Three perspectives on Japan’s capital
This January we sent three bloggers to Tokyo to experience Omotenashi – the unique spirit of Japanese hospitality. Staying in luxury hotels across the capital, Nina, Isabella and Claire gave us their top tips for exploring the city in six days. From tea ceremonies to temple gardens, this itinerary will have you reaching for a cup of matcha – and your passport.
AN INDULGENT ARRIVAL
Forming an integral part of Tokyo's iconic skyline for over 100 years, Tokyo Station Hotel sits inside the main station building, and boasts no less than ten eateries on-site. So in true foodie fashion, our bloggers' first foray was to the Restaurant Blanc Rouge.
"Delicious French restaurant with a modern Asian twist. The restaurant also has three private rooms – perfect for group dinners – and a wine cellar with 100+ vintages. Would recommend the sparkling Japanese white."
After breakfast under the glass roof of The Atrium, our bloggers headed further into the city, taking in Asakusa, Kappabashi and Ginza.
"Sensoji Temple is beautiful – go at sunrise to avoid the crowds and for beautiful light on the temple. Kappabashi is essentially the kitchenware district – a whole road of amazing tableware and crockery. And Ginza, the up-market shopping district."
"Get a Japanese Bento box for the journey. It's a bit of a lucky dip – you won't always know what you're getting, but it always tastes great."
Following a short ride on the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train, our bloggers arrived at their next hotel – a serene forest dwelling in a Japanese inn style. Once a small traditional ryokan, ABBA Resorts Izu has evolved into a spacious retreat with open-air geothermic onsen baths.
DINING AT ABBA RESORTS IZU
For over 25 years Chef Shinji at the Sakura Restaurant has devoted himself to the art of Kaiseki, a traditional Japanese multi-course meal. And our blogging trio tucked right in.
"The lobster sashimi was a highlight!"
"You can choose from a Western breakfast in the French restaurant or a traditional Japanese feast in Sakura restaurant."
"Dinner at Yamamoto Restaurant featured French cuisine made from locally-sourced ingredients. Tea pairings were offered with each course, with rare and local Japanese teas mixed into sophisticated mocktails."
IZU: COASTAL TOURS AND KIMONO
Day three saw our adventurers taking a guided tour of the Jogasaki coast in the morning, via Sakura no Sato Park, before hopping in a cable car for the climb to Mount Omuro. The afternoon featured traditional kimono dressing and a tea ceremony back at the hotel.
"The views are stunning – on a clear day you can see all the way to Mount Fuji."
"The traditional tea ceremony is an incredible experience – utterly hypnotising."
"After dinner we even had the option of karaoke in the hotel's private karaoke room."
NEXT STOP: MEGURO
The journey to Meguro took the team back via Tokyo Station and lunch at Rokurinsha, "an incredible ramen restaurant where you order from a vending machine", remembers Nina. All before settling in to the 1930s glamour of Hotel Gajoen, their classically contemporary home for the next three nights.
DINING AT HOTEL GAJOEN
"Dinner at Tofutei Restaurant offers private rooms with hori-gotatsu (Japanese-style) heated tables. Look out for the fantastic tableware! And you're surrounded by a garden with flowing streams."
''Each private room's distinctive decor and the refined Japanese cuisine will transport you to a different time.''
Home to the Meguro River, this district of central Tokyo is transformed in the spring months, when cherry blossoms bloom all along the river banks. Whilst staying at Hotel Gajoen, Nina, Isabella and Claire visited Meiji Shrine, Harajuku district and Omotesando, stopping off at Shibuya's famous intersection – the busiest in the world. They also explored Nakameguro and Daikanyama with its independent shops, cafés and boutiques.
"We had lunch at Maisen Tonkatsu. There's a few dotted around the city, all serving authentic and delicious tonkatsu."
"Visit Harajuku Gyozaro for great gyoza to snack on."
"Hotel Gajoen houses Hyakudan Kaidan – an original 1935 museum that forms one of the cultural assets of Japan. We attended a matcha tea ceremony here, followed by a Museum Art tour."
"Check out the karaoke bars in Shinjuku of an evening – the nightlife in Golden Gai is second to none."
COME FLY WITH ME
We partnered up with Japan Airlines to look after our bloggers on their journey to and from Tokyo. They offer four daily direct flights from London, and smooth connections to more than 30 cities within Japan. JAL has been certified as a 5-Star Airline by Skytrax and its economy class seats won the Best Economy Class Seat 2018 Skytrax Award for the third time. Also in 2018, JAL has been named the Best Airline in Japan and the World’s N.4 Airline by TripAdvisor®, and the Best Asia-Pacific Major Airline by Flightstats for its 2017 on-time performance.
MEET THE BLOGGERS:
Specialising in mouth-watering cuisine, Nina's a foodie with famous clients. As well as catering for the likes of Donatella Versace, Russell Brand and Stormzy, she also travels the world as a food and travel columnist – and writes cookbooks full of international flavour. We don't know where she finds the time.
Instagram sensation Isabella is a London-based fashion and travel blogger. Her enviable client list includes Chloé, Ralph Lauren and Urban Outfitters. When she's not growing her global brand as a social media influencer, she's working as a photographer and stylist, and continues to keep Danish fashion bloggers on the map.
Claire's photography skills shine a stunning spotlight on the locations and hotels she visits. Between blogging and writing for top travel publications, Claire is a multi-award winning influencer, taking her audience with her as she travels the world in style.