The Experience recently visited the country of Japan for gourmet dining, VIP events and luxury hotels. This trip was an incredible journey. The food was delicious, the people were hospitable and the country was easy to navigate by train. This article is the first in a series about travelling in Japan.
We left Los Angeles International Airport on October 15th at 10:00am. The flight was very full but it was on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This airplane pressurizes to a much lower altitude. When you arrive at your destination, you aren’t as tired as you would be had you traveled on a conventional airliner. After a quick ten-hour flight, we arrived in Tokyo’s Narita airport. Narita airport has gone through a transition since the 1980’s. Once seen as the top airport in Asia to avoid, it has now become a destination forforeigners and Japanese people to visit. Upstairs at the food court, there is an outdoor lounge where friends saying goodbye can visit for a moment. This is a good place to watch the airplanes take off and land. There is a shopping mall in the main terminal and in the departure areas; top brands sell duty free goods.
Once arriving in Narita Airport, you will have to decide which form of transportation to take to the city of Tokyo. It takes about 90 minutes by train or bus to get to the city. Narita is a tiny Japanese town in the country. There are temples in Narita but the cuisine is usually “Izakaya” style. That’s food that is served with beer or alcohol. Izakaya can be delicious but it depends on the staff that prepares the food on the individual day. So the choices of getting to Tokyo from Narita are Narita Express Train or AirportLimousine Bus. The Airport Limousine Bus is good for first time visitors to Japan because they drop you off at your hotel. If you haven’t been to the hotel before it is recommended that you use the bus. A ticket from Narita airport to the Hilton Hotel in Sinjuku is 3000 yen or about $30.00. The Narita express train is offering a special forforeigners. The $40.00 ticket is currently being sold for $15.00. You just have to show your passport at the JR station ticket office. This is also a place to purchase a Suica card. A Suica card is a pre paid card that can be used to purchase train or subway fare. It can also be used to purchase drinks from the vending machines on the platform. If you’ll be using the Tokyo train or subway system, its best if you put $20.00 on a Suica card. This will allow you to deduct the fare from the card by touching your wallet to the turn style machine. You can add money as it runs down. After clearing customs in Tokyo, we purchased a ticket on the Airport Limousine Bus and arrived at the Tokyo Hilton about 90 minutes later. The bus ride is a great way to see the city. The countryside near Narita is pastoral and beautiful. There are rice paddies and farmlands for miles. Crossing Rainbow Bridge into Tokyo is also breath taking. The Sumida River is huge. Tokyo Bay flows into Tokyo with freeways and buildings right on the water.
The Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku is a world-class destination. There is shopping and gourmet dining located in the hotel. The Marble Lounge is open 24 hours a day. It has great fine dining. The breakfast buffet is particular good. For only $30.00, you’ll be treated to handmade omelets and a variety of western and Asian delicacies. The lox and bagels are delicious. The salmon is always fresh. There is also an espresso bar that can make any coffee drink to yourspecifications. The Chinese breakfast here is also delicious. It’s fun to try some of these gourmet offerings without knowing what they are. I tried seaweed, lotus root and tarotto name a few. St George’s bar is located near the Marble Lounge. It has quite a reputation for live jazz. The Hilton and its restaurants are some of the nicest places in Shinjuku with celebrities and politicians dinning here often. The hotel received the 2014 TripAdvisor award for excellence.There are several bars and restaurants located in the Hilton’s complex. Visit their website for more information.
From the Hilton Tokyo, you can visit many areas of Tokyo. A great place to start your adventure is the TokyoMunicipal Building. It is across the street from the Hilton. The 32nd floor Observatory has a stunning view any time of year. It is free admission and the hours are 09:30am-11:00pm. If the sky is clear, one can see Mt. Fuji. But usually, it’s too hazy to clearly see Mt. Fuji. There is an English language tour of the skyline, which is worth taking. Docents are to the left of the elevator on the 32 floor. They speak English are very knowledgeable about the buildingsyou can see. There is also a gift shop and a restaurant located at the South Observation tower. There are two observatories at the Tokyo Municipal Building. Both of them are accessed from the underground level. The restaurant in the South tower is so so. They serve curry rice and other items that can be quickly prepared. The gift shop has a great selection of children’s toys and mementos from Japan. The products are reasonably priced and the items are from all over the country.Visit the website for more information;
When your done visiting the Observatory, be sure to stop inthe Tokyo Tourist Information Office. This provides information on many events and sites in Tokyo. Also, visit the area that showcases products from each of Japans prefectures. Depending on the season, there are food items from all over japan. I have tried some apples and pickles here that taste great. Each item seems to have a particularly Japanese flavor. Visit the website for more information;
Finally, the office that provides information on any destination within Japan that you night be visiting. It’s in English, and you wont be able to get this information once you are travelling. If you don’t see information about a particular town or region, you can ask for from one of the staff members. Some local areas are actively promoted like Kyoto and Okinawa but other areas that are less frequently traveled to need to be looked up in the back. I requested information on Lake Biwa. This is Japan’s largest fresh water lake. The staff member had to retrieve a book from the back. She gave me a three-page information package about Shiga prefecture and all the towns that surround Lake Biwa. This information is very valuable because it’s a great resource for specific information about the area. They have a lot of detailed information here that is collected by the Japanese government.
Near the Tokyo Municipal Building is the Shinjuku Park Tower. The top fourteen floors is the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
This five star building is famous for many reasons. First of all, the view is spectacular. The view from the New York Bar at night is worth the trip. The Masters of Food and Wine was recently held at the Park Hyatt in celebration of their 20th anniversary. Kosue’s Chef de Cuisine Kenchiro Ooe and Mr. Naoto Mizuno from Kokuryu Sake Brewery lead guests through a seafood and wine paring that was out of this world. This was fine Japanese dinning that explored refined tastes. The New York Bar is famous for being featured in the Bill Murray movie, ”Lost In Translation.” Located on the 52nd floor, this is a great spot for travelers to enjoy a cold drink. The floor to ceiling glass windows offers gorgeous views of the tall buildings of Tokyo. The wine cellar boasts 1,800 bottles of wine. This is a luxurious place. The atmosphere is first class. The New York Barfeatures live Jazz on Sundays. Its from 7:00pm-10:45pm. The cover charge is 2200 yen or about $22.00.
There are several other fine dining options at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Kozue serves contemporary Japanese cuisine.Kozue serves gourmet seasonal fare. Its considered one the best restaurants in Tokyo.
Girandole is a European-style restaurant in the French brasserie tradition. They also serve a great Western and Asian buffet in the morning.
The Peak lounge features a skylight bamboo garden. InNovember, Chef Gottfried Schuetzenberger served a special Viennese Afternoon Tea. Girandole is also known for its Holiday Season Dinner. This is a great place to celebrate Christmas with someone special.
Also part of the gourmet offerings at Park Hyatt Tokyo are the Peak Bar, the Pastry Boutique and the Delicatessen. Each place offers a chic setting for five star faire.
So this was our first day in Japan, checking into the Hilton Tokyo, going to the observatory at the Tokyo Municipal Building and enjoying the view from the Shinjuku Park Tower at night. Shinjuku is a great place to be because it is centrally located in Tokyo. It offers entertainment, business and gourmet dining opportunities.
Here is the Tokyo Park Hyatt in the film, “Lost in Translation”