On the Road to Tokyo
Executive Edge Travel Advisor Lauren Owide felt the energy in Tokyo’s fast paced society whilst calling Hyatt properties home in this ever-pulsating urban center.
Q: What would you describe are the greatest draws about Tokyo?
Tokyo is a city of stark contrast. It embodies the highest level of fast paced, colourful and quirky blended with a society steeped in history and tradition. Experience its culture and history discovering its ample parks and traditional offerings, tea ceremonies and temples, bonsais and Buddhism. Visit Harajuku where off the wall is the norm. On a Sunday this area of the city is full of extreme teenage culture. A walk along the famed Takeshita Street will showcase Tokyo’s quirkiest and funniest fashions. Minutes away find Omotesando, the Champs Elysee of Tokyo. Catering to a different clientele than Takeshita, find high end boutiques and the glamourous side of the city. Overall? I found Tokyo to be so many things – not only full of contradictions, but also defined by beauty, cuisine, peace and spirituality.
Q: Andaz means “personal style” in Hindi, representing a new philosophy of service in a sophisticated yet unscripted style. What was the personal style of Andaz Tokyo?
Andaz Tokyo is a perfect blend of Japanese refinement and tradition coupled with art and design. This hotel is all about attention to detail and you see it at every turn. A trip in an elevator is made all the more beautiful by the washi paper artwork in the shape of fish. Take in the view from your room’s glass wall whilst sipping green tea or Japanese whisky. Every need you have will be met with service that is 100% attentive and understated at the same time. A unique and surprising point is that your minibar is all free of charge with the exception of alcohol. This is an urban oasis of class and cool.
Q: Tell us about the dining and entertainment options at Andaz Tokyo.
Dining options are aplenty with 5 options plus in-room dining. We had the pleasure of nibbles and drinks in the rooftop bar on the evening of arrival. Located of the 52nd floor the views are breathtaking and the fireworks over Tokyo Disneyland were a lovely surprise. The food was fantastic but we couldn’t get past the amazing variety of cocktails. Of course all the usuals were there but there was also a very interesting list of authentic, Japanese inspired cocktails making use of indigenous ingredients like green tea, sake and yuzu.
Breakfast was enjoyed at the Andaz Tavern, where they combine European provincial flair with Japanese products. Lunch was a beautiful feast that was presented in Bento Box style but with definite European influence. Again the views are spectacular and elevate the experience in more ways than one. For those after something lighter or more casual, BeBu is located at the first level of the tower and includes burgers, salads and sandwiches. Andaz also hits your sweet tooth with a pastry shop and a sushi bar located on the rooftop.
In the Toranomon area, Andaz is within easy reach of 5 stations as well as Ginza. Walk to four parks within 20 to 30 minutes. Most notably, the Imperial Palace is 25 minutes away. There is no shortage of museums, historic sites and within the hotel enjoy many art installations as well as the beautifully designed spa and health centre. Overlooking the Imperial Palace, enjoy the pool, gym or indulge at the spa with bespoke treatments.
Q: How did you spend your leisure time in Tokyo?
Our time in Tokyo was fast and furious, so we had to make clever use of our time. We had a quick visit to Asakusa, home to Sensoji Temple, one of Tokyo’s oldest. On arrival in Asakusa, we made our way up a shop-lined street to the temple. This pedestrian street is full of vendors selling everything from Japanese knives to ninja costumes. For a few dollars we snacked on authentic street food and bought a variety of souvenirs. The temple itself is magnificent. As you enter through the huge red gates, there is a great sense of ceremony. Large cauldrons of incense smoke amongst fortune wheels, from which is believed to bestow good health. Men and women come to visit and pray dressed in traditional kimonos and admission to the temple is free of charge.
Our next stop was Omotesandō, a tree-lined avenue located in Shibuya lined with high end designer shops. Just moments away from this very European feeling shopping mecca is the equally enchanting but totally different Harajuku. An onslaught of quirk and colour, this is where the famous Harajuku girls come to parade every Sunday. Takeshita-dori street is constantly crowded with locals and tourists alike, after any funny buys they can find and delicious treats, such as crepes, pancakes, and every imaginable trend.
Close by is the Meiji Jingu Shrine which can make one forget about the hustle and bustle of the city. Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit this beautiful shrine, but it is worth a visit.
At night Tokyo pumps with a youthful, fast and colourful beat. Shibuya Crossing was our first stop which was lit up like Times Square with hundreds of people crossing from all directions in organised chaos. Exploring further we found a tiny 5 seater bar in a side alley. These bars are a great way to enjoy a plum wine or a cocktail, and some are so small, only one person can enter at a time. Many are a few steps up and sit ontop of another. Many are only known to locals, so be sure to ask around and try to find a truly authentic experience.
Q: In the Shinjuku district, Park Hyatt Tokyo occupies the top 14 floors of Shinjuku Park Tower, an elegant oasis of space and calm overlooking Tokyo and the Kanto Plain all the way to Mount Fuji. What sets Park Hyatt Tokyo apart?
Park Hyatt Tokyo is in a league of its own, exuding elegance and a sense of quiet and peace. The moment you enter, your eye is drawn to a metal sculpture and at its base sits a watch. This reminds you to leave time behind as you enter this luxurious oasis. I feel the level of service sets this hotel apart as does the carefully thought out art and sculptures. Upon arrival you are whisked up from street level to the hotel with no formal lobby, rather a series of luxurious public spaces including a restaurant and beautifully designed hallway library leading to a quiet lounge room with several sitting areas and couches. This is where you are met and checked in. This informal homely feel reinforces that you are not in an ordinary hotel. Every aspect of your stay is carefully thought out but never contrived. Rooms are large and beautifully furnished with authentic finishes. Another point that seems to be spoken of a lot is the fact that this hotel is home to the classic film Lost in Translation, many scenes filmed here, particularly in the New York Bar and restaurant.
Q: In the heart of Roppongi, a lively international district known as a stimulating centre for business, culture, fashion and entertainment, sits the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. What a great central location!
Rappongi seems to be more local and the Grand Hyatt sits here at street level, a very different outlook to its sister hotel, Park Hyatt sitting up in the clouds. This part of the city is quite upmarket with a lively nightlife. Well linked to public transport and a shopping gallery right next door, this is a central, popular part of town.
Q: Grand Hyatt Tokyo is home to 10 authentic and dynamic restaurants and bars focused on design, quality ingredients and service. Which restaurant were you lucky enough to enjoy and what was your favourite dish?
We were lucky to dine at the French Kitchen in a private dining room. We were treated to a Japanese inspired degustation with local seafood, sashimi and an exquisite mixed platter that included salmon topped with a sake foam! Delicious. Desert was an authentic Japanese rice dumpling filled with a sweet bean paste.
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