The Ritz Carlton, Tokyo is a true oasis of serenity in the hustle and bustle of the city’s Roppongi district. Moreover, the property itself is a prime example of ancient Japanese philosophy crystallised.
From boats rowing by at sea came a chorus of singing voices. With a pang, he watched them, dim in the offing, like little birds borne on the waters, and sank into a reverie as cries from lines of geese on high mingled with the creaking of oars, until tears welled forth, and he brushed them away with a hand so gracefully pale against the black of his rosary that the young gentlemen pining for their sweethearts at home were all consoled.Marasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji.
The idea of wistfulness at the passing of things and the gentle sadness associated with impermanence being the reality of life is a philosophy that’s guided Japanese culture, literature and art for centuries. It’s called mono no aware, and cannot be accurately translated to English.
This feeling, which is incredibly hard to pinpoint, let alone describe, is most commonly associated with the ritual of hanami – a centuries-old practice of drinking under a blooming Sakura. Although when I visited the city of Tokyo in November, no pink clouds were adorning the parks, the fiery yellow heaps stemming from each tree at the Imperial Palace Garden constituted a vision no less magnificent. Especially when enjoyed from the 45th floor of The Ritz Carlton, Tokyo.
The Ritz is nestled in Tokyo Midtown – a luxury development in the heart of Roppongi district – and among a variety of galleries and museums, including 21_21 Design Site, The National Art Centre, Suntory Museum of Art and Mori Museum of Art.
Upon my arrival at the grand lobby, a pair of Sam Francis’s artworks stare me down, and the magnificent arches panelled with the finest wood all seem to whisper, in unison with the serene water fixture, in tongues only known to the privileged few. It seems the time here flows differently, passing slower than usual – this must be how Odyssey felt when in Calypso’s dwelling.
I’m taken to the 45th floor, where Ritz’s fabled The Lobby Lounge holds court. Over a cup of coffee, I take in the views of the city’s breathtaking vistas, like the Imperial Palace Garden, Tokyo Bay Area and – of course – Mount Fuji. It’s hard to explain, but even through the glass windows, the air feels crisp, the sky – high and the city – endless. Within this grand sanctuary, which encapsulates the honoured merger of Eastern and Western tradition through its sleek interiors, green accents and elegant ikebana in the buffet area, time stretches and bends. It’s as if each sip of coffee holds fragments of centuries-old rituals.
And though I long for this moment to last for eternity, I’m being guided to my room and told that a celebrity musician had taken a suite on the very same floor (but no matter how much I tried to effortlessly bump into them at The Lobby Lunge the following day, my efforts were in vain). The room feels tasteful and luxurious – a selection of sweets and Louis Vuitton’s Tokyo City Guide waiting for me on the coffee table make the already unprecedented welcome exceptional.
During the day, I’m being shown Ritz Carlton’s famed Modern Japanese suite, equipped with tatami mats, traditional screens and the most luxurious bed I’ve ever laid eyes on. The views from each room of the suite don’t yield in their magnificence to those I admired earlier at The Lobby.
Come nightfall, I’m booked for treatment at the spa – the only one in the world which uses products from Cle de Peau’s highly exclusive Synactif line. From a myriad of options offered, I choose the Zenrenity massage, meant to re-energise the body with restorative techniques that target the back, neck, shoulders and lower legs. With each expert touch, I feel the weight of the world lifting from my shoulders. The rhythmic kneading of my back mirrors the gentle lapping of waves against the shore, gently imposing a sense of serenity that envelops me entirely. As the masseuse moves to my neck and shoulders, I almost imagine myself floating among those little birds borne on the waters.
After the massage, I enjoy a moment of repartée at the jacuzzi, which, naturally, is nested right in front of a window wall. As I let the hot water ease any remaining tension in my body, I take in the neon-specked views of the Shinjuku district. The cityscape of Tokyo shimmers in a symphony of lights, each building an individual star in the night sky. The bustling streets below hum with energy, a vibrant tapestry of life that seems to pulse with the heartbeat of the city. I am reminded once again of the impermanence of existence, how quickly moments slip away like sand through clenched fists.
Leaving the jacuzzi, I wrap myself in the plush bathrobe and make my way back to my room. It’s a sanctuary amidst the chaos, an oasis where time slows down and worries cease to exist. The soft lighting casts a warm glow, enveloping me in a cocoon of tranquillity. Lost in this moment of reflection, I reach for the Louis Vuitton Tokyo City Guide that was left for me earlier. Its pages are filled with secrets and hidden treasures of this vibrant city, waiting to be discovered. I make mental notes of places to visit, knowing that each experience will be fleeting yet profound.
As I turn off the bedside lamp and sink into the embrace of soft sheets, I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for this fleeting existence. Life is a delicate dance, a series of moments woven together like cherry blossoms falling gently to the ground.