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Japanese luxury, nothing lost in translation

Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo
1-8-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; 81 (3) 6739 7888; 202 rooms from $465.

The elevator doors slide silently shut and your image is reflected in flawless mirrors as the plush elevator, with its crystal chandelier and thick carpet, carries you to the lobby on the 28th floor. When the doors open again they reveal a bright, broad space dominated by embroidered silk panels, more glowing crystal and the intoxicating aroma of vanilla mixed with bergamot and ginger - a scent familiar to anyone who has stayed at a Shangri-La hotel.

This is the first of the Hong Kong-based chain's properties to open in Japan and, in many ways, it is the jewel in the organization's crown. Occupying the top 11 floors of an office tower, the hotel is situated directly next to Tokyo Station, the city's main transportation hub, and within walking distance of the Imperial Palace and the chic Ginza neighbourhood. From the windows surrounding the swimming pool you can look down and see the bullet trains pulling in and out of the station, while the lobby bar faces Tokyo Harbour.

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Design As in any great hotel, the subtleties of the design are not always visible on first glance. The carved crystal details on the chandelier are in the shape of ginkgo leaves - the symbol of Tokyo. The abundant use of marble and gold approaches excess, but never crosses the line into garish. There is a seamless blending of traditional Japanese design with Chinese accents. A stunning classical Chinese landscape painting is situated high above the ground floor entrance. You might walk past it half a dozen times before it registers, but once it does you'll be transfixed.

The Amenities Everything you would expect, from a fully equipped gym to a 20-metre pool, complimentary Wi-Fi and broadband and 24-hour room service. Beyond that, guests staying on the Horizon Club Floors get express check-in and check-out, complimentary garment pressing and shoe shine, access to a meeting room, as well as cocktails and an excellent breakfast buffet.

The Rooms Ergonomically designed and technologically sophisticated: I could manage lights for the entire room from my bedside panel, while the bathroom mirror's built-in television kept me updated with CNN headlines while I shaved. The decor is defined by shades of aubergine, cream and gold, and the layouts make excellent use of the spectacular views with floor-to-ceiling windows. Vast, tiled shower areas offer options from gentle mist to exfoliating blast.

Service In a word: flawless. Japan's highly evolved service culture is on full display here. As soon as you enter the ground floor a liveried bellman will have one of the elevators open and ready for you. Directions in Tokyo are always approximate at best, but the polished, friendly front desk staff were always setting me up with maps and specific directions - "turn right at the Hermes shop" - no matter how obscure my destination.

The kimono-clad staff at the hotel's Japanese restaurant, Nadaman, made what could have been an intimidating experience of Japanese haute cuisine into a fun, relaxed event. When it comes time to check out, a bellman guides us through the maze of Tokyo Station depositing us directly at the platform of our train.

Food and Drink Nadaman is part of a restaurant group that has been in operation since 1830. A seasonally inspired kaiseki (Japan's equivalent to haute cuisine) meal in the gorgeous, art filled dining room is an experience of high aestheticism. Delicate homemade tofu is paired with rich, sea urchin; luscious Wagyu beef is seared over charcoal.

Everything from the plates to the chandeliers to the chef were imported from Italy when designing the hotel's Italian restaurant, Piacere. The reserve wine selection includes bottles so precious they're stored in individual, velvet lined drawers in a glassed-in room.

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The verdict Unrepentant luxury in a plush and sophisticated environment.

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