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Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills

The design-minded hotel offers a sophisticated but simple luxurious stay that brings forth the best of Japanese culture

by Nara Shin in Travel on 31 October 2014

2020 Olympics, Andaz, Hyatt, Japan, Tokyo, Boutique Hotels, Hotels, Luxury Hotels

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On the 47th to 52nd floors of the new Toranomon Hills skyscraper is one of Tokyo's newest hotels. Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills—the Hyatt-owned brand's second property in Asia—is aiming for a sophisticated yet simple approach to a luxurious stay, removing much of the over-formality and international approach commonly found among its fellow five-star compatriots in Tokyo. As we saw with Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica, the boutique hotel chain makes commendable efforts to incorporate the local environment and culture (whether it's Savannah, Georgia or Shanghai, China) into its design and service. One of the key takeaways: Japanese people take their baths seriously.

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Two different designers were brought on board for Andaz Tokyo: Taiwanese-American designer Tony Chi (who left his mark on NYC's Andaz 5th Avenue, Park Hyatt Shanghai and other locales around the world) took over the communal lounge, restaurant and guestrooms, while Japanese designer (and a chef who owns two restaurants) Shinichiro Ogata was tasked with the rooftop bar, event spaces ("Andaz Studios"), wedding chapel and the spa.

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It's immediately apparent that Chi's vision for the 47th floor was natural materials, as walnut wood from Hokkaido is found everywhere—from the low tables to the walls (complemented by Charlie Whinney's massive steam-bent hardwood sculptures that are suspended from the ceiling). The elevators also feature washi paper artwork in the shape of fish.

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The 50 square meters that comprise the standard guestrooms, designed by Chi, are divided equally between the bedroom area and the bathroom—a reflection of Japan's dedicated bathing culture. Soak and relax in the circular tub, cleanse off in the rain-shower, and slip into either a fluffy bathrobe or specially made yukatas (light kimonos) afterwards. But the high-tech toilet is what captured our hearts during the stay; aside from the programmable bidet and heated seat, the automatic lifting and closing of the seat (and flushing) means you'll never have to touch a toilet again—until you return to "civilization," that is.

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The movable partitions by the bathroom and foyer are a reference to shōji, the sliding doors between rooms found in traditional Japanese homes. The carpet in the bedroom area feels like an out-of-place Western touch at first, but the mossy yellow green color echoes the idea of stepping into a serene garden, and being in direct touch with nature. Out of the 164 guestrooms, only eight are suites—and the distinguishing factor between the remaining standard rooms is the view: whether you prefer Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge, or the lit-up Tokyo Tower at night. And with the low bed facing the sizable window, not a flatscreen TV, the view of the city serves as a constant reminder that yes, you are indeed in Tokyo.

The mini-bar is stocked with Japanese beverages, like Ito En green tea and Suntory Hakushu single malt whisky; like any Andaz property, the non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary and so are the local snacks.

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Once you've tired of your personal bathtub, the 37th floor awaits. Though a mere elevator ride away, stepping into the AO Spa and Club is akin to entering a different universe, separate from the hotel itself. Ogata, who cites Italian architect Carlo Scarpa as an influence, describes his concept for the spa as "yin and yang." Men and women, back and forth, stillness in the baths and motion in the pool, the sun then the moon seen through the windows—there are a lot of contrary forces that become carefully balanced through Ogata's concept of achieving harmony.

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In lieu of a reception desk, the spa staff invites guests to sit at an apothecary-meets-farmers-market table, dubbed the "Blend Bar." Here, guests select herbs like mint and thyme (growing right out of the table), locally sourced fresh and dried fruit, spices and oils—many which change alongside the seasons—to incorporate into their personalized spa treatments, from massages to facials to body scrubs.

The fitness center is actually substantially more than just a few treadmills, stocked with our favorite Technogym equipment from Italy. Non-hotel guests who wish to use the pool or fitness center must purchase a day pass (¥10,000) or sign up for club membership. The only danger here is that one could easily spend their entire stay in Tokyo on the 37th floor and forget to actually leave the building.

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The building itself is located in a historic central area of Tokyo—Toranomon, or the "Tiger Gate," one of the gates to Edo castle (now the Imperial Palace) where shoguns resided from the 17th to 19th centuries. Today, the area is quiet and business-concentrated. It's a short walk to the orange Ginza line, which connects you directly to Shibuya, and 10 minutes away by car to Ginza as well as the world-renowned Tsukiji fish market. The completed construction of the Toranomon Hills skyscraper last summer, however, is just the beginning of ambitious development plans, led by its well-known owner, Mori Building—especially with Tokyo hosting the upcoming 2020 Olympics. A new wide boulevard (funnily enough, planned since 1946) connecting the central Tokyo area, where the tower lies, to eventually, the soon-to-be-constructed Olympic Village and stadiums in the Tokyo Bay area, is in the plans.

To make a reservation, visit Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills online; standard room rates start at ¥40,000 (not including tax and service charges) during the low season.

Images courtesy of Nara Shin and Andaz Tokyo

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mycoocoon: Color Immersion Pod

Pantone Universe founders create a chromotherapy pod for sensory stimulation and relaxation at London restaurant Sketch

by CH Contributor in Design on 31 October 2014

Collaborations, Furniture, Health, Innovation, Light Design, London, Pantone, Technology, Visual Art

by Caroline Kinneberg

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Experimental chef Pierre Gagnaire's Sketch restaurant, a London design haven currently featuring work by beloved artist David Shrigley, has welcomed a new installation—a color therapeutic pod called mycoocoon, designed by Lanzavecchia + Wai and Marine Peyre.

