I recently had the pleasure of doing a self-drive tour…
Familiarization Trip Courtesy of
Japan Airlines, Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills,
Grand Hyatt Tokyo and Park Hyatt Tokyo
July 27th- August 1st, 2015
Day1 – JAL nonstop flight from LAX to KYOTO on a brand new 787 Dreamliner. The seat configuration in business class is 2-2-2 with angled flat seats. The bonus of the Dreamliner is the 25% humidity on board. On a long haul flight it made a huge difference in in-flight comfort as well has how you felt after a 12 hour flight. LOVED IT! Their in-flight staff is incredible. Kind, courteous, and ALWAYS available. They had lovely Japanese meals available. After the first meal service in business class they have “dine as you wish” for the rest of the flight. You just order off the menu and they bring it. Side note on JAL ….. Did you know that after you book your ticket you can log in to your reservation on JAL and get FREE WIFI for one week while in Japan?? This is a GREAT bonus!!!
Day 2- 6pm arrival and transfer to the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. The management team there are all very warm and welcoming. Although the property was luxurious it still had a very comfortable residential feel to it. The rooms are very well appointed and they are ready to bring you any little item you may have forgotten or need at the drop of a hat.
Day 3- We had a full city tour including the Golden Temple (Kinkakuji), as well the Bamboo forest and Arashiyama area. After visiting the Golden Temple we had a traditional Buddhist vegan lunch to prepare for our lesson in Zen Meditation with the Buddhist Priest. Although challenging in 100 degree weather with 95% humidity, we were left feeling very relaxed with an immense respect for their discipline. After returning to the hotel, our hosts treated us to a formal dressing in Kimonos. I had no idea it would involve robes, towels, tape, and a thick plastic corset. So many layers! 3 women dressed each of us so quickly – we didn’t know what was happening. I know exactly why they take tiny steps now – and never bend from the waist. We went to a Meiko/Geisha performance and dinner in our formal Kimonos. The Meiko was only 20 years old – and already 5 years in on her training to become Geisha. Maintaining their culture was very important.
Day 4 – Kyoto to Tokyo – We took the High Speed Bullet train – what a ride! 270 miles per hour and you can’t even feel it. Every Train – bus – and subway runs TO THE MINUTE – never late. It was a very pleasant experience. I loved how both the ticket lady and the lady with the coffee cart would enter and exit each car with a very polite bow of respect to the customers. They were just lovely.
On Arrival to Tokyo we went to the Grant Hyatt first for lunch and a site. The Grand is very central and in a beautiful neighborhood. It is every bit as GRAND as it should be. Very slick and modern with a masculine feel in its décor. An excellent 5 star choice for any client. Fantastic restaurants and shopping all on site.
After our site – we were taken to the Andaz Tokyo for our stay. The property is fairly new still in the Toranomon Hills area. Check in is on the 51st floor with all rooms 10 floors below that. They have amazing sweeping city and bay views. The rooms are beautifully appointed. I could swim in my tub. This is a given in Japan – I quickly learned they have a “thing” for tubs and toilets. All the best – with technology beyond anything I have ever experienced. I never got used to the warm toilet seats myself. Andaz is the Hyatt brand specializing on the local flair if whatever area it is in. This property screams “stylish Japanese”. Very hip.
That evening was spent at a hosted dinner at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. What an amazing property this is. 3 towers, sprawling facilities, beautiful lounges, bars, and libraries. It is both grand and subtle at the same time. I don’t know how they do it. Our dinner was at their famous New York Grille. They always have a Jazz quartet or band playing – and just the week before Lady Gaga decided to get up from her dinner and play a few songs with them. Sweeping views from the 57th floor. Amazing service, food, and atmosphere. The Japanese steaks are NOT to be missed.
Day 5 was a FULL day of touring in Tokyo. Started at 7:45 am – Tsukiji Fish market tour where the famous Tuna trading happens. Over 3500 TONS of fish sold every single day. Sushi for breakfast was a great treat there. We went to the Hamarikyu Gardan – also known as the old duck hunting grounds for the Shogun. A waterbus to Asakusa to the famous temple and shopping street. Over to Ginza for more sights then lunch at Gonpachi Ginza known for two things – the famous soba noodle master, and the site where Quentin Trantino visualized his famous fight scene for Kill Bill. We saw the Imperial Palace and Meiji Shrine. The famous “Scramble Crossing” at Shibuya. 300 people on one green light is NUTS…. But it works.
Our last evening dinner was at the Andaz Hotel Tavern restaurant. They have European Provincial cuisine. Again the food and service outstanding. Their pride in presentation is incredible.
Tokyo to LAX – JAL new 777 wide body service. They have a 2-3-2 configuration with very spacious and comfortable business class pods. Again, the in flight crew was like none I have ever experienced. They are lovely and charming for the full 10 hours. The same dine-as-you-wish after the main meal is served.
It was a 4 night exhausting whirlwind – and I loved every minute. As a culture/ society I found every person I encountered to be kind and respectful. They are courteous of everyone. Each person – from the Buddhist Priest to the ticket taker on the train – were all a pleasure to be with. This was the most impressive thing I brought home with me.