This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How Not to Prepare for Budget Travel - Tokyo

A couple weeks ago, we received a lunch invitation from Mika’s aunt in Tokyo, while Mika’s cousin had kindly offered to get us a hotel for one night in the city. We were a little shocked and embarrassed, but much more excited when we found out that we would be eating at Kyubei - a very famous sushi restaurant frequented by CEO’s, politicians and Hollywood elite - and staying at The Ritz-Carlton.

Kyubei’s is a seventy-five year old establishment. They created “gunkan maki” the style that uses seaweed to hold in things like uni (blowfish) or ikura (roe) that would otherwise slide off of the rice. In 2008 the Wall Street Journal named it one of the best restaurants in Asia.

The sushi bar is in a tatami room so you sit on the floor, but there is a sunken area for your legs. We all get the chef’s special lunch. The sushi chef prepares one piece at a time, places them on the plate and waits for us to finish before serving the next piece. Everything is scrumptious, the in season abalone and fatty tuna are my favorite. The fish pieces are large and so incredibly fresh. The freshest maybe being the large shrimp, of which one crawled off of the butcher block before meeting his destiny, our stomachs.

After lunch Mika’s aunt brings us to the Shiseido Parlour for coffee and dessert. In Ginza, many designer labels (Hermes, Louis Vuitton, etc) have their flagship stores in Ginza. Shisedo, the Japanese cosmetic company, has a chocolate shop, café, restaurant and art gallery. I am too full from fish for dessert so just have a lovely coffee. Her aunt gives us another surprise, that Mika's cousin has given us a room on the club floor of The Ritz-Carlton.

The streets of Ginza
Club or executive level rooms, have a private lounge just for guests on that floor. There is private check-in and other amenities like complimentary ironing or shoe polishing service. In the club lounge there are five different meal presentations throughout the day for club room guests. The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo’s club lounge was on the 53rd floor with far reaching views of the city. We are brought to our room and we have spectacular views of the city and the iconic Tokyo Tower. The room has everything one would expect from a 5-star hotel and service the was incredible. From their letter to us is this info about the bath products:
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo and Osaka are proud to be the only hotels in Asia to
carry the exclusive line of Asprey branded Room Amenities only for Club and
Suite guests. The Asprey legacy dates back to 1781 in London; however the Purple
Water amenity line is one of the newest additions using only the finest
essential oils, such as a fresh citrus fragrance blended with spicy
undertones to give it added strength and stature.
Now please do not think that Mika and I are complete serfs. On our honeymoon five years ago we stayed on the club level room of The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur. It is just that we never imagined we would return so soon. In Denver we were joking about whether we should splurge for a nice hotel for our fifth anniversary. Mika said that it was too early. So this was an amazing gift from Mika’s cousin, and it felt just like a honeymoon. We have our light dinner with Ritz-Carlton champagne in the club room and I return later for a chocolate binge night cap while Mika was down at the pool.

I set the alarm for 8 AM so we won’t lose our last few hours of total luxury in slumber and the press a button to lower the curtain. I wake up to the alarm. This is the first time in Japan that I have had a solid night’s sleep and not awoken before 7 AM. I guess large, comfortable mattresses will do that to a guy. Mika does yoga in the room. I take my newspaper and go to the club room for coffee and breakfast. I am debating what to eat. Should I have the smoked salmon and bagel, or being the last morning in Tokyo have a Japanese breakfast? I do what any reasonable person would do and have everything. Plus two yummy pastries and a small bowl of The Ritz-Carlton’s own Holstein cow yogurt. After breakfast Mika goes down for a swim while I use the exercise bike. I do not really want to exercise, but think it is a great excuse to use the bath products again.

We pack our things (though they did offer a complimentary packing service) and some Asprey bath products. Checkout is at 12:00 and unfortunately we have to leave. The stay was amazing, but definitely not how one prepares himself for "roughing it" in Indonesia.

We have one last thing to do in Tokyo. Eat more taco yaki, a Japanese fast food fried dough ball with a piece of octopus in the center. Mayonaise and a sweet brown sauce are on top. Eight balls of hot, doughy goodness are ¥600 (US $6.60). The taco yaki place is just a block from the Ritz-Carlton. I highly doubt though that many of the wealthy guests make it here.
Chie meets us and like a saint has brought our laundry. After scarfing down the taco yaki, we go back to the Ritz-Carlton lobby to wait for our bus. We still have about thirty minutes to spare in the hotel lounge. There are big comfortable chairs and views of the city. We have a ¥1000 voucher, so the ladies order tea. One pot of tea is ¥1600 (US $17.60). You are only allowed one tea cup, no sharing. I highly doubt that many tako yaki customers come up here.

We get our bus and then shuttle to arrive at our small, dingy airport hotel. The next morning we have a satisfactory breakfast, go the airport and get on our flight to Singapore. We say goodbye to Japan at 25,000 ft. Day and night views of Tokyo from our hotel room.
A special note to my family in the NYC area: We love staying at The Ritz-Carlton!

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