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Tokyoeast meets west

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1 City 5 Ways

Josef Hoflehner/Gallery Stock

Josef Hoflehner / Gallery Stock

To visitors, Tokyo can seem like it has multiple personality disorder. For some, it’s a sleek, futuristic metropolis full of high-tech gadgets (including the most state-of-the-art toilets on Earth). To others, it’s a bubble gum-pop playground overrun by grown-up schoolgirls and Paris Hilton wannabes. There’s its (much deserved) reputation as a design-forward fashion capital whose cutting-edge style attracts the global glitterati. And then, amid the steel-clad buildings and hyper-manic commercial districts, is a destination that is increasingly embracing heritage and tradition— albeit with a distinctly modern twist. And now, thanks to new direct service to Haneda airport, access to the Japanese capital’s many faces is easier than ever.


DESIGN AFICIONADO

       
Meiji Jingu Shrine photo by Sira Anamwong/shutterstock.com.        

Where to Stay: Aman Tokyo
Adrian Zecha brought his Aman hotel brand to Tokyo’s Otemachi business district last year. The 84 rooms are modern, minimal and resolutely Japanese, from the sliding shoji screens to the bathrooms with black basalt furo.

Midmorning: Aoyama and Omotesando
Take a turn through these neighborhoods, where jaw-dropping modern architecture (e.g., the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Miu Miu store), stylish boutiques and fashionable sorts abound.

Noon: Meiji Jingu Shrine
Proof positive that Tokyo has been making modern-era design waves for decades: This grand Shinto shrine, first built in 1920 and then again after World War II in 1958, is still one of the city’s original great architectural sites.

Afternoon: Tokyo Midtown
Explore the contemporary museums and galleries—including 21_21 Design Sight, an exhibition space imagined by Tadao Ando and Issey Miyake—in this mixed-use mecca of modern design in Roppongi.

Dinner: MOTIF
Tokyo’s trendsetters have descended on this new eatery in the Four Seasons for French cuisine with seasonal Japanese ingredients, courtesy of Michelin three-starred chef Hiroshi Nakamichi. 


FOOD LOVER

       
Tsukiji Fish Market photo by Jeerawut Rityakul.        

Where to Stay: Palace Hotel
At this imposing hotel overlooking the Imperial Palace, foodies get their fill thanks to exclusive epicurean experiences and dining options that read like a roll call of top chefs. 

Breakfast: Tsukiji Fish Market
Start the day with an early (early!) morning visit to Tokyo’s famed fish market to see tuna auctioned off for tens of thousands of dollars. Then enjoy a sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai, just outside the gates.

Lunch: Quintessence
It’s easier to get a table during the afternoon hours at this three-Michelin-starred restaurant where the daily-changing menu of artful, French-inflected fare commands a months-long wait list. 

Afternoon: Tokyo Food Tour
These walking tours often kick off with cooking demonstrations and lessons such as soba noodle-making workshops and classes in amezaiku, traditional Japanese pulled candy. 

Dinner: Makimura
The latest Tokyo restaurant to earn three Michelin stars, this über traditional spot serves up impeccable Japanese dishes such as fried eggplant in a rich stock of dried bonito. 3-11-5 Minamioi, Shinagawa-ku


FAMILY TRAVELER

       
Tokyo Imperial Palace / shutterstock.com        

Where to Stay: Four Seasons at Marunouchi
Some of Tokyo’s largest standard guest rooms—plus kiddie bathrobes, nighttime milk and cookie deliveries and menus designed for young ones—make this 57-room hotel a family favorite.

Midmorning: Tokyo Imperial Palace
Spend the late a.m. hours outdoors in the verdant parks of this palace, the main residence of Japan’s emperor. Book a free tour in advance to get better access to the buildings and grounds. 

Noon: Landmark Tower
Take the elevator (Japan’s fastest!) to the 69th-floor observation deck of this nearly 1,000-foot-high skyscraper and enjoy 360-degree city views that reach all the way to Mount Fuji on a clear day.

Afternoon: Tokyo Okashi Land
If Willy Wonka set up shop in Tokyo, it would be at this candy-filled wonderland in Tokyo Station. Check out the selection of unique sweet treats (some fresh from the on-site kitchen), courtesy of Japan’s most popular confectioners.

Dinner: Ninja Akasaka
For all of its Michelin stars, Tokyo also has a preponderance of themed restaurants. We love this kitschy spot where waiters dressed as ninjas theatrically serve dishes and perform tricks.


TRADITIONALIST

       
Yu spa.        

Where to Stay: Sukeroku no Yado Sadachiyo
This tiny ryokan (a traditional inn) in the heart of Asakusa brings all the character of the distinctly Japanese lodging option, right down to the 20 tatami rooms with their futons, shoji screens and low-to-the-ground tables.

Midmorning: Kamawanu
Stock up on classic and abstract printed tenugui—thin squares of hand-dyed cotton used for everything from wrapping up purchases and covering heads, to adding a bit of decorative flare to a space—at this cozy shop.

Noon: Asakusa
It’s old Edo (Tokyo) galore in this charming, riverfront district full of temples (including the Buddhist Sensō-ji temple, Tokyo’s oldest and most famous), artisan-helmed shops, and traditional restaurants perfect for lunch stops.

Afternoon: Yu at Hotel Chinzanso
Taking its cues from Japan’s onsen resorts, this spa imports mineral-rich spring water from the rugged Izu Peninsula. Luxuriating in the healing waters is the perfect prelude to a shiatsu-inspired massage.

Dinner: Hinokizaka
The 500-year-old tradition of kaiseki, formal meals of elaborate, seasonally inspired dishes, is going strong on the Ritz-Carlton’s 45th floor, where the creations trump even the city views.


NIGHT OWL

       
Andaz Tokyo Rooftop Bar photo by Michael Moran.        

Where to Stay: Andaz Tokyo
On the top six floors of Tokyo’s second-tallest building, this new hotel is one of the city’s most popular thanks to the killer views from the guest rooms and rooftop bar.

Late Morning: Café de l’Ambre
Fuel up after a night out at this 65-plus-year-old Ginza kissaten (coffeehouse) where practically everything is aged—from the ancient roasting machine and beans themselves to the pours that are strained through cloth filters.

Afternoon: Meishu Center
Explore the wonders of all things sake at this bar/retail shop that is much loved for its sake tasting flights and extensive collection of bottles from small craft brewers.

Dinner: Shin Hinomoto
Rub elbows with Tokyo’s suited working class at this tiny izakaya (pub) underneath the Yamanote train tracks. The menu is heavy on fresh seafood from Tsukiji Market.

After Dark: The Peak Bar
Kick off the night in the vibrant district of Shinjuku at this smart bar on the Park Hyatt’s 41st floor. Then amp it up at nearby Robot Restaurant, with the world’s strangest cabaret show.

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