Before entering the pod, visitors are instructed to choose the color they're most attracted to on an iPad. Another set of three colors appears, and they're again asked to select one. After one more set, a final color is revealed: red (representing passion, vitality and enthusiasm), orange (extroversion, creativity, cheerfulness), magenta (love, kindness, emotion), yellow, green, turquoise, blue or purple. Next they hop into the pod, splaying out on the super-soft leather lounge. Users are removed from their surroundings by the overhead hut and bluetooth headphones that play soothing natural sounds, singing bowls and vocals. Six light sources are hidden behind the headrest, enveloping the visitor in nuances of the chosen color.

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"We wanted to create a relaxing and energizing experience that associates ancestral techniques with today's technology," mycoocoon co-founder Valérie Corcias tells Cool Hunting. Color, she explains, has been used for healing and spiritual strengthening around the world, from Egypt to India and China. Color is a form of energy, and each shade has a specific rhythm and wavelength, giving it a unique vibration. Chromotherapy specifically revolves around the theory that each person is drawn to the color that best balances the individual's energy levels and stimulates the senses.

Corcias and her partner Dominique Kelly, who launched the Pantone Universe licensing brand together in 2000, united a team of notable experts in furniture design, color therapy, music and lighting to create mycoocoon. After three years in development, the prototype at Sketch—priced at £37,000—is the only one in existence. An "immersion wall" of lights (₤7,000) is also available for smaller spaces or massage salons. Corcias and Kelly are exploring different environments for the pods, including airport lounges, hotels and offices. The pod can also be rented for events, where guests receive a pin button of their color. According to Corcias and Kelly, the experience makes an easy icebreaker by connecting people via their colors.

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Their ideas for mycoocoon are expansive. "In the long run we want mycoocoon to involve all five senses," explained Kelly. The team has worked with aromatherapists to produce scents and are talking with nutritionists to develop color-coordinated foods and juices. A portion of mycoocoon's profits will go toward Contramundo, an incubator for sustainable projects involving women and education founded by Corcias and Kelly in a Brazilian fishermen's village. Corcias says the inspiration for mycoocoon comes in part from Contramundo. "It's about taking the time to reenergize."

As the guestbook attests, visitors at Sketch have enjoyed the immersion pod. The only complaint was from someone who fell asleep for 20 minutes—and missed his dinner reservation.

Visit mycoocoon at Sketch (9 Conduit St, London) through 20 November 2014.

Images courtesy of mycoocoon

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Sidetracked Magazine: Adventure Travel

Rich photography, heartfelt writing and journeys beyond the beaten path

by Hans Aschim in Travel on 30 October 2014

Adventure, Adventure Travel, England, Exploration, Magazines, Media, Photography, Print, Sidetracked Magazine

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Spirited travelers know the value of immersing oneself in the unknown. Getting lost is a real possibility, if not a given. Dubious roadside food will no doubt be consumed alongside the most memorable, high-quality meals. While travel guides and local tips all have their place, some trips require a different kind of exploratory impetus. UK-based Sidetracked Magazine is an ode to the intrepid journeys that place inspiration over itinerary—highlighting some of the most offbeat locales and the enlightening ways to experience them. Whether it's bikepacking across the Hardangervidda in Norway or skiing in Afghanistan, Sidetracked inspires adventure with honest accounts and awe-inspiring imagery.

Sidetracked founder, producer and designer John Summerton has been working in web design for over 12 years, and telling inspiring stories of adventure and exploration has long been part of his to-do list. Summerton started Sidetracked as a website three years ago, and quickly gained a reputation for its sleek layout and original photography. However, with a penchant for print, Summerton decided to make a material version of the popular site.

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The first edition was released earlier in 2014 and sold out within a few weeks. "Holding a physical copy in hand, flicking through the smooth, uncoated stock is an experience that cannot be replicated in the digital domain," Summerton tells CH. "The independent print scene is thriving so it’s great to be a part of it." A key component of Sidetracked's success is an unwavering focus on what Summerton says matters most: the content. "The key is to create something timeless, something that oozes quality and deserves to be kept on the bookshelf or the coffee table," Summerton continues.

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A brief look at Sidetracked's digital edition and it's easy to see why Summerton saw the potential in print. Far from throwaway content, a less-is-more aesthetic and content direction is apparent with travel featured that is equal parts ingenuity, creativity and intensity with perhaps a sprinkling of madness. Running across the Namib desert and cycling across the northern reaches of Europe isn't everyone's idea of "vacation" but for those looking to learn as much about themselves as they are the world around, discomfort can be just another part of the experience to be relished.

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Volume Two (currently available online for £10) explores the emotional side of adventure travel. Balancing accounts from the far reaches of the world with reflective prose, the issue does more than just entice readers with peregrine locales it attempts to explain what draws us into these places. Highlights from the issue include tracking wolverines in Mongolia, surfing in Alaska and solo climbing with out oxygen in the Himalayas—all featuring frame-worthy photography.

Visit Sidetracked Magazine's elegant digital edition to browse past and online exclusive content including features, gear reviews and cooking tips from the field. Be on the look out for Volume Three due to drop in the coming months.

Images by Cool Hunting

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