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It should come as no surprise to anyone that art and design in Tokyo can be found in the city’s many museums, galleries, theatres and even zen gardens. Few, though, would expect a hotel to embody it.
But then, Fraser Suites Akasaka is no ordinary hotel. This new serviced apartment in Tokyo has integrated Japanese culture and craftsmanship into every facet of a modern building. And like the vibrant metropolis, where the frenetic urban life lived in the shadow of towering skyscrapers meets tranquil temples and charmingly courteous locals, Fraser Suites Akasaka juxtaposes the contemporary with the traditional in the upscale district of Akasaka.
In its quest to be a sanctuary in the metropolis, this new serviced apartment in Tokyo has adopted the design theme of “Urban Japanese Luxury”, with spaces and aesthetics inspired by age-old traditions from across generations. Coupled with its ideal location in the city and host of business and lifestyle amenities, it’s a perfect base for rediscovering the city.
With the time-honoured approach to art in Japan strongly linked to function and craftsmanship, the result is culture and tradition flowing through every design aspect of this new serviced apartment in Tokyo.
The first touchpoint for a guest arriving at the property is the lobby entrance’s huge bronze panels and door. Created with a technique called Sakan, it is similar to Venetian plaster where a traditional Japanese hand trowel scrapes and shapes textures and unique patterns.
This creates a look that is earthy and texturised, giving the appearance of depth and movement. When natural light falls on the surface, the effect is a feeling of lightness and stillness, qualities that pair nicely with the building’s minimalist aesthetic. It is also functional as the coating repels heat, humidity and fire.
Past the bronze doors is the impressive lobby, with its high ceiling giving the impression of a larger volume and fostering a greater sense of arrival. Together, the spaciousness and lighting form a pleasing transition from outdoors to indoors, from city to serenity. Here in this placid space, four special design features stand out.
The first is the lighting. While warm lighting and a soft colour palette are typically used for lobby entrances, pops of white have been added for a crisp and fresh appeal.
The second is the layered timber panels on the upper walls. Akasaka means “Red Hill” or “Red Slope”, and these geographical features were stylised by layering and staggering the panels, with dramatic lighting to create mood and rhythm.
Another special feature is the bookshelf that complements the layered panels. To conform with the overall architectural vocabulary, the books and decorative items chosen for display showcase crafts and subjects that are suitable as an introduction to Japan.
But perhaps the fourth feature is the most stunning – the Kumiko Art installation. Kumiko refers to intricate, wooden artwork assembled without nails, where delicate pieces of wood are instead grooved, punched and mortised to be joined together. This type of woodwork was developed during the Asuka period (600-700 AD) and used to build the houses of scholars.
As the lobby is where most people meet and interact, the Kumiko artwork is composed of a multi-faceted structure that suggests intersection and connection. Each piece was made to order after painstaking planning, preparation and production, involving the Frasers’ technical services team, the interior designers and art consultant Tanihata Co, a Kumiko specialist.
After careful assembly on site by the woodwork artist, there was no question that the effort was worth it. With an unusual choice of dark-coloured woods for contrast, the installation is not only magnificent to look at but beguiling to smell, with lingering scents of the pine, maple and oak used.
It is said that the four seasons manifest the simple but sophisticated beauty of Japan with their varying temperatures, smells and flora. At Fraser Suites Akasaka, a slice of this beauty is evident at the Niwa Terrace with its Japanese-inspired garden. A range of plants and trees brings the changing seasons into the hotel, with a sakura tree and its cherry blossoms heralding spring, Indian lilac announcing the start of summer, and a Momiji or maple tree in autumn.
As a rare piece of nature in the middle of busy Tokyo, the garden serves as a sanctuary to refresh and rejuvenate after a long day of meetings (or shopping).
The pretty garden can also be enjoyed from a corner of the adjacent restaurant, where there is a comfy sofa and an art installation with a string of leaves – like falling leaves floating in, the message is about transcending boundaries.
The restaurant at this new serviced apartment in Tokyo is MOSS by Cross Tokyo. Celebrating the fusion of Japanese and Italian seasonal produce, this casual restaurant has an open concept kitchen that sparks energy and amps up the dining ambience. Lined with shelves and an eclectic collection of books for guests to read, the atmosphere is immediately welcoming and homey.
