In Tokyo, where robot restaurants reign and streets swarm with commuters and cyclists, organized chaos is heavy on the “organized.” Pedestrians obey traffic signals, transit runs on schedule, and passengers whisper respectfully at rush hour even as trains hit record-breaking volumes. While the city’s pace of life has been known to strike visitors as perhaps a tad overwhelming, tranquility certainly has its place. Sky-high spas and intimate lounges tone the energy level down. Should you find yourself in Tokyo, and in need of a break, here are a few places to unwind.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
As the city pulses below, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, atop the 38-story Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, eases the tension. Tip-top treatments aren’t the main feature; the view, and its sublime perspective, offers sanctuary in the sky. Corner suites are poised high above the ground floor’s bustling business district, framing the manic city within a manageable scope—trains, cars, and pedestrians buzz distantly. Skyscrapers frame a picture-perfect Tokyo skyline, and, on brilliant days, Mount Fuji looms majestically on the horizon.
Ginza, Tokyo’s brand-name shopping district, may only be comforting insofar as providing retail therapy. However, underground within the brand-new Ginza Six—which houses 13 scintillating floors of ritzy boutiques, and for art’s sake, a hanging installation by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama—is a svelte space with just a handful of seats: Mixology Salon captures respite in a glass. A quiet hideaway, the tidy shop and bar exclusively serves tea-based beverages. A range of cocktails (called “tea-tails”) play with steeped and shaken fragrances and flavours. Familiar concoctions, like the martini are enriched with bold gyokuro green tea, while others are evermore sweet with matcha and chocolate.
The Nezu Museum
A haven for aesthetes, the Nezu Museum is a stone’s throw from frenetic Shibuya in the business-centric district of Minato. The Kengo Kuma-designed space houses the pre-modern art collection of the estate’s former owner, a longtime president of Japan’s largest railway. While the collection is over 7,000 pieces strong, ranging from precious objects to statues, from calligraphy to bronzes, and from Japanese to Chinese origins (and beyond), the museum also has a lush garden in which to pause. Mossy pathways meander throughout the estate, and ripples swell across ponds in a private counterpoint to Tokyo’s busy public parks. The late owner was an aficionado of tea, too, and charming teahouses squat throughout his prized gardens.
Districts for which Tokyo is known—Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku—are packed, and always ready to party. But not all of the city’s neighbourhoods are geared towards seeing and being seen. Nakameguro, located at the end of its local train line, is a hub for calmer pursuits that are nonetheless cool. The neighbourhood pops up on the global radar once a year as cherry blossoms flourish along its picturesque canal. But the enduring atmosphere is defined by cute coffee shops, fashion boutiques, narrow streets, and creative types. It’s not quite suburbia, but for visitors looking for a low-key refresh, Nakameguro is a relaxed spot to explore.
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