Inside the lush Tokyo hotel featured on the Real Housewives of Sydney

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After a week spent travelling around Japan, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

In a country renowned for its many rules and complex public transport system, I so far hadn’t put a foot wrong.

I’d booked cross-country shinkansens, traversed Osaka’s confusing metro, and even become an onsen enthusiast, navigating the many rules that come along with the Japanese love of public hot spring bathing (a sample: Shoes go in locker 1. Clothes go in locker 2. Tattoos must be covered with stickers before entry. Oh yeah, and nudity is compulsory).

How embarrassing, then, to be absolute owned the moment I arrived in Tokyo. As my shinkansen pulled in to the massive Shinjuku station – “Change here for services to …” the conductor announced, reeling off a seemingly endless list of locations – I quickly realised I had absolutely no idea where to go.

Shinjuku station is a labyrinth, infamous among weary tourists, with dozens upon dozens of exits, each spitting you out in a completely different area of Shinjuku. Every wrong turn took me towards train platforms I didn’t want and underground shopping malls I was trying to escape.

What a relief to finally emerge into the sunlight and see a spectacular, snow-capped edifice rising from the Shinjuku metropolis – and to realise that my home for the next two days would be inside. Floor 39 to be exact, with a jaw-dropping view from my room’s giant floor to ceiling windows.

The Bellustar Pan Pacific Hotel takes up the very top of the newly built Tokyo Kabuchiko Tower in central Shinjuku. Entry is not for the faint of heart: Your first stop will be at the lobby on the 18th floor, and the only way to do that is via glass elevator, on the outside of the building. Forget Tokyo Disney; this is quite enough of a thrill for me, thank you.

Inside a $32k-per-night hotel penthouse in Japan

And it turned out I was way off in guessing the tower’s distinctive facade was meant to replicate the iconic Mount Fuji: Inspired by the former water fountain of Kani-gawa and by the Buddhist goddess of water, the tower was actually designed to look like a fountain, the white caps forming the foam on top of the spray jets.

Designed by Yuko Nagayama & Associates, it’s also – incredibly – the first skyscraper ever designed by a woman in Japan.

I’m certainly not the first Aussie to stay here, but last year a few particularly (in?)famous Australians made the trip: The Real Housewives of Sydneydescended for the show’s second season, staying at the Bellustar for an, ahem, dramatic week of filming.

Only a year old now, the hotel was barely open when the SydneyHousewives and crew descended for a week of filming. As with anything related to the Real Housewives, there was a bit of tension involved.

“It was … tough,” one senior member of hotel staff tells me, confessing she had to personally shoo one cast member back into the hotel bar after she’d tearfully stormed out of a scene. In short: Please, ladies, save your walkouts until your crew have filmed enough of our hotel!

The bar is a stunner, with its three-storey ceilings and calming pale colour palette (not that it had much of a calming effect on certain Housewives). For food, guests can choose between modern French, Teppanyaki and authentic Edomae-style sushi restaurants, all on site.

Above all those, though, is a floor with five spectacular penthouses – out of reach for even the Housewives, who had to “settle” for staying in the lush rooms a few floors down.

Touring that top floor is a glimpse at how the 1% live: The penthouse floor has its own massive communal lounge and gym, accessible only to those staying there. No mingling with the riff-raff below the top floor.

Most impressive for its sheer scale is ‘Sora’, a 277-square metre space that’s fitted out more like a home than a hotel room (check out the video at the top of this story for a full, envy-inducting room tour).

Absurdly opulent details abound: The super-king-size bed could comfortably sleep about 10 people, there’s an entire spa room with twin massage tables so the hotel’s spa staff come for a visit, and anyone lucky enough to hop in the jacuzzi will be treated to what’s surely Tokyo’s best bathtime view.

Luxury like this doesn’t come cheap: A night in the Sora will set you back around $32,000 AU.

But in the same building is Bellustar’s sister hotel, a more affordable option for travellers looking for a bit of Real Housewives luxury on a MAFS contestant budget.

Hotel Groove has a younger, funkier vibe – a lively bar and restaurant called Jam17, complete with an ice-cream station and vinyl records by the likes of Janet Jackson and Solange adorning the walls.

Its 538 rooms can be reserved for as low as around $300 AU a night – the same building and virtually the same view as Bellustar, but at a much lower rate.

Whichever part of the building suits your budget, Shinjuku is truly one of Japan’s thriving hubs: Bars, restaurants, and all the shopping you can imagine, ranging from luxe offerings like the Itusen department store with price tags to make you wince, to the massive Don Quijote discount store, seven levels of kitsch trinkets perfect for those at home.

If the hotel does have a problem, it’s that those spectacular views can make it hard to prise yourself out of your room and actually get amongst Tokyo.

Armed with months of Instagram recommendations, I had a list of activities I wanted to tick off during my first evening in Tokyo. Instead, still scarred from my Shinjuku station saga, I found myself reaching for the mini bar and pouring myself a glass of champagne to toast the sunset from the comfort of my hotel room in the sky.

I guess in this city of almost 14 million people, you have to take the moments of peace and reflection where you can get them.

The writer stayed as a guest of Bellustar Pan Pacific Tokyo.

Read related topics:Sydney

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