TOKYO — Across the moat from Japan’s tranquil Imperial Palace gardens, the city's most lauded, new luxury hotel is abuzz with preparations for a New Year celebration that’s equal parts tradition, sophistication and fun.
As Japan marks one of its most symbolic and meaningful holidays, Palace Hotel Tokyo hopes to immerse travellers in one of the world’s most refined cultures by synthesizing time-honoured ceremonies, renowned arts and distinctive experiences under one roof in the heart of the capital.
Essential culinary customs and their origins – such as eating toshikoshi soba noodles and feasting on osechi-ryori (foods specially prepared for the holiday) – will be presented by the hotel’s expert Japanese chefs, while a skilled iwai-gumi will be on hand to demonstrate the tradition of mochi-making.
Travelers staying in the hotel will also have the opportunity to observe and participate in hatsugama, the first tea ceremony of the new year and a ritual that is, perhaps, the most emblematic expression of Japanese hospitality.
With more than half of its rooms featuring open balconies and terraces, the hotel offers an ideal vantage point from which to contemplate views of Tokyo’s lush Imperial Palace gardens and observe the crowds that gather to cheer the annual appearance of Japan’s Imperial family on 2 January.
Throughout the three-day period between 31 December and 2 January known as oshogatsu, traditionally dressed musicians in the hotel lobby will strum holiday tunes on the koto, a classic Japanese instrument that dates back to the 8th century.
A New Year’s Day dinner concert will feature a special performance on the 20-string koto by the acclaimed Gayo Nakagaki, followed by music from a philharmonic orchestra with operatic accompaniment.
To enliven the holiday season, the hotel has also invited Japan’s top magician Kyoko, and juggling masters the Kikyo Brothers to provide world-class entertainment together with Yusuke Ito, a nationwide champion and holder of two Guinness World Records, who will display his extraordinary skills with the kendama.
The hotel’s function spaces will also be transformed into games rooms with table tennis, darts and igo chess matches, and shishi-mai lion dancers will shimmy and strike before audiences on 2 January.
Guests in residence over the holiday as well as those just visiting for the day can ring in 2014 in style at the hotel’s New Year Countdown Cocktail Party, kicking off with live jazz at The Palace Lounge on the evening of the 31st. On 1 & 2 January, a series of sumptuous international buffets will be laid out for breakfast and lunch in the Aoi ballroom overlooking the Imperial moats and gardens.