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Tokyo Business Travel Guide

On and Off the Clock in the World's Largest Metropolitan Area

A view of Tokyo, including the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo in Japan

The Best Hotels, Restaurants and Activities for Tokyo Business Travelers

No other city in Japan — indeed in Asia — holds a candle to Tokyo's economic prominence, and few cities in the rest of the world can compete. As the capital of the world's third-largest economy, Tokyo is a major center of advertising, banking, construction, culture, finance, manufacturing, media and transport. Even if the global economic downturn has hit Japan hard, the casual observer here might never know it.

That's because Tokyo remains a study in contrasts: stylish and successful, exotic and safe, crowded yet quiet. A simple Shinto shrine sits in the middle of one of the world's most fashionable shopping districts. Manners, hierarchy and tradition have a central place in the Japanese psyche, yet architects, designers and chefs take chances here that people elsewhere wouldn't dare. Making decisions and getting answers may seem to take forever; yet once a decision is made it's implemented with lightning speed. Tokyo's businesspeople are famously relentless, yet the city also has a gentility and thoughtfulness inherent in the Japanese character.

Facts to Know Before You Go

Currency: The Japanese yen is the only universally accepted currency here. Although credit cards have gained popularity in the last few years, cash is still king.   If you do not see a sign in the window with your credit card's logo, expect to pay cash. Japanese ATMs are a mixed bag. Outside of Narita Airport, most ATMs do not accept foreign-issued cards. The secret solution: Japanese post offices and the ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores have ATMs which accept foreign cards on the Plus and Cirrus systems. ATMs in Japan tend to be open only during banking hours or slightly longer, but not 24 hours.

International hotels and many banks also handle foreign exchange; bank rates tend to be slightly better, though transactions take longer. Yen bills come in denominations of ¥1,000, ¥5,000, ¥10,000 and the rarer ¥2,000. For minor transactions such as taxi rides, small bills are helpful.

Transportation: Two major airports serve Tokyo: Narita Airport is Japan's main international hub, about 40 miles east of the city center, while the closer-in Haneda Airport is mostly for domestic flights. Flights connecting Narita Airport and other parts of Japan are limited.

Taxis from Narita Airport are only for the deep-pocketed, around ¥25,000 to the city center including tolls. Public transportation, which costs about one-tenth of that, is often faster. JR (Japan Railways) operates Narita Express trains to hub stations throughout Tokyo (about ¥3,000), and the more frequent Keisei Skyliner train (¥1,920) serves Ueno station in northeast Tokyo. The Airport Limousine Company operates buses directly to major hotels for ¥3,000.

In town, Tokyo's network of municipal and private line subways and trains is awe-inspiring, envy-inducing, punctual, efficient and spotless. Some signage in English mitigates the fear factor. Fares are based on distance. Day passes allow you to breeze through turnstiles, but be careful before purchasing because not all are valid on all train lines. If you're buying individual tickets and don't know the fare, purchase the least expensive ticket (¥130-170 depending on the line) and pay the difference on arrival.

Except for those serving airports, Japanese trains are not meant for large suitcases. Japanese traveling from city to city by rail typically ship their luggage, averaging around ¥1,600 per piece. With luggage within the city, you'll probably want to travel by taxi; fares start at ¥710 for the first two kilometers.

Information: English-language publications are available in hotels and at kiosks in train stations and bookstores, including the International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and major magazines. For local perspectives, try the English-language Japan Times and Daily Yomiuri newspapers. Metropolis is a local lifestyle and listings magazine in English, distributed at many hotels and restaurants.

Major hotels offer television programming in English. CNN Japan and BBC World are the most common. Japanese TV remotes are equipped with a "bilingual" button to allow viewers to switch between Japanese and the program's original language. However, it does not translate Japanese programming into other languages.

Bookstores with substantial English selections include Maruzen, Kinokuniya and Yaesu Book Center.

Most hotels offer LAN cables for you to connect your computer to the Internet.