As a nod to the surrounding topography, the restaurant’s pendant lights are a three-dimensional interpretation of the Akasaka hilltop and slopes. And like the lobby, the walls also have a layering of timber.
On your way to your apartment at Fraser Suites Akasaka, you will notice that form and function have been incorporated into the hushed corridors with GOBO Lighting. The gobo is a stencil or template in a lamp to “shape” the emitted light. In stage lighting, it is used to manipulate the shape of the light cast over a space or object.
In the hotel, the gobo projects sakura patterns to make guests feel as if they are walking on fallen petals as they stroll down the corridor to their room. Combining them with the custom-made carpet’s sakura petal motif creates an even more unique layering of “flora”.
In front of the lift is a Four Seasons screen that is different on every floor. The design of each screen is unique but all of them represent the four seasons of Flower (Spring), Water Waves (Summer), Leaves (Autumn) and Snow (Winter). They symbolise the beauty of the everchanging Japanese climate by expressing the changing seasons on a framed screen in a monochromatic manner.
To depict “coming home”, the design of the door signage is inspired by a bird returning to its nest. This stems from Fraser Suites Akasaka’s desire for its guests to make the serviced residence their second home.
Equally meaningful is that the door sign’s circular shape replicates the doors and windows found in traditional Japanese houses. It also symbolises completion and by combining wood with metal, it is in perfect harmony with the overall interior design.
At both ends of each corridor, the Dancing ribbons artwork expresses a “knot” or “tie” in various patterns and shapes, as used in the wrapping and gifting of a present to someone special. In Japanese culture, knots and ties represent bonding, harmony and serendipity.
Throughout the property, the main palette of colours for the furnishings are green, purple and blue.
These hues are linked to Japanese culture and tradition, with green symbolising nature and its beautiful four seasons; purple being the colour of nobility, as well as the highest ranking shade in traditional Kimono culture representing luxury; and blue historically used in traditional dying techniques for fabrics and ceramics to represent culture, history and remembrance.
Every aspect of the tranquil apartment’s interior is linked to Japanese tradition. The rooms are swathed in muted neutrals and suffused with soft light, the rooms at Fraser Suites Akasaka embody the precepts of “hin” (品)and “iki” (粋), the Japanese philosophy of refined elegance. Subtle Japanese accents counterpoint bold architectural lines, exemplifying the blend of modernity and tradition.
The frame and dividers used in each room again suggest the leveling of Akasaka’s hills and slopes. This theme is applied with various interpretations across the different areas of the property to create a holistic ambience.
The abstract wall mural is inspired from the Gakuen no Ike pond located in Akasaka to emphasise a sense of place. Seen in the living room of the one-bedroom apartment, the painting on the wall mimics the Byobu as a backdrop. The “Byobu” (屏風) is a Japanese folding screen. In Japanese, it literarily means “wall wind” or “wind protection” – an indispensable interior item of the traditional Japanese architecture for shrines, temples and the residences of federal lords.
Other items also reflect Japanese heritage, like the hanging lamps influenced by traditional paper lanterns. In the living room of the one-bedroom apartment, the custom-made Sakura carpet with its flowers in full bloom suggests a place where people gather.
Another rug to look out for is the pebble carpet, inspired by the Niwa Terrace garden. It reflects the concept of Japanese elegance, simplicity and stylishness.
Pine is the wood chosen for the meeting rooms. This is because in Japan, the pine tree is seen as auspicious and long-lasting. Its positive significance implies success, thus it is perfect for the space, which is used for both business and social events such as weddings.
A signature facility curated to feel just like home, The Retreat offers an environment ideal for anyone who wants to rest or focus on work.
Gentle lighting, soft ambient music and light drapery makes it a welcome sanctuary, where the carpets beneath the massage chairs contribute to the overall feeling of ease by suggesting that one is flowing on earth.
In Japan, where art and design are intertwined with culture and tradition, you can celebrate this amazing heritage when you stay at Fraser Suites Akasaka.