Help often comes from the most unexpected quarters in times of adversity. Amidst the bad news coming out of Japan, which continues to be rocked by aftershocks, stories of courage, self-sacrifice and charity are the silver lining to that very dark cloud. One luxury hotel in Tokyo is doing what it can to help.
The Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka was listed for demolition and was due to checkout its last guests at the end of March. However it is now staying open a little longer for a very good cause. It is currently offering shelter to some of the many homeless and displaced persons in Tokyo following the disastrous earthquake and tsunami.
The elegant hotel, one of the five star Prince Hotel chain, opened in 1955. In its heyday it accommodated visiting heads of state and well-heeled celebrities who paid an average $1,750 per night. The luxury hotel is now offering free rooms and meals for around $10 a day to help the 360 guests, most of whom checked in with just the clothes on their back. It offers a short term solution of housing to shocked evacuees, including some workers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The hotel rooms will be available as a temporary shelter until July.
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
I wrote in July about the Japanese couple who went to the police in Rome after being charged nearly 700 euros (£600/$980) for a modest lunch.
Tourists can be ripped off anywhere, of course, but Rome seems to crop up regularly in complaints columns. It’s reassuring to hear, then, that Italy’s tourism minister, Michela Brambilla, has begun a campaign to try to stop the unscrupulous few getting away with sharp practices.
It seems it’s not only restaurants and bars that will come under scrutiny. Another Japanese tourist complained after being charged 20 euros (£18 /$30) for having his photo taken with one of the costumed centurions outside the Colosseum.
Incidentally, Ms Brambilla offered the restaurant couple, the Yamadas, a holiday in Rome at her ministry’s expense, which they politely declined.
The very reasonable Mr Yasuyuki Yamada said that spending taxpayers’ money in this way was not really fair on the Italian population, particularly as his vacation had not been at all bad. He would certainly think about for another holiday – but at his own expense.
by Andy Moreton
You’ll get the best deal with Luxique’s unrivalled selection of luxury hotels in Rome.
The vast cultural differences between East and West were highlighted by an incident in the Italian city of Florence in the summer.
Tourists – including Italians – have, for some years, written their names and messages on part of the panoramic terrace of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Florentine authorities have, for the most part, simply shrugged and used a small team of graffiti cleaners.
But when it was reported that some of the work had been done by Japanese visitors, the reaction in Japan was one of shock and horror. Something equivalent to a manhunt was organised in the media there and the perpetrators - several students and a teacher - were unmasked.
A Japanese expert told an Italian paper that the students, but above all the teacher, had made the Japanese lose face abroad. “They offended their hosts – that is to say, Italy – and this, for the Japanese mentality, is unacceptable.
Two students were suspended from their studies and the teacher is to face disciplinary action. One 19-year-old fashion student flew back to Florence at her own expense, apologised and gave the Cathedral authorities 600 Euros (£472/$865) in compensation.
The reaction in Italy was said to be a combination of bewilderment and admiration.
by Andy Moreton
Anyone lucky enough to have been in Tokyo on March 27th will have witnessed the traditional celebration of the arrival of spring marked by the appearance of the first cherry blossoms.
Julian Ryall, a journalist in Tokyo, says the appearance of the cherry blossom is a national obsession. “Political intrigues and economic concerns take a back seat on the news programmes as weather forecasters are thrust to the fore to plot the northward march of the flowering trees.”
Office workers take long lunch breaks to stroll beneath the pale pink petals, which have arrived more than a week earlier than expected. The blooms are out in key spots in the Japanese capital, such as Ueno Park, and many parties are planned. Each year, the Emperor and Empress hold a big flower-viewing reception (hanami) at the Imperial Palace.
Said Ryall: “Even though the blossoming is fleeting, the run-up to the sighting of the first bloom is akin to a nation of six-year-olds awaiting the arrival of Father Christmas. “
For those interested in knowing more about this event I suggest visiting the Japan National Tourist Organization website where you can take a Cherry Blossom Quiz and see photographs of the cherry blossoms in bloom. The Luxique website offers a comprehensive Tokyo guide as well as an opportunity to book some award-winning Tokyo luxury hotels.
by Andy Moreton