When my plans to get from Beijing to Tokyo required a last-minute change, American Express Platinum Travel was able to confirm a seat on a new flight just hours before departure, even though they didn’t handle my original booking. And when I checked-in at the Mandarin Oriental I was reminded of the benefits of booking a Fine Hotels and Resorts property: last night free, $100 credit toward hotel charges, free breakfast and a late checkout. It’s this nimble service, combined with money-saving benefits, that has kept me as a Platinum card-holder for over a decade and—in many ways—has become my new definition of luxury. It’s also for this reason that I gladly accepted the opportunity to become a paid ambassador for the product.
Over the four days in Tokyo I would descend from the hotel sky lobby directly in to the Mitsukoshimae station of the Ginza line to begin exploring the city. What follows are highlights from the ground as well as the retreat on high.
Rainy Day Special
Ramen is always a filling meal, but on a rainy day it’s especially satisfying. Afuri, in Daikanyama, is a traditional ramen bar complete with a machine at the door where you make your selections and pay for the order; in return, getting paper tickets to present to the server. Their bowls are especially delicious and if you happen to be visiting during Yuzu season, the broth flavored with this sweet-yet-tart citrus is a must.
Mandarin Oriental Spa
Rotating between warm pools and a sauna is the best cure for damp and chilled bones. This ritual is further elevated at the Mandarin Oriental Spa with its meditative views of the city available from both venues. Add a foot massage or other treatment for an even deeper experience.
Hotel Okura and Orchid Bar
Yoshio Taniguchi’s 1962 masterpiece that marries Japanese queues with the best of Mid-century Modernism is going to be torn down in September 2015 (unless Monocle’s petition can save it). The best way to enjoy the Hotel Okura, which is still in pristine condition, is to visit the Orchid Bar for a cocktail and then have a wander around the public spaces.
Morita Antique Textiles
Modestly positioned on a busy street in Aoyama is Tadashi, Morita’s eponymous store offering an incredible array of vintage, indigo-dyed textiles, wrapping cloths and robes.
Sushi Bar Yasuda
After achieving top accolades for his NYC sushi restaurant, chef Naomichi Yasuda moved home to Japan in 2012 and opened a small underground sushi bar in Aoyama. Yasuda-san does everything himself, from shopping to preparation, delivering delicately balanced flavors in perfect little bites. The fact that he’s also an accomplished bare-knuckle karate fighter adds a curious twist to his story, and just makes his massive hands even more impressive.
Tucked away off the corner of Mandarin Oriental’s sky lobby, Sora is a jewel-box of a sushi bar. Guests can can alternate meditations between the movements of the chef in front of them or the wabi-sabi urban texture of the city out the window to their side. The deliciously fresh flavors deliver on picture-perfect presentation’s promise.
Mandarin Oriental Spa image courtesy of the brand. All other images by Josh Rubin