Tokyo is a gorgeous beast; a chaotic modern metropolis intersected by gracious hospitality and arcane etiquette.
Rebuilt rapidly and without much care for appearances after World War II, the city is cleaning up its act and unveiling new areas as it heads towards the 2020 Olympic Games. In Sendagaya, near the new stadium, cafés and boutiques are springing up, while in Tomigaya, close to the original 1964 Olympic venues, hipster bars and restaurants are becoming de rigueur. The city has naturally grown in a circle around the Imperial Family’s residence – a surprisingly humble, low-rise abode hidden by gardens. Much of the real Tokyo is hidden, too – behind closed doors, down alleyways, screened by noren curtains or concealed by walls. It’s this “insider versus outsider” attitude that can make doing business here quite confusing. Politeness is used to show care as well as to keep you at arm’s length. Addresses seem confounding, rules are opaque and real feelings are kept quiet. But breaking the code (alcohol helps!) opens up the city like a jewellery box. Find your local café, wine bar or gym and you’ll be “welcomed home”. Tokyo rewards persistence.
Coffee pit stop
Verve Coffee Roasters
Located next to Shinjuku Station, Verve Coffee Roasters is originally from Santa Cruz but successfully blends a sunny Californian attitude with meticulous Japanese service. Food options don’t go past simple pastries but the coffee is great and there’s almond milk, if that’s what you prefer.
Breakfast meetings aren’t really a thing in Tokyo, thanks to few options and long commutes. But if you want to escape the standard hotel buffet, head to Ivy Place in trendy Daikanyama. It’s open from 7am with a mix of indoor and outdoor seating and morning offerings that range from homemade granola to full fry-up options.
Hal Yamshita Lounge
Single diners are welcome everywhere in Tokyo and Hal Yamashita Lounge in Otemachi is no exception. Buzzing and fun, with discreet corners and bar counters, it never feels crowded. And you have a better shot at scoring one of the coveted sushi counter seats if you’re dining solo.
With three Michelin stars, chef Seiji Yamamoto’s Nihonryori RyuGin is exceptional. Each delicate dish is exquisitely arranged on vintage tableware, delivered by kimono-clad waitstaff, who glide silently around the room. After it relocated to Midtown Hibiya in August 2018, the new venue has seating for 40 people, with both private and semi-private rooms available.
Drinks with clients
Tucked away on a rooftop above the bright lights of Ginza, this chic bar offers a menu of innovative cocktails, incorporating ingredients like matcha green tea from Uji (south of Kyoto) and mandarins. Try a Gyokuro Martini, using the highest grade of green tea, which adds a delicate note of bitterness to the classic tipple.
Best co-working space
Tsutaya Book Apartment combines relaxation with a flexible co-working environment. Close to Shinjuku Station, the 24-hour venue stretches over three levels (the top floor is for women only) and includes showers, change rooms and nap rooms – ideal for when you land pre-meeting. Workspaces complete with Apple computers and iPads, along with free wi-fi, are available throughout. The basic fee ranges from ¥500 for one hour to ¥5500 for 12 hours. Private rooms can be reserved online but you’ll need to bring your passport to show at check in.
Nohga Hotel in Ueno offers great transport connections to the whole city and a traditional downtown atmosphere. Designed to celebrate the crafts of the area, the hotel is decorated with local artworks, while the onsite restaurant Bistro Nohga, focuses on local produce with wine and sake pairings. All rooms have ample power outlets and a decent amount of workspace. You’ll also find Nespresso machines in select rooms.
If you have a couple of hours…
Shopping in Tokyo is a pleasure, from the trendy backstreets of Aoyama to the budget electric thrills of Akihabara. If time is short, head to Beams Japan in Shinjuku-ku, for a mix of fashion, traditional crafts and furniture, all witha cool twist.
If you have half a day…
The new Mori Building Digital Art Museum is dedicated to the digital work of Japanese creative agency TeamLab. Wander the fully immersive environments of sound, light and projection mapping for a complete escape from reality. Book tickets online before you go.
If you have a day…
When you need to get away from the constant buzz of the city, head to seaside Kamakura, just over an hour south by train and miles away in attitude. It was originally a Buddhist temple town but now you can combine the old-time culture with surfing and beachcombing as your stress melts away.
If you have a weekend…
Just under two hours from Tokyo riding the Odakyu Romancecar, Hakone is a favourite weekend getaway for locals. Spring and autumn are particularly popular, when soaking in one of the many outdoor hot springs is enhanced by the colourful flowers and foliage. Stay at Kai Hakone, a serene resort with modern Japanese design. Many rooms have a private hot spring bath. Breakfast and dinner are multi-course all-Japanese affairs or you can eat at Wood Side Restaurant, part of the Nest Inn Hakone. The airy, rustic space, surrounded by beautiful gardens, is dedicated to locavore cuisine. Enjoy dishes from the woodfired grill and the onsite smoker. It’s also worth a visit to Okada Museum of Art for its collection of Asian art in a spectacular woodland setting. The museum café features a long, warm ashiyu (footbath) to dip your toes in while you have a coffee.