For my first trip ever to Japan, I first spent a week exploring the country and its new Savor Japan food program. The government initiative from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, focuses on five different regions of the country and the specific food or food products produced there. I visited Ichinoseki in the Iwate prefecture, the Tsuruoka area of Yamagata and finally Tokachi on the island of Hokkaido, all the while tasting and exploring each region’s food and meeting the locals. After the foodie travels around Japan, it was time to relax and explore the luxurious side of Tokyo.
Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo
The Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo beautifully represents the brand’s proven formula of Asian luxury, iconic locations and deeply personal service. My Horizon Club-level Deluxe View room had great urban views of the mesmerizing geometric density of central Tokyo. The Shangri-La is in the city’s Marunouchi district, the upscale financial area, directly adjacent to Tokyo Station. It was perfectly situated for shopping and fine dining, and other historic parts of the city were just a short walk away.
Dinner was a treat at Piacere, the Shangri-La’s celebrated Italian restaurant serving authentic Italian food and run by an actual Italian chef. Executive Chef Andrea Ferrero also oversees all the hotel’s food and beverage service including the bars and in-room dining. I had a chance to interview the chef after my dinner and it was great to hear how he focuses on fine food, not necessarily fine dining. The hotel’s Going to the Source program sends Chef Ferrero around Japan in search of the best products and the best producers and farmers.
Lunch at the Four Seasons
The next day I took the short walk (the Shangri-La is on one side of Tokyo Station, the Four Seasons is on the other) for lunch at Motif, the very popular French restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi. Motif offers a wonderful classic yet extremely innovative take on French food, run by a Japanese chef whose other French restaurant (Moliere’ in Sapporo) has three Michelin stars.
Lunch was a delicious tasting menu, the highlight of which for me was the tender beef from Shodo Island. The island is known for its olives and the cattle feed mainly on those olives. This provides beef that is tender and flavorful beyond description. After lunch, I had a chance to visit one of the hotel’s stylish One Bedroom suites. The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi offers a more intimate boutique experience than its competitors as it has only 57 rooms and suites.
Exploring the city
With limited time to explore, I asked some new ex-pat friends about the best itinerary and they suggested this cool walking tour, to get a feel for the “real Tokyo.” Per their instructions, I started at the Shangri-La and walked towards the river and the Nihonbashi area. This is the historic core of the city, centered around the Nihonbashi river. I then walked north to the Akihabara district, nerd central, the home of otaku, people obsessed with manga and anime. I walked through Kanda and Okachimachi, through the Ameya-Yokocho market street to Oenu station. With the help of a 12-year-old, I bought a ticket on the train to get me back to Tokyo Station.
InterContinental Tokyo Bay
After my self-guided walking tour, it was time to head to my next stop, the InterContinental Tokyo Bay. To get there, I first checked out Uber, which is available in Tokyo, but no one on the hotel staff had ever used it, so it’s not too popular. I also had trouble confirming my location, since the map search results were in Japanese, as were most of the words on the map within the Uber app. I had the hotel call a taxi instead. It was a surprisingly short (20 minute) ride from the Shangri-La in Marunouchi to the InterContinental Tokyo Bay, especially given that it was rush hour.
The InterContinental Tokyo Bay is a stylish, modern business hotel that offers that five-star InterContinental service. Some of the rooms face Tokyo’s iconic Rainbow Bridge, which connects to the Odaiba entertainment island / district. Think modern, luxurious, Japanese Coney Island. The hotel’s Club InterContinental lounge offers a very nice breakfast, snacks throughout the day, a happy hour and a buffet dinner service, all free to club-level guests. To add to the convenience, the hotel is a stop on the Narita airport bus. I stay at a lot of InterContinental hotels around the world and am always impressed with their excellent service. It’s on the level of other five-star luxe properties like Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton, but at a much lower price point.
My room was very nice, with lovely views of Tokyo Bay, the Rainbow Bridge and the carnival lights of Odaiba. The staff in the Club InterContinental were very on-point in handling my check-in and ensuring I got some food before service ended. They also handled reserving my seat and ticket for the next morning’s airport bus to Narita.