Sam Buffie, Roadtrips’ Lead Event Planner
Roadtrips’ Lead Event Planner, Sam Buffie, spent a week in Tokyo in preparation for the 2020 Summer Games. She scouted out accommodations, interviewed local partners, and spent some time checking out the neighborhoods and their attractions to make sure we provide our clients with the best of Tokyo. As one of our most experienced event hosts and a lifelong traveller, she’s seen more than her share of travel destinations and Tokyo was definitely a highlight. Here’s what she had to say about her trip as well as her travel tips for anyone traveling to Tokyo for the first time or, indeed, for the 2020 Summer Games!
Tokyo Travel Tips
I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Tokyo in advance of the 2020 Summer Games. Japan was recently named Travel + Leisure’s 2018 Destination of the Year and it didn’t take me long to figure out why. This incredible city surprised me in so many wonderful ways and I wanted to share some of my experiences and my tips for traveling to Tokyo.
Is Tokyo a good place to visit?
My first impression of the city was all positive. Tokyo felt clean and safe, not typically words I’d use to describe a major urban center. Traffic was a welcome surprise, in general it doesn’t seem to be an issue apart from holidays. The locals were friendly and welcoming, and even without speaking Japanese, I didn’t have much trouble communicating or getting around the city.
Tokyo is such a unique city. There’s no true “downtown” core but rather a series of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own distinct flavor. I spent a lot of my time in Shinjuku and Ginza, two of Tokyo’s most popular districts. Both neighborhoods are vibrant and compelling, brimming with shops, restaurants, entertainment, and attractions.
What to do in Shinjuku
Shinjuku was a great area to begin my trip. It’s lively and exciting with no shortage of things to do. You can find pretty much any type of restaurant you’re in the mood for, the nightlife is some of the best anywhere (I highly recommend experiencing karaoke in its home country), and the shopping is impressive to say the least. Department stores and megastores are plentiful and seriously mind-blowing. They boast floors and floors of anything you could possibly need, some 24 hours a day. Shinjuku is also home to Olympic Stadium, and will be a huge hub at the 2020 Summer Games.
What to do in Ginza
Ginza is known as a shopper’s paradise, and has earned comparisons to Rodeo Drive. This is the place to find boutiques from the top fashion houses and upscale department stores. While shopping wasn’t high on my list of things to do this time around, I couldn’t resist taking a peek in some of these incredible shops. The department stores are bustling and their food halls were something quite incredible. I marveled at display after display of treats, from elegant pastries to fresh sushi and everything in between, each impeccably presented. In Ginza, there’s also no shortage of great restaurants and attractions, including the revered Imperial Palace.
What are the best hotels in Tokyo to stay in?
Shinjuku and Ginza are also home to our 2020 Summer Games hotels, which I visited during my trip.
Park Hyatt Tokyo Review
I was really excited to visit the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The hotel, which was featured in the movie Lost in Translation, is a Tokyo icon. The hotel occupies the top 14 floors of three high rise towers and as you can imagine, it offers some pretty phenomenal 360 degree views. My favorite view was from the famous New York Bar on the 52nd floor. It was so cool to sit in the same bar where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson sat in Lost in Translation and enjoy a drink overlooking the endless twinkling lights of the city. Actually, the views everywhere were memorable, from the guest rooms to the pool to the restaurants.
Views of the famous New York Bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo
Hilton Tokyo Review
Just a few blocks from the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku is the Hilton Tokyo. The location was great: convenient to Shinjuku Station, lots to explore in the area, and walkable to a variety of restaurants, shops, and green spaces. The hotel is big and has everything one would need in a hotel: great restaurants, lounges; a fitness center; indoor pool with sauna and hot tub; tennis courts; and lots more. They are currently in the process of renovating their executive lounge, which will make a great place to relax during the action of the Summer Games. The hotel also has some impressive views, including some quintessential Mt. Fuji vistas.
Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi Review
In Ginza, I first visited the Four Seasons Marunouchi. This boutique property felt cozy and intimate. The guest rooms were luxe and modern and there was a lovely spa that I wish I could have stayed in all day! I didn’t have a chance to try the restaurant but it is headed by a Michelin-starred chef and is a favorite of Roadtrips’ President, Dave Guenther. The hotel is well located for exploring the city: just before we arrived at the hotel I got my first glimpse of the Imperial Palace grounds, which are stunning!
Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo Review
The nearby Hyatt Centric Ginza was a pleasant surprise. It’s quite new (it opened last year) and boasts a fantastic location on the popular Namiki-dori Street, with heaps of shops and restaurants in the area. The guest rooms were contemporary with Japanese charm, and are spacious and super functional. You can tell a lot of thought went into the design. One of my most memorable meals of the trip was at the Hyatt’s Namiki667 restaurant, which had an outdoor terrace, somewhat of a rarity in Tokyo.
Final thoughts about Tokyo
Overall, I was so impressed with the hotels and the neighborhoods they are located in. I can confidently say that any of these properties would be a fantastic option for Summer Games travelers.
I could go on and on about Tokyo but I’ll save some for the next blog. Stay tuned to hear all about my favorite experiences in Japan.