, but it’s a melding of eras that never feels unharmonious.
Split between The Okura Prestige Tower—a 41-story mixed-use skyscraper—and its 17-floor counterpart The Okura Heritage Wing, rooms and suites unite timeless Japanese luxury with up-to-date features designed for the modern traveler. More Western-inspired spaces abound in the Prestige Tower, where rooms feature elements you’d expect from international luxury hotels, like neutral textiles, soft carpets, cushiony sofas, and warm, soothing lighting. As its name suggests, the Heritage Wing is more reminiscent of traditional Japanese aesthetics but with a contemporary twist: think plush oversize beds framed by shoji-inspired sliding partitions, and minimalist wooden furnishings. All the rooms have an uncluttered layout and floor-ceiling windows that wrap around the spaces, framing vistas of the surrounding cityscape.
Food and drink
Seven restaurants and bars take up residence across the two buildings. The Heritage Wing has the bases covered for rich French cuisine and high-end Japanese classics like sushi and tempura with Nouvelle Epoque on the fifth floor and Yamazato at ground level. The Prestige Tower is where you’ll find the rest of the hotel’s dining destinations. On the top floor, teppanyaki restaurant Sazanka serves up sizzling plates with a side of sweeping city views. Next door at the aptly named Starlight Bar and Lounge, you can sip cocktails while marveling at the glittering lights of Tokyo at night. On the sixth floor is Toh Ka Lin, which offers excellent Chinese cuisine. A delicious and satisfying buffet breakfast awaits at international all-day dining venue Orchid, and for some 1960s-style elegance, you can’t miss the hotel’s flagship Orchid Bar, which has been faithfully recreated using original fittings from the old Okura.
The Prestige Tower has a large fitness center on the 26th floor, complete with a 25-meter lap pool bathed in natural light, a rectangular jacuzzi, and deck chairs for soaking up the incredible city views. Upstairs, the spa is staffed by bilingual professionals; in the seven treatment rooms, customized facials and therapies inspired by the five elements of nature utilize products by beauty brand Annayake. One of these full-body treatments combines Japanese and Western massage styles.
Kids’ amenities including pajamas, slippers, toothbrushes, and towels are available; in-room babysitting can be arranged. Orchid offers a breakfast and special menu for junior guests, while all other restaurants except for Nouvelle Epoque allow children under 12, with kid-size tableware, cutlery, cups, and chairs provided on request. The Club Lounge welcomes under-13s until 5 p.m.
Half of the development’s site area has been turned into two publicly accessible parks. Inside the hotel, single-use plastic items are being replaced with more eco-friendly options, while The Okura has also introduced rainwater harvesting and energy-saving equipment. Aside from reusing furnishings from the original building, the new design incorporates traditional crafts from Japan’s 47 prefectures.
Next to Yamazato, the hotel’s secretive and reservations-only tea room has been recreated to conjure up the elegant charms of its predecessor. Book a tea ceremony session in conjunction with lunch or dinner at Yamazato for the full Okura experience. Guests are eligible for free admission to the on-site Okura Museum of Art, home to a priceless trove of Japanese paintings, sculpture, and calligraphy.
Reviewed by Lucy Dayman