Wondering what we're talking about this week around the Passported HQ? Well, you're in luck! Welcome to a new weekly feature about what we're currently working on for our lovely clients and what's cool, new, and exciting around our office. This week: Japan. Did you know our very own CEO, Henley actually lived in Tokyo? So when we say we have the inside scoop, we mean it. Feel free to eavesdrop on our conversations:
Where should I stay in Tokyo?
Don't try to hang out with Bill Murray in the Park Hyatt. It's a beautiful hotel, but the location in Shinjuku is a walk to anything interesting. A better pick only if you're a biz traveler and your company is paying for a car and driver, 'natch. We like the more happening Roppongi, where the Ritz Carlton is the nicest option and the Grand Hyatt a solid back-up at a lower price. The neighborhood is more hip and fun with awesome shopping and restaurants. It has a great energy to it and places to go out at night. If you've read about the new Aman, yes, it's amazing. But it's down in Ginza, Tokyo's version of midtown Manhattan. Pros: you're by the Imperial Palace gardens (great for a morning jog), close to the train station, and near all the other fancy schmancy hotels like the Peninsula, Mandarin and Four Seasons.
What about Kyoto? I heard I should go there next.
Hell yeah, you should. Kyoto is a total 180 from the hustle of Tokyo, a city where you can visit tranquil shrines and ancient temples and see geisha winding their way through tiny lanes. The best way to get from Tokyo to Kyoto is the bullet train. In Kyoto, the new Ritz-Carlton is the nicest option in town, and while it may not seem like the most authentic option, they really do a good job. The hotel is beautiful with lots of local touches. For something more traditional, check out Hoshinoya, a resort built to resemble a traditional Japanese village. It's located outside of Kyoto so requires a drive into sightseeing or dining. But if someone is looking for a true resort experience, rather than being in town, it's a great alternative (about 30 mins outside the city).
What's the best way to make reservations in Japan?
Yes, we also have Jiro Dreams of Sushi queued up on Netflix, and it is very important to make reservations in advance. We have tons of fantastic recommendations on what to do, where to eat, and what to shop for in Japan, but the best way to make your res is through the hotel concierge. They have the local hookup and can assist with any last minute changes.
Anywhere else to visit?
More places than you'll be able to hit in one trip, but there are a couple easy add-ons for a first-timer. From Kyoto, take a day trip to Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. There are friendly deer that roam the forest between the temples (if visiting with kids, this is a real hit since they can feed the animals), and the world's largest bronze buddha sits here in the Tōdai-ji temple.
From Tokyo, try the train to Kamakura if you don't have time to get down to Kyoto and Nara. This traditional seaside town also has pretty temples plus sandy beaches (it's a popular surf spot) and is less than an hour from Tokyo.
Finally, Hakone...this hot springs center near Mt. Fuji offers great hiking, stays in authentic ryokan (Gora Kadan is a good one) and hot-tubbing Japanese style. If you're NOT with kids and are feeling adventurous in the summer, do an overnight climb to the summit of Mt. Fuji and watch the sun rise from there. Did it once, won't do it again, but it makes for a good story.