February 2020

Issue: February 2020

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Travel to Tokyo

 
 

Japan

1 February 2020

Where traditional charm meets modern luxury

Few places on Earth are as captivating as Japan. In the capital of Tokyo, the marriage of old and new is ever-present. Age-old alleyways that were once the domain of geisha are now home to cutting-edge restaurants, and traditional-style guesthouses reside in ultra-modern skyscrapers. In the heart of the city, a short stroll from the Imperial Palace brings you to the glamour of Ginza, lined with flagship boutiques and five-star hotels.

With more Michelin stars than any other city, Tokyo’s culinary scene is justifiably revered. Duck your head beneath the curtains at the restaurants’ entrance to discover intricate kaiseki menus inspired by the seasons, and intimate sushi restaurants with just a handful of seats. Place your faith in the chefs by saying ‘Omakase’, which means “I’ll leave it up to you” – you won’t be disappointed.

A two-and-a-half hour ride on the shinkansen (bullet train) brings you to Osaka, a port city known for its modern architecture and mouthwatering street food. Soak up the history of Osaka Castle, pay a visit to the Osaka Aquarium (one of the world’s largest), then shop for avant-garde designs in the Umeda and Namba neighbourhoods.

As night falls, make your way to the dining and nightlife precinct of Dotonbori, where stallholders grill and fry snacks to order, and there’s eye-popping neon at every turn.

Further afield, explore Japan’s breathtaking natural scenery. Wander the laneways of the ancient capital of Kyoto; take to the ski slopes of Sapporo; or soak in the hot springs while you gaze at Mount Fuji from the quaint town of Hakone, a short train ride from Tokyo.

EAT - TSUKIJI FISH MARKET, TOKYO

The frenetic auctions of the inner market have relocated, but the narrow streets of Tsukiji’s Outer Market are still one of the fi nest places to sample pristine seafood. Try Sushi Dai for faultless nigiri, Segawa for maguro donburi (tuna rice bowls), or Tempura Kurokawa for crisp tempura.

EAT - KAISEKI EXPERIENCE

Dining is elevated to an artform in Japan’s kaiseki restaurants, serving multi-course menus in keeping with the seasons. In Tokyo, fi nd three-Michelin-starred Ishikawa in the old geisha neighbourhood of Kagurazaka, or nab a spot at Ginza Kojyu – with only eight seats in the house, you’ll need to book well in advance.

EAT - DOTONBORI DISTRICT, OSAKA

Osaka is renowned for its tantalising street foods including takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) and ramen noodle soup. Sample them all as you stroll down Dotonbori, a vibrant dining and entertainment strip famed as much for its culinary offerings as its iconic neon signs.

STAY - IMPERIAL HOTEL TOKYO

Japanese refi nement reigns at this prestigious hotel that dates back to 1890. Located near the shopping and business hubs of Ginza and Marunouchi, it’s well placed to explore the capital. Enjoy elegant rooms and exceptional dining, including French haute cuisine and a traditional teahouse.

imperialhotel.co.jp

STAY - HOSHINOYA, TOKYO

For a luxurious take on a Japanese ryokan (guesthouse), check into Hoshinoya, set between Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace. Slide your shoes off and slip into a jersey kimono for your stay in this 18-storey inn, boasting tatami mats, futon bedding and onsen baths.

hoshinoya.com

STAY - ST. REGIS OSAKA

Situated on Midosuji, the ‘Champs-Elysees of Osaka’, the St. Regis is a short stroll from Dotonbori, Osaka Castle and the stores of Shinsaibashi-suji. This fi ve-star hotel embodies sophistication, with personal butlers, smart bars and restaurants, and 160 rooms decorated with Japanese silks and ceramics.

marriott.co.jp

DO - GINZA, TOKYO

Tokyo’s premier shopping district, Ginza’s Chuo Dori is lined with high-end boutiques offering everything from sneakers to stationery, and luxury department stores such as Ginza Wako, Ginza Six, and Tokyu Plaza Ginza. End your day with an exceptional sushi meal at Kyubey and a Kabuki show at the Kabukiza Theatre.

DO - TOKYO’S PARKS

For a change of pace in Tokyo, stroll through the ginko forest of Yoyogi Park until you reach the Meiji Shrine, a tranquil escape from the hustle of nearby Harajuku. Or, make your way to Rikugien Garden in Bunkyo-ku, a sanctuary of ponds, shaded walkways, flame-coloured maples in autumn and cherry blossoms in spring.

DO - OSAKA CASTLE

In Osaka, explore the fairy-tale surrounds of Osaka Castle, ringed by moats, turrets and citadels. Within the castle’s sprawling gardens, share a picnic under the shade of cherry blossom trees, visit the Hokoku Shrine and the Illusion Museum, or cruise the moats on a traditional wooden boat.

osakacastle.net

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