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Lucire: Volante
japan


Lucire 2011
Tokyo from the Shangri-La A stunning view from one of the city’s finest hotels.

Tokyo rising

Vibrant culture, history, cuisine and unflagging hospitality make Japan’s capital a luxury destination that endures the elements and stirs the senses, writes Elyse Glickman
PHOTOGRAPHED BY THE AUTHOR AND COURTESY OF THE SHANGRI-LA TOKYO

 



Above Views from the Imperial Palace grounds.

 

NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE in the world, there is always something profoundly moving about how a catastrophic event can not only unite people but also make them more determined to make their home a better place during its healing process.

Though Tokyo is a seven hours’ drive from the epicentre of Sendai, locals see the earthquake and tsunami that literally shook northern Japan to its foundation last March as something that has profoundly affected the nation. However, even with legitimate safety concerns expressed by people travelling to Japan for business, pleasure or a mix of both, there is much to support the argument that there is no time like the present to visit Japan. While tourist dollars will help their affected economy, it will also raise your spirits.

 

Zen and now
With the futuristic juxtaposing the ancient, and green juxtaposing urban, even a short vacation or a two day weekend add-on to your business trip will give you a through idea of why Japanese culture continues to capture the west’s collective imagination. The grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace, for example, surrounded the city’s financial and government centres, unfolds into a velvety expanse that is home a historic, water-filled moat, Kokyo Gaien (Imperial Palace Outer Garden), Kokyo Higashi Gyoen (Imperial Palace East Garden) and Kita-no-maru-koen Park.

Given its splendour, the Imperial Palace parkland is ideal for a morning jog. However all paths lead toward an interesting variety of cultural institutions. Weekend warriors will like Edo Castle, where samurai warriors lived from the 17th to 19th centuries. History buffs of another sort will appreciate Sannomaru-Shozo-kan (Museum of the Imperial Collections) where Emperor Hirohito’s collection of kimonos and Japanese paintings are displayed. In Kita-no-maru-koen Park, you will stumble into the legendary Nippon Budo-kan (the Tokyo destination for the world’s biggest arena rock bands) and the gee-whiz marvels stored at the Science Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art.

 



Above The Meiji temple and shrine; and ice-creams at Ueno Park.

 

Ueno Park is Tokyo’s answer to New York’s Central Park, with an acclaimed zoo and landmark cultural institutions that can keep a traveller busy for days. If your time in town is limited, the Tokyo National Museum is the park’s essential destination with its beautifully organized displays of art, historic artifacts and anthropological finds covering Japan and other parts of Asia. Some of the city’s most important historic shrines (Bentendo, Toshogu, Kiyomizo Kannon) and the Shitamachi Museum (reconstructing life in old Tokyo) also line the grounds of this often crowded but friendly space. In the backyard of trendy, youthful Harajuku, you will find another piece of country heaven on the grounds of the Meiji Temple.

Asakusa, in the north of the city, bridges rich cultural landmarks (Sensoji and Kaminarimon, Tokyo’s oldest temple), penultimate Tokyo souvenir shopping (Nakamise Street) and the foodie paradise of Kappabashi Dougugai—a street lined with foodie gold in the form of kitchen décor and gadgets buffs or the perfect, calorie-free souvenir of Tokyo: plastic sushi!

 



Asakusa

 

East meets zest
If it’s the real thing you crave, look for it everywhere: from informal stand-up sushi bars on “food streets” in underground shopping passages to neighbourhood robata bars like Han drawing passing office workers around Ginza, to ultra-high end destination restaurants like the original Gonpachi, setting for a landmark Quentin Tarantino film scene and a sister restaurant in Beverly Hills. However, for those who want to go behind the scenes, an early morning jaunt down to the public areas of the Tsukiji Fish Market is worth the trip. Imagine your favourite big city farmers’ market in 3-D. Start with some of the most perfect forms of seasonal fruits you’ve ever seen, and end with a show consisting of specialists prepping fish and seafood for market in a brutally balletic way that even Tarantino would admire. Follow that with a sushi breakfast at original branch of Tsukiji Sushi-Sen, serving morsels you know were swimming the previous day.

Not surprisingly, food preparation is regarded as an art in Japan, even if it is a meal or dessert purchased “to go”. Therefore, there is no better place to see Japan’s collective passion for beautiful, too-pretty-to-eat food (pastries in particular) on the lower levels of top department stores such as Takashimaya (Japanese for ‘Bergdorf Goodman’, as one companion remarked), Daimaru (quite lovely and adjacent to Tokyo Station and the Shangri-La Hotel, our lodging pick), and the Ginza branches of Mitsukoshi and Matsuya. While the draw for some may be the abundant samplings of mind-blowing, unusual sweets and savouries, for others, it will be the flawless, art gallery-like organization of the kiosks.

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Elyse Glickman is US west coast editor of Lucire.

 

Below The Tsukiji Fish Market, and sushi at Han restaurant.

However, even with legitimate safety concerns expressed by people travelling to Japan for business, pleasure or a mix of both, there is much to support the argument that there is no time like the present to visit Japan. While tourist dollars will help their affected economy, it will also raise your spirits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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