- Best Historic Japanese-Style Inn: Homeikan consists of three historic buildings, one with a Japanese garden and very nice tatami rooms. A great choice for those who don't mind roughing it a bit (there are no private bathrooms), this is traditional Japanese living at inexpensive rates.
- Best for Business Travelers: Although not as centrally located as other hotels, the Royal Park Hotel wins my vote as the best for business travelers, with its easy and frequent access to Narita airport, excellent service (including a Woman's Traveler Desk), nine restaurants and bars, 24-hour room service, a 24-hour business center, and comfortable rooms.
- Best for a Romantic Getaway: Nothing beats a weekend getaway to the historic Fujiya Hotel in Hakone. Established in 1878, it is one of Japan's finest, most majestic hotels, boasting great views, Japanese- and Western-style architecture, a wonderful 1930s dining hall, and a large landscaped garden perfect for moonlit walks.
- Best Budget Accommodations: Although the building is rather nondescript, Ryokan Sawanoya is nestled in a delightful neighborhood of traditional shops and old wooden houses; the English-speaking owner goes out of his way to introduce the neighborhood and make guests feel at home with such extras as complimentary tea and instant coffee, and free laundry detergent. An added bonus is the free lion dances performed by his son.
- Best for Long Stays: For stays of a week or longer, a comfy home-away-from-home is Tokyu Stay Aoyama Premier, which offers rooms complete with kitchenettes, combination washer/dryers, lots of storage space, and such extras as complimentary breakfast and Internet connections.
- Best Views: If it's winter, when Mount Fuji is most likely to be visible, the Park Hyatt Tokyo affords great views of Japan's tallest mountain. For city views, nothing can beat panoramas from Tokyo's highest hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo.
- Best Hotel Garden: Hotel New Otani has a beautiful 400-year-old Japanese garden that once belonged to a feudal lord. Its sprawling 4 hectares (10 acres) contain ponds, waterfalls, bridges, bamboo groves, and manicured bushes.
- Best Hotel for Pretending You're Not in Tokyo: Located on the man-made island of Odaiba, Hilton Tokyo Odaiba has a resortlike atmosphere, is surrounded by parks and gardens, and is just a short walk away from a sandy swimming beach, museums, and shopping malls. A glance outside your hotel room, however, serves as a reminder — the city skyline crowds the edge of Tokyo Bay.
The Best Splurge Hotels
- Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo: Located across from the famous Mitsukoshi department store, this luxurious property boasts outstanding views, massive guest rooms with sophisticated entertainment centers, a spa, high-end restaurants, and fabrics and textiles made especially for the hotel by artisans throughout Japan.
- Park Hyatt Tokyo: This was one of my favorite hotels long before it became a Lost in Translation celebrity. Quite simply, it's among the most gorgeous and sophisticated hotels in Japan, with rooms to die for, stunning views, and one of Tokyo's best restaurants. It also wins kudos for free entry for hotel guests to its dramatic, sunlit, 20m (66-ft.) indoor pool, on the 47th floor, with great views over Tokyo.
- The Peninsula Tokyo: Low-key compared to sister property Hong Kong's The Peninsula, this hotel places its emphasis on luxurious rooms, complete with gorgeous bathrooms equipped with mood lighting (and tubs big enough for two), dryers just for nails, and bedside controls that light up with the slightest touch. Its location near the Ginza, Marunouchi, and Hibiya also make it hotel central for both business and leisure traveler; a Rolls Royce delivers guests in style within a 1km (1.2-mile) radius, free of charge.
- The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo: Occupying the lofty reaches of Tokyo's tallest building, this luxury property in Tokyo Midtown ranks as one of Japan's best hotels, with Tokyo's largest rooms, complete with two large closets and huge bathrooms with two separate sinks and counters, making it a best bet for couples. It cocoons guests from the mad whirl of central Tokyo with the best that money can buy, including service above and beyond the call of duty.
The Best Moderately Priced Hotels
- Hilltop Hotel: Established in 1937, this unassuming hotel is the closest that Tokyo has to a historic hotel. With an Art Deco facade, it boasts such endearing touches as fringed lampshades, doilies, cherrywood furniture, velvet curtains, and old-fashioned heaters. With only 74 rooms, it also boasts a surprising number of restaurants and bars.
- Hotel Century Southern Tower: Occupying the top floors of a Shinjuku skyscraper just a couple minutes' walk from Shinjuku Station, this bright and modern property offers great views, a convenient location, and comfortable rooms.
- Hotel Gracery: Although rooms are tiny, they're smartly decorated, and there's even a floor just for ladies. Even better is this hotel's location, smack dab in the Ginza.
- Park Hotel Tokyo: An attractive, 10-story, light-filled lobby, restaurants offering organic dishes, rooms with views of Tokyo Bay or Tokyo Tower, and walking distance from the Ginza make this a low-cost alternative to similarly designed but pricier hotels.
- Tokyu Stay Aoyama Premier: Road-weary travelers can park here, taking advantage of this chain's lower rates for longer stays and rooms complete with kitchenettes and in-room laundry facilities. Bonuses are its central location and high floors offering expansive views.