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
When you’re choosing a hotel, you probably don’t willingly go for one next to a railway track.
But some places in Japan are turning a potential disadvantage into a business opportunity and wooing some of the country’s 20,000 railway buffs.
The Hotel Mets Akabane in Tokyo has a scheme guaranteeing rooms with a view of the tracks on the fourth floor or above. The manager says some train-spotter customers return again and again.
The Odakyu Hotel Century Southern Tower overlooks Shinjuku station, one of the busiest in the world, and has a ‘Train View Stay Plan.’ As well as a good look at the many trains that enter and leave the station, guests get the latest timetable and a paperweight made from a piece of track.
by Andy Moreton, with the BBC’s Roland Buerk
Luxique offers five hand-picked luxury hotels in Tokyo, with stunning views of everything but trains.
More evidence of Tokyo’s place at the summit of fine dining has come with the latest issue of that culinary bible, the Michelin guide.
The guide has awarded its coveted 3-star honour to eleven restaurants in the Japanese capital – one more than Paris. It is now Michelin’s most decorated city with 261 stars spanning 197 establishments. It should be said, however, that Tokyo has some 160,000 restaurants, compared to Paris’s 50,000.
“Tokyo has become the world culinary capital, ahead of Paris,” said Jean-Luc Naret, the guide’s Director-General. He told Parisians:
“Forget everything you know about Japanese food. Just go to the other side of the world, and you will understand what Japanese food is all about.”
About two-thirds of the selected restaurants in Tokyo offer Japanese cuisine, such as soba (noodles), sukiyaki (hot pot), fugu (blowfish), sushi and tempura, while the remainder are mainly French and Italian.
by Andy Moreton
The Japanese capital is also blessed with fine places to stay. Luxique can help you secure the best rates at one of five luxury hotels in Tokyo, including the exceptional Grand Hyatt Tokyo and the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo.
I’m all for customer service on our public transport systems, but you can take things too far.
A rail company in Tokyo is giving its 530 employees a ‘smile scan’ before they begin work each day.
The computer system used by the Keihin Electric Express Railway analyses facial characteristics such as eye movements, lip curves and wrinkles. It then rates the employees’ mug shots from 0 to 100 depending on what’s grandly called ‘the estimated value of the fulfilled potential of a person’s biggest smile’.
Those displaying unfulfilled potential will see such messages as ‘you still look too serious’ or ‘lift up the corners of your mouth.’ All workers receive a photo print-out of their best effort to inspire them through the day.
A growing number of service industries in Japan are apparently using the new Omron Smile Scan system for staff ‘smile training’.
I think I’ll just pop along to Transport For London’s HQ and put the idea to them …
by Andy Moreton
Get a friendly welcome at any of Luxique’s luxury hotels in Tokyo and many other Japanese cities.
Planners building a major intersection in Tokyo have factored in a rooftop sky park above it.
With space at a premium in the world’s busiest city, the Ohashi 1-chrome Park will create more than four square miles of green space on top of the looping concrete structure linking two major roads near the busy Shibuya railway station.
A spokesman for the local government office building the new park said: “The city is getting hotter and hotter and temperatures are rising, so we wanted to create a green area to help lower them. Tokyo does not have much space, so we also wanted to create a relaxing environment for residents to enjoy.”
The rooftop park – a first for Japan - will be from 23 to 115 feet above street level, following the expressway junction as it climbs upward. It’s due to be completed by the end of 2012.
by Andy Moreton
Book your luxury hotels in Tokyo through Luxique. We offer great rates at four hotels which all feature in the Conde Nast Traveller 2008 Gold List.
The world’s biggest wholesale fish market is reversing a month-long ban on tourists at its pre-dawn auctions.
The manic daily tuna sales at Tsukiji market in central Tokyo often draw hundreds of visitors, many from abroad. But loutish tourists were accused of flouting hygiene rules and causing disruption with flash photography. Some had apparently been caught hugging, licking and even riding the huge frozen tuna that are Tsukiji’s most famous commodity.
While the ban on visiting has been lifted, guards will hand out strict guidelines governing behaviour. An official said: “We recognise that the auctions are part of the Tokyo scenery and a popular tourist attraction.”
Tsukiji handles more than 400 different types of seafood from tiny sardines to 300kg (660lb) tuna, from cheap seaweed to the most expensive caviar. It’s the source of fresh sushi and sashimi to top restaurants around the world.
by Andy Moreton
Take a look at our unrivalled selection of luxury hotels in Tokyo together with a helpful Tokyo city guide.
Louis Vuitton has said it’s dropping its plan for a massive flagship store in Tokyo as the global economic crisis dampens the market for luxury goods.
The upmarket French brand had planned a 12-floor, 12,000 square metre (130,000 square foot) store off a major street in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district that would rival its main shop in Paris for size.
Louis Vuitton counts on Japan as its most lucrative market, with some estimates saying that a third of young Japanese women own handbags or other goods from the designer.
Hulic Co., a Japanese real estate firm constructing the building, said it had been set to open in 2010 with Louis Vuitton selling goods throughout almost the entire complex. “We understand the company cancelled the project due to its own conditions,” said a Hulic spokesman. “We will construct the building as scheduled, inviting other candidates.”
Unlike other countries, many buyers of luxury goods in Japan are middle-class shoppers who save long and hard for their purchases. Their spending has decreased as Japan’s economy has slipped into recession.
Vuitton’s French parent company LVMH said its Japanese sales had fallen seven per cent in the nine months ended September 30. The company recently announced it would cut prices there.
by Andy Moreton
When in Japan, don’t stint on the accommodation. Luxique offers a range of luxury Tokyo hotels.