Tokyo (CNN) — Railway station hotels might be convenient, but they're often drab, unmemorable stops on a traveler's itinerary. But Japan's Tokyo Station Hotel stands out from this lackluster crowd and has been doing so for more than a century.
Founded in November 1915, the small, high-end hotel is among the oldest still operating in Tokyo. Not bad for a city where earthquakes and wartime bombing have meant that there are few buildings more than 70 years old. It's also Japan's only hotel located inside a designated Important Cultural Property: Tokyo Station's 101-year-old Marunouchi Building. With rooms and facilities facing into the historic train station, Tokyo Station Hotel offers guests access to otherwise private corners of one of the capital's most iconic symbols.
100 years of stories
The hotel reopened in 2012 following a five-year refurbishment but its history -- surviving World War II and the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 -- remains an important part of its identity.
Throughout the hotel's hallways and common areas, guests can spot patches of the building's original red brickwork -- an intentional reminder of the hotel's past. To prepare for the re-opening, "we sent some staff to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York," says the hotel's general manager, Hitoshi Fujisaki.
"We learned a lot from that kind of historic and grand hotel."
Rooms with the coolest views
In November, one of the great symbols of old Tokyo, the Tokyo Station Hotel, turns 100 years old. The famed hotel is located inside Tokyo Station's Marunouchi Building, designated an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government in 2003.
courtesy Tokyo Station Hotel
There's a more private way to experience the hotel's unique location -- staying in one of the Dome Side Rooms (starting at ¥46,000/$380).
The rooms have windows looking into the station's interior -- with magnificent views of the station's signature heavily ornamented European-style domes. Fully preserved during the last renovation, the yellow and white domes are decorated with intricate animal-shaped sculptures and reliefs -- not an everyday sight in modern Tokyo.
Fujisaki says the Dome Side Rooms are the most popular. Once the last train departs at night, guests get to be the only ones to enjoy the space.
In the morning, guests are greeted by the unique contrast between the (surprisingly) quiet bedroom and the view of thousands of Japanese commuters beginning their day at the country's busiest station.
Rooms that don't have views of the station interior overlook either the train tracks or the Imperial Palace. Guests unable to get a Dome Side Room can still enjoy a similar view from the hotel's second-floor balcony.
A cafe here serves coffee, Japanese green tea and small meals.
Overnight hotel guests get another exclusive perk -- breakfast at The Atrium under the roof of Tokyo Station. The elegant space is housed on the fourth floor of the hotel with nine-meter-high ceilings. The buffet menu includes both international and Japanese fare -- French pastries, Japanese porridge, made-to-order omelets.
Japan's legendary bartender Hisashi Sugimoto, who joined the hotel's Bar Oak in 1958, has returned with his hugely popular signature drink, Tokyo Station, a a blend of Tanqueray gin and Suze liqueur.
The hotel's main attraction remains its unmatched proximity to Japan's extensive high-speed rail network. The hotel offers special rates to Japan Rail Pass holders.
It provides a meet-and-greet service where hotel porters pick up or drop off guests' luggage directly on the train platform, saving them from trying to navigate Tokyo's notoriously complex rail station.
To celebrate: You're too late to join the hotel's 100th birthday banquet if you don't already have a ticket -- the 120 seats sold out in 20 minutes.
But you can see the anniversary light show beamed from the roofs of the Marunouchi Building's north and south domes on November 2 from 6 to 9 p.m.