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Where to Stay

Four Seasons Tokyo at Marunouchi
1-11-1 Marunouchi
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6277
+81-(0)3-5222-7222
www.fourseasons.com

Four Seasons Tokyo at Marunouchi

Steps from Tokyo Station, and in the reborn Marunouchi district, the Four Seasons offers a minimalist, boutique (57 rooms) setting. Shiny black doors reveal bright rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, demure and unassuming woodwork of white sycamore or macassar ebony, a leather canopy over your bed and art that might include watercolors of birches or a bamboo sculpture framed in gold leaf.  The spa, with its poldoo woodwork, slate hot spring baths and products by Japanese designer Kenzo, is entrancing. Everything seems just a little shinier in the chairman's suite (¥500,000 a night), a contemporary palace of mother-of-pearl armoires and an egg-shaped bathtub overlooking the station. After all this, the orange and yellow grid patterns and green velour of the Ekki restaurant and bar is practically an explosion of color. Note that some rooms face the train tracks, although triple-pane glass cuts out enough noise to satisfy most guests.

Grand Hyatt Tokyo
6-10-3 Roppongi
Minato-ku, Tokyo
+81-(0)3-4333-1234
www.tokyo.grand.hyatt.com

Grand Hyatt Tokyo

Roppongi Hills crackles with energy day and night, and the hotel at its heart is a worthy companion. Low to the ground and built like a museum with all curves and intricate sight-lines, the Grand Hyatt is filled with art from giant busts to the latest ikebana flower arrangements. Minimalist rooms are cool without being cold and gee-whiz techie: The touch of a single button will lower the blackout curtains, and the bathrooms are copious. Look for leopard print slippers in your wardrobe, and your dry-cleaning order returned practically gift-wrapped. The fitness room, pool and Nagomi spa, meanwhile, are out of the way and soothing.  The hotel also boasts some of the city's top restaurants, with dozens more just out the door.

Peninsula Tokyo
1-8-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-0006
+81-(0)3-6270-2888
www.peninsula.com

Peninsula Tokyo

Situated opposite the Imperial Palace with Hibiya Park, the Hong Kong-based hotel group's Tokyo outpost mixes Peninsula's five-star pedigree with a boutique vibe and the highest of high tech. A bedside control panel provides centralized and effortless control of temperature, lighting, telephones, alarm clock, curtains and audio-visual systems at the touch of a fingertip and rooms boast built-in nail-dryers in the copious dressing room. Subtle interior design touches bring a rustic Japanese sensibility, including thatched ceilings over the sofa and natural stone in the bathroom.

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo
2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-8328
+81-(0)3-3270-8800
www.mandarinoriental.com

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

In this city known for style, the Mandarin wins the prize. Located in the center of the Nihonbashi financial district, its lobby, on the 38th floor, is festooned with innovative fabrics by Japanese design firm Nuno (their works also appear in the Museum of Modern Art in New York). The main bar, where you can stop for a cigar or afternoon tea, features all female bartenders and a piano that seems to float in a fountain. A curated selection of museum-quality ceramics lines the hallways. Inside the guest rooms, expansive in this space-starved city, are the latest and coolest design elements and amenities: muted woodwork, plush slippers, two-way closets so that staff can deliver your dry cleaning without disturbing you and, in the bathroom, a sink of Japan's prized mikabe stone and four different shower heads. Take home a folding paper fan as a souvenir.

The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo
Tokyo Midtown
9-7-1 Akasaka
Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-6245
+81-(0)3-3423-8000
www.ritzcarlton.com

The Ritz Carlton, Tokyo

Topping Tokyo Midtown, the city's new tallest building opened in March 2007.  Offering views from the lobby lounge all the way to Tokyo Bay and, on the walls behind you, a reported $5 million worth of paintings by Sam Francis. This is hardly your grandfather's Ritz Carlton. Japanese motifs turn up in clever places throughout: swirling, soaring sculptures of bamboo in the lobby, washi paper elevated to high art in frames in the hallways, fan motifs woven into the wallpaper patterns. The spa features a 20-meter, four-lane infinity pool and Espa products for treatments. In your guest room terrycloth and silk bathrobes await and the square bathrooms are capacious and elegant.

