The world could do with a lot more places like Japan. This was a thought that recurred constantly during a wonderful two-week trip I made last fall. Nowadays, the orderliness, civility and efficiency of the country seem more remarkable and admirable than ever. Few countries in the world are as fascinating. Besides spectacular monuments, museums and scenery, a deep culture of excellence and refinement informs daily life.
At the time of writing, the exchange rate between the dollar and the yen is extremely favorable, making 2016 an ideal year to discover the country for the first time. It has become progressively easier to travel in Japan. As the country readies itself for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, new English-language signage has appeared in airports and train stations. More Japanese than ever speak English. Excellent new hotels have opened recently in Tokyo and Kyoto. The country’s big cities not only offer exquisite Japanese cooking in all of its myriad varieties, but French restaurants to rival those in Paris and Lyon. And as I was repeatedly reminded, the Japanese just might produce the world’s best beef.
Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills
Even after visiting Tokyo many times, the immensity of the city always comes as a shock, which is why I especially appreciated the quiet beauty and thoughtful service at the 164-room Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills. The property occupies the top six floors of the 52-story Toranomon Hills skyscraper, situated in a stylish neighborhood between the Imperial Palace and the Tokyo Tower. The reception is softly lit, and check-in takes place on tablet computers at walnut tables, instead of at the usual counter. The relaxed elegance of the décor, created by the New York-based designer Tony Chi and Tokyo interior architect Shinichiro Ogata, harmoniously mixes Western and traditional Japanese styles.