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.
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.
A new cinema complex in Tokyo is offering the ultimate in movie-going experiences.
The luxury seats at the Shinjuku Piccadilly cost nearly 30,000 Yen (£140/$280) each, but in your private box you get champagne, custom-made Italian leather sofas and a surround sound system. You have your own entrance, a private elevator and a secluded waiting room.
And you get to watch the film on the biggest LCD screen in the world - all 108 inches of it. This has only been made possible because the manufacturers, Sharp, recently opened a new plant in Japan that can handle sheets of glass large enough to make the screen.
If the VIP treatment happens to be to your liking, you might want to book the box for a whole year, but you’d have to be prepared to fork out around 30 million Yen (£140,000/$280,000).
by Andy Moreton
If you like luxury that works out a little less expensive, Luxique has a choice of five fabulous Tokyo hotels as well as a guide to one of the most vibrant capitals in the world.
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