If you were ever to get lost in the Asakusa neighbourhood of northeastern Tokyo, as you may very well be naturally predisposed toward doing, then you can always reorient yourself one of two ways.
The first would be to turn unfailingly toward your smartphone and its compass, international roaming rates notwithstanding. Alternatively (and this is operating on the safe assumption that plotting a course using the shadows cast by the sun in the sky is out of the question) you can always cast your gaze skyward and turn to face whichever direction the Tokyo Skytree is in before winding your way back towards it, and with it, somewhere you’d be well-placed to call home.
The tallest freestanding broadcasting tower in the world – a rapturous factoid for any keen audiophile – casts a long shadow over the dense, sprawling neighbourhood that once acted as a centre for the city’s Kabuki theatre trade in the Edo period (1603 – 1868, for those playing along at home). The centuries since have seen it recast in a new light as both an entertainment hub, the site of a great deal many historical sites and, today, a contemporary mecca for those looking to replenish their kitchen cabinets (or perhaps just their knife block) with the wares of some of the most densely stocked kitchen supply stores you’ll likely ever lay eyes on.
Amidst all this and more is the Skytree, all 634 metres of it acting as a literal and figurative beacon for those in search of one of the city’s best viewing platforms, or perhaps just a way of gathering their bearings in this often discombobulating prefecture. Across the road, and further down the main drag, the Kaminarimon Gate, with its sculptures of Shinto deities and a four-metre-tall lantern, draws tourists in in their thousands. One of the city’s biggest Buddhist shrines, the Thunder Gate entrance (Kaminarimon) of Sensoji, the city’s oldest temple brings with it one of its busiest sightseeing trades; a narrow thoroughfare that connects the Gate to the Shrine is lined with market stalls plying all sorts of trades that, depending on your propensity for kitsch, will either warrant intense inspection of utter indifference.
More worthwhile as far as your consideration goes is a neighboring property with which the Gate shares a name. On the precipice of Tokyo’s old and new worlds lies The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon. Opened in late 2012 by Hulic, a Japanese real estate company, in a 14-storey former office block, the hotel is a pillar of efficient design, both outside and within. On entry into the hotel’s 13th floor lobby, you’re greeted immediately by the curvilinear panoramic outlook offering uninterrupted views toward the city beneath. The hotel’s 136 rooms offer variations on the theme of the same view, all of which also feature textiles designed by Marimekko designer Masaru Suzuki and original artworks by the painter Katsuhiko Hibino.
Art and design are a central tenet of the hotel, which was designed by the Yokohama-born and Tokyo-based multidisciplinary designer Shigeru Uchida. Its credentials are of merit enough to warrant the hotel’s inclusion in the esteemed Design Hotels™️ portfolio, a likeminded conglomerate of properties that share an overarching aesthetic sensibility despite their ostensible differences in style, time and place. At The Gate Hotel, that concern is rendered most keenly in its minimal furnishings, many with a modernist twist; likewise some statement lighting fixtures, including the incredible constellation in the lobby, which blur the lines between form and function, fine art and filament. Rooms are comfortably sized, with plush surfaces in dark hues lending themselves toward dramatic spotlighting – perhaps in an effort to compete with the view.
It’s fitting then that, when gazing out toward the Tokyo Skytree from the building’s 14th floor open-air rooftop terrace or from its French-fusion inclined restaurant R Restaurant and Bar, you’re greeted by two other notable additions to the skyline with similar artistic sensibilities. The first, in descending order of height, is a stout rectangular building sheathed in iridescent gold and crowned with a graphic white cloud. Adjacent is an altogether different beast, one shaped like a gilded tadpole with little by way of discernible features and functions. One is the headquarters of the Asahi brewing company, whose beer greets you in every local ramen joint or sushi restaurant within reach. The second, designed by Philippe Starck, weighs in at some 360 tonnes, is completely empty, and is referred to as either the Asahi Flame – though it’s true meaning is entirely open to interpretation, perhaps best discussed over a second round enjoyed atop this singular property.
YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE GATE HOTEL KAMINARIMON HERE.
Tile and cover image: Courtesy of The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon
GRAZIA stayed at The Gate Kaminarimon as a guest of the hotel.