Thursday, 27 September 2012

Lost in Translation: Review Grand Hyatt Tokyo

I love Bill Murray’s weary maladroit character in Lost in Translation and how he’s seduced by Scarlett’s subdued bosomy softness, against the minimalistic oriental backdrop of grey Tokyo skies and his melancholy loneliness.

So it was Lost in Translation that bought me to Japan.

And it was Lost in Translation made me stay at the Grand Hyatt Roppongi.

But as it turns out, my researcher (me) is a moron and the movie was actually filmed in the Park Hyatt.  So I asked to move hotels. But that too was Lost in Translation..

So it’s just as well that the hotel was where it was. Located right at the heart of Roppongi, a district famed for its nightlife and karaoke bars and the ample amusement these provided (evidence below) made me forget all about my booking blunder.

The Hotel has a spacious and relaxing feel, decorated in warm neutrals and dark sumptuous woods.  The facilities are pretty great, a jaw-dropping spa, kick ass gym and pool, seven restaurants and direct access to a mammoth shopping centre  (those bringing girlfriends, beware).

At this point, I should also mention that the pastry boutique more than made up for any residual disappointment that hadn't been obliterated by singing this.... (definitely up there in my top five cinematic moments of all time)

Anyway, back to the review. So yeh, we liked the hotel, the location and the fact that it was down the road from a photobooth centre where we spent about 4 hours on the first night. That alone was worth the trip to Tokyo; the transformation into this freakish, doll-like, doe-eyed version of yourself. 

So to round up, really enjoyed our stay, the hotel was absolutely lovely and would stay here again (but only after staking out the Park Hyatt).

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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Who Ate Flounder?

The moment our plane touched the runway I rounded on the man in the aisle seat and demanded he tell us where to find the best sushi (other than at the fish market). An hour later we had unceremoniously dumped our luggage at the hotel and were sitting at the bar of Sushi Zanmai, a local chain boasting the finest regional flavours.

Unsurprisingly, sushi in Japan is dramatically different to its European cousins. Here, simplicity is king. Forget try hard maki rolls, tempura drenched in fluorescent dip and outlandish combinations of colour and texture; you wont find it here. 

Instead you are served simple rolls of unimaginable freshness and  flavour. But remember it's Japan and it's expensive. Just how expensive? Zuma prices. £80 for two people, no booze, at a super casual joint.

Sushi Facts

Sushi means 'sour-tasting'....
Because originally fish would be wrapped in sour fermenting rice which would break down the proteins in the fish making it taste sour (umami)...
The rice would then be discarded and only the fish would be eaten.

But this was hundreds of years ago. Modern sushi as we know it today has only been around for two centuries and was the Japanese equivalent of 'fast food' as the roll wouldn't be fermented so the whole thing could be eaten quickly and on the go.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Here Fishy Fishy Fishy: Tsukiji Market Tokyo

"Rise and Shiiiiine"  I said bouncing on the edge of her bed.

"I don't want to" she wailed into her pillow. "It's 4.30am. Go without me!!. I'm sick"

"No you're not"

"No, I am, I really am"

Somehow, I bullied her out of the sheets, into the shower and out into the obscenely early dawn. I knew it would be ok,  we were going to Tokyo's fish market and if the smell didn't wake her up, there was little hope for anything else.

Thank cod I was right.  Our pescatarian start to the day was a total success. The fish market is a rite of passage for any Tokyo tourist and if the early start intimidates you could always continue your night out into the early morning, watch the tuna auction and grab some sushi (beware of salmon and patron). 

And yes, Vanessa, no need to thank me, I o-fishally rock.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Hi Simon. Hi Cheryl. Hi Louis.

The problem with women is that they are completely immune to feminine wiles. So I needed a strategy to ensure I got my kicks in Tokyo. And I knew exactly the tack to take. Ply them with plum wine and teriyaki *nom nom*. Pay them a deluge of compliments. Engender pity with a painful and deeply personal tale..and... beg...beg... and beg some more.

'Pleeasse can we go for karaokeeee?'
'What if I promised to...' 

And so I made a solemn pledge, in return for which I got to wail my little heart out at Karaoke Kan in Ishibuya. In a total 'When Harry Met Sally' moment ("I'll have what she's having") the girls  went Jackie Chan on my ass and wrestled the mic from me mid-Aguilera. 

However, as the curtain fell on the evening I was allowed to croak my way through Lana in a tuneless sayonara to our musical extravaganza.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Take Me To The Temple

A four hour plane ride from Hong Kong lies the land of sumo, sushi and the rising sun. Japan.

First stop, The Sensoji Buddhist temple in Asakusa.

The temple was completed in 645AD, a boggling one and a half millennia ago and dedicated to the goddess of mercy.

The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. 

Many age old Buddhist traditions are observed at the temple.

The first of these is a box of chopsticks. You remove a stick at random and it sends you to a specified draw, which holds your fortune.

Good Fortune

Fair Fortune

And....... er, my Fortune

 Predictably, my fortune foretold of doom and disaster. My friends nodded in sympathy. One helpfully chipped in that the silver lining of perpetual chaos is endless excitement.  But "your wishes will not be realised" didn't sound particularly exciting to me.

Luckily, the Buddhists (the crafty lot) have a solution for the likes of me. You take your bad fortune and wrap it around a special frame, effectively giving you a clean karmic slate.
 Luck be a lady tonight.

I was extra diligent in triple knotting my sentence.

Then there was the burning incense, to cure ailments and sickness. You approach the fragrant smoke and let it float over you and wish for health.

 It was really moving to watch children wheeling their elderly parents towards the incense and standing with their eyes closed, praying for them.

And to wash away our sins, we take sacred water in a ladle with our right hand and pour it over the left. And then like good little sinners, repeat with the other hand.

At the very heart of the temple there's an area where you bow your head, pray and make a wish. As always, I was first in line. Any excuse to wish for.... world peace.

Now that I was cleansed and smiling once again, I had my palm read by an old little man with transparent rheumy blue eyes, with our Japanese friend Miya translating.

He gazed at the lines on my hands in deep concentration. A magnifying glass was produced and the huge quantity of energy lines emanating from my heart were studied with curiosity. I quipped that maybe I needed a cardiogram; the joke really didn't translate well. 

Whilst I won't divulge what he told me, some of it was remarkably accurate and specific.

Now that we had completed our mini pilgrimage, we could do what women do best. Everything... Shop.

Asakusa Market

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