Where to Dine


Beige
Chanel Ginza Building, 10th floor
3-5-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tokyo 104-0061
+81-(0)3-5159-5500
www.beige-tokyo.com
French
12/20
$$$$$

Beige

Alain Ducasse's premier Tokyo restaurant is a must-visit, both for the sleek and sophisticated Peter Marino-designed interiors and the proceedings on the plate. This culinary collaboration with Chanel, atop the main Chanel store building in the heart of the world famous Ginza shopping district, has resulted in a suitably fashionable environment to see and be seen. Many female diners are dressed appropriately in the latest clothes from the brand. Menus change according to what's fresh, but look for treats like Bresse chicken roasted with lemon butter and saddle of lamb rubbed with savory and, for dessert, the Carré Chanel, of praline and chocolate, always on the menu.


Gonpachi
1-3-11 Nishi-Azabu
Minato-ku
+81-(0)3-5771-0170
www.gonpachi.jp/?lang=en
Sushi/Japanese/Noodles
14/20
$$$$$

Gonpachi

Former President George W. Bush dined here with Japan's former Prime Minister Koizumi, Quentin Tarantino shot scenes here for Kill Bill, and those are only a couple of  reasons why this rangy, energetic, three-story eatery is an institution. It's really several restaurants in one—typically, sushi, noodles and tempura can be found only in specialty restaurants—spread over three floors and many rooms and all decorated Japanese country style. Come for handmade soba noodles, tempura dishes including kuruma ebi (tiger prawn) and renkon (lotus root). Seasonal sushi includes—unusual in Japan—westernized offerings like California rolls that will make the LA business types feel right at home. Service is spirited.


Morimoto
7-21-19 Roppongi
Minato-ku, Tokyo
+81-(0)3-479- 0065
Sushi/Japanese
15/20
$$$$$

Morimoto

You were hooked on Iron Chef, and this chic restaurant in the middle of Roppongi's Art Triangle is where that show's Chef Morimoto hangs his toque. The cuisine is teppan-yaki, assorted dishes prepared on hot steel tables.  Here, however, the showmanship is on the plates and not behind the counter. Your multi-course dinner (sets start around ¥10,000) might start with an assortment of tiny sushi in a bamboo box on a banana leaf, move on to kurobuta pork, chicken and/or vegetables cooked to the intersection of doneness and juiciness, and end with fried noodles or rice. Welcoming but unobtrusive staff is happy to accommodate special requests. Afterwards, head upstairs to the lounge for tiny desserts—who can eat more than that after such a meal?—served by a modern fireside. An experience guaranteed to impress your clients.


New York Grill
Park Hyatt Tokyo
3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 163-1055
+81-(0)3-5322-1234
www.tokyo.park.hyatt.com
Steakhouse/Seafood
15/20
$$$$$

New York Grill

If you were captivated by the setting of Lost in Translation, here's your chance to see it in person and enjoy Japan's famous beef at the same time. Slick, dark, black and dramatically lit, the New York Grill sits atop the Park Hyatt Tokyo, designed by Pritzker Prize winner Kenzo Tange. Enjoy captivating nightscapes with skyline views like something out of an anime film.  Do take a moment to admire the chefs at work in the open kitchen. Kobe beef is only the most famous grade (try others the way you might sample wine), or there's a seafood selection and some 1,600 wines. None of it comes cheap, but it's an only-in-Tokyo venue and a definite place to impress. Live jazz combos round out the experience.


Tempura Tenichi
6-6-5 Ginza
Chuo-ku, Tokyo
+81-(0)3-3571-1949
Japanese
15/20
$$$$$

Sorry to say, but chefs outside Japan have taken a few too many liberties with the term "tempura." It's not just a fanciful word for "fried," and the leaden, dull-flavored results are, shall we say, a disservice to the word. A tempura dinner here will give you a whole new appreciation of the art. This well-regarded chain dates back to the 1930s; this location in the ritzy Ginza district is its flagship branch. Order a set menu and watch the magic happen. Tempura in the form of shrimp, fish, vegetables and more is prepared piece by piece at the counter before you.  It arrives airy, never greasy and so crispy it's wispy. Sure, Tenichi gets a lot of tourists, including Japanese, but sometimes the crowd gets it right. Other locations include in the Akasaka and Shinjuku districts.  A great place to loosen your tie, roll up your sleeves and enjoy a hard day's dining.

