Traveling in Tokyo
Polite, proper, and precise. These words immediately come to mind when describing my trip to Japan, a country like no other. There is correctness and cleanliness seen in no other part of the world. Having visited once before on business, I can’t say I truly experienced or understood Japanese culture. Still, after two weeks, I have an appreciation and thirst for exploring more of this great country very shortly. Here’s why.
Easy in and out
After deciding on this long overdue trip, I knew I wanted a central location. After a few minutes of research, I decided that the Tokyo Station vicinity would be the perfect location for my Japanese adventure. Food, drink, shopping, massage, and many choices besides the railway tracks send you in all directions as fast as possible (more on that train here). Whether you are looking for a bit of sushi or phenomenal shopping at Daimaru, a mall of 13 floors, you will find it in Tokyo Station. I even had a chair massage on the 12th floor after some bubbly with views on the top floor at The Bar and Café.
Hospitality on the Horizon
With a pin marked on Tokyo Station, deciding on my sleeping quarters was easy. Having seen the number of five-star awards and recognition over the years, I knew the Shangri-La, Tokyo, would be my palatial home for my luxurious vacation splurge. A tranquil retreat is a must when visiting any metropolitan city. This hotel provided the pampering I needed after long days of sightseeing and excursions throughout the “land of the rising sun.” I am a huge believer in hotels that offer club access or lounges (there is usually a slight upcharge, but the benefits are enormous), and the Horizon Club was one of the best. It offered breakfast, refreshments, afternoon tea, and a complimentary cocktail hour, which is the perfect start to your night before you head out for an evening in Tokyo.
There are so many districts and areas to explore, but quickly you will learn that it’s easier to maneuver through this sizeable metropolitan city than you would think; as a fan of the Roppongi area, which is excellent if you enjoy a plethora of nightclubs and bars and experience Tokyo nightlife. I wanted to see all the buzz in the Harajuku neighborhood with its pop culture scene, and though it seemed like teenage mania to me, I can say I’ve been there. One reason I picked the Shangri-La as my hotel is near the Ginza neighborhood, one of Tokyo’s premiere shopping districts–relatively upscale, more my style. This area not only screams glamour and shopping but also has incredible restaurants, bars, and any cuisine or dish you could desire.
A5-doesn’t get any better.
No, this is not a highway or exit number; this is a grade of beef–the highest grade given to the finest beef in the world. One evening, I had three types of A5, splurging numerous times on Japanese Wagyu. You know why when it melts in your mouth (and your arteries will too). You don’t need much, as it is very fatty, but for a meat connoisseur like me, it’s the best of the best; there is no beef better, period. Maruushi Meat was one of my favorite places for casual yakiniku (grilled meat), focusing on rare cuts of Wagyu beef (with five locations to choose from).
Another excellent meat indulgence I enjoyed was Japanese BBQ Yazawa, which is easy to find and very close to Tokyo Station. I loved watching the chefs as they butchered my selection of Wagyu meat which was then delivered raw for me to cook for myself in this cozy setting of pure beef indulgence. While you can eat some of the best beef anywhere in the city, traditional American-style locations also exist. I had the urge to visit one of my absolute favorites from NYC, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (not to be confused with Mr. Wolfgang Puck), which has many locations to choose from.
Sushi or sashimi are the other staple and are easy to find at dining locations everywhere you turn. One of the best Japanese meals was at the Nadaman, inside the Shangri-La Hotel. Overall, I had so many excellent sushi bar experiences just wandering the streets of Tokyo. I genuinely believe this is how to find some of your favorite dining experiences and fondest memories.
Shangri-La Horizon Club
This bar stool costs what?
While my evenings began with complimentary Champagne and canapés at the Horizon Club at the Shangri-La, exploring the Japanese cocktail culture was my mission after bubbles. Time to hit the town! It took me a bit to come to terms with a “cover charge” as I wasn’t in Vegas spending the evening in a nightclub. It’s not everywhere, and sometimes you may not even notice it, but “cover charges” are standard here. It is more common at your tiny, exclusive drinking establishments, where this fee ranges from 300 yen to 1200 yen ($3 to $11 USD). This charge buys your bar stool for the evening.
If you are a craft cocktail and mixology buff, one of my favorites was Bar High Five, a sensory experience as you watch these skillful alcohol architects create delightful drinks of epic sensational satisfaction. Star Bar Ginza was also a favorite, where I partook in some fabulous Japanese whiskey, a must when in Japan. After roaming and enjoying the numerous stand-up bars and other places to enjoy drinks throughout Tokyo, check out The Lobby Lounge at the Shangri-La. Here you will enjoy the comprehensive drink menu accompanied by a spectacular setting–there’s nothing better than a piano serenading you as you enjoy the Tokyo skyline.
Give me a break
Sightseeing can be exhausting, and CHI, the spa at the Shangri-La, provided the hotel luxury experience I always enjoy–this one is as first class as you can get. But you can’t visit Japan without visiting an onsen, a hot spring usually built around a resort. There are thousands in Japan, and it is a relaxing experience to help ease those aching tourist trekking body parts. Make sure to read the rules closely. Proper attire is essential, and exposure to body art and tattoos is strictly forbidden. Ooedo Onsen Tokyo is a great one in the heart of Tokyo, worth a visit after a busy day seeing the sights.
If you haven’t been, put Japan on your bucket list. See you at the Shangri-La!
Check out my article Luxuriating in London here.