Business trip: Tokyo
Michelin-rated chefs at the Ritz-Carlton’s Azure 45 tempt taste buds with a French take on seasonal seafood, brought in daily from the nearby Tsukiji and Kanazawa fish markets. With beautiful 45th-floor views south to Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Bay – this is a perfect spot for a light, bright business lunch.
For visitors eager to venture beyond hotel walls, Kyoto-style, multiple-course dining on fresh seasonal fish, meat and vegetables is raised to the level of fine art at the popular, Michelin-rated Akasaka Kikunoi restaurant in the Akasaka district, where most patrons sit at low tables on tatami mats.
Located on a quiet street nearby, near the National Diet building, Nagatcho Kurosawa is best known for its shabu-shabu, thin slices of prime Japanese beef and pork served in a tangy broth with vegetables and buckwheat noodles.
At Omotesando Ukai-tei, enjoy some of Japan’s finest beef and fish cooked before your eyes teppanyaki style on a hot teppan grill built into your table. The 150-year old–building, located in the Shibuya area, is decorated in a comfortable mix of Japanese and Western design.
Off the clock
If you don’t have a view from your hotel or meeting room, spend an afternoon at one of Tokyo’s two key vantage points for a lay of the land.
At 634m, Tokyo’s Skytree on the eastern edge of the city’s central core (in the Asakusa district) is now the tallest structure in Japan, housing a restaurant and observation deck (as well as broadcasting antennae). Opened to the public in May 2012, the cylindrical structure is now one of the most popular attractions in the country (6.5 million visitors are expected in its first year) with queues that can last two to three hours. Unfortunately for most visitors, advance reservations are sold only to those with Japanese credit cards.
An alternative to the crowded Skytree is the older orange and white Tokyo Tower (just south of city centre in Minato), built in 1958 to resemble Paris’s Eiffel Tower. Take the lift to an enclosed deck offering 360-degree views of the entire region from 333m in the air.
To get a one-day look at life outside of Tokyo’s bustle, make a day trip to Hakone, 80km south of the city near the base of Mount Fuji. Even if the weather is lousy and the mountain is not visible, the trip is memorable because of the multiple conveyances used to get there. First is the 90-minute ride on the Odakyu “Romance Car” train from Shinjuku station to Odawara (try to sit in the aerodynamically shaped lead car for the best views). From there you take smaller Tozan Railway on a zigzag 15-minute route up the side of a mountain to the tiny town of Hakone. Don’t miss the Hakone Open Air Museum, a large collection of sculpture from the likes of Picasso and Henry Moore in a lovely outdoor garden atmosphere. From Hakone, catch a funicular for an even steeper trip up to a gondola platform for a “ropeway” trip over steaming geothermal springs to the gorgeous Lake Ashi with Mount Fuji (hopefully) rising peacefully nearby.
Don’t do this!
The practice of tipping is nearly non-existent in Japan. Hotel personnel, who are universally courteous and prompt, are trained to politely refuse tips. Servers in bars or restaurants are known to chase after customers to return money that was “mistakenly” left on the table or bar. When in doubt, do not leave a tip.