Off the Clock

Art Triangle Roppongi

Roppongi

A decade or two ago, the central Roppongi district was known chiefly for nightlife, which had become tawdry by the beginning of the millennium. The nightlife is still there, but the cheapness is being forced out thanks to two more venues:  the Roppongi Hills complex of shopping, dining and museums, which opened in 2003, and the National Art Center and Tokyo Midtown district, which debuted in 2007. The three now form Art Triangle Roppongi, a quick walk between the contemporary changing exhibits that are adventurously displayed at Roppongi Hills' Mori Art Museum, the National Art Center (with soaring glass cones designed by Kishio Kurokawa) and the classical Japanese and other Asian art at the Suntory Museum in Tokyo Midtown. Pick up the map and calendar (in English) to find more galleries and design shops in the neighborhood.

Asakusa District

Senso-ji

Pronounced a-sock-sah, this is one of Tokyo's oldest downtown areas.  It still exudes the feeling of a bygone era, even though most of the construction is postwar. At the center is the hulking Buddhist temple Senso-ji (aka Asakusa Kannon Temple). To reach it, pass through Kaminari-mon, a landmark gate with an oversized lantern. Between the gate and the temple are hundreds of traditional shops selling everything from freshly made sembei (rice crackers) and azuki-bean snacks to traditional crafts like knives, noren curtains and Noh masks. Once you reach the temple, ¥100 buys you your fortune on a slip of paper with English translation; keep it if you like it, and roll up the bad ones and tie them off on a tree or nearby wire rack.

Harajuku District

Inner garden of the Meiji Shrine

It's hard to believe that in the world's largest metropolis you can find a forest of some 100,000 trees, but so you will in the stillness of the Meiji Shrine. It's dedicated to the emperor credited with bringing Japan into the modern world in a matter of mere decades in the late 19th century. Just outside is Harajuku station, where you can view tomorrow's youth fashions on Takeshita-dori or woodblock prints of yesteryear at the small Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum. Or just stroll the tree-lined boulevard Omote-Sando, where couture boutiques inhabit buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects that include Tadao Ando (Omote-Sando Hills), Kenzo Tange (Hanae Mori Building), Fumihiko Maki (Spiral Building) and Herzog and de Meuron (Prada), as well as landmark buildings for Christian Dior, Tod's and Japan's own Comme des Garçons.

Tokyo Dome
www.tokyo-dome.co.jp

Tokyo Dome

A trip to watch the perennial Japanese baseball league toppers Yomiuri Giants will dispel any notions of baseball being a boring game...or Japan being a quiet country. Inside this stadium in the city center, fans shout to rhythmic, organized cheers accompanied by trumpets. The inflatable dome structure means that the 60-plus games here can be played rain or shine. Outside of game times, look for stadium-style concerts or just visit Japan's Baseball Hall of Fame on site. The rest of the year, Tokyo Dome is surrounded by an amusement park (bring the kids), with shopping and dining for everyone.

Tsukiji Fish Market
www.tsukiji-market.or.jp

Tsukiji Outer Market

Go ahead: Wrinkle your nose. But know that this L-shaped pavilion that covers several acres is one of Tokyo's main attractions. Nearly 2,250 tons a day of fish and seafood are sold here. A single tuna can command $160,000, and some of the shops have been in business since the early 16th century. Go early—you'll be suffering from jet lag, so arriving at 5 a.m. should not be a problem—to see the auction. There's still plenty of action through mid-morning with the packing, shipping and trucking of fish that have just been sold. After all that, it's a wonder that tiny slices of sushi come so cheap. Speaking of which, there are plenty of little stands in the outer market where you can sample the latest and freshest (talk about breakfast of champions) alongside adventurous vegetables, inexpensive but high-quality production ceramics, and kitchen equipment you may never have heard of. (Author: Andy Bender)


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* Tokyo Dome image courtesy of Japan National Tourism Organization

PKH102907
(Updated: 03/18/13 CT)

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