ADAM,” says Ohada-san, the staff at Keio Plaza Hotel’s Club Lounge, holding a food card from the buffet breakfast with “Bacon” written on it. “This is pork, okay? You cannot eat this.”
Call it intrusive or caring — whichever way you view it, that’s Japanese hospitality for you. As guests, they will do all they can to make sure that you are comfortable and that includes reminding what you can and cannot eat.
I am at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Omotesando a few days later, wanting to try the Frozen S’mores, the video went viral and is being enjoyed by more than half of the patrons when I walk in.
“The S’mores has gelatine inside. Pork gelatine. Are you okay with that?” asks the person behind the counter.
While it’s hard to wax lyrical about a city so busy and densely populated as Tokyo, I will always have a soft spot for Japan’s capital, and its soft-spoken and helpful people.
And my stay at Keio Plaza Hotel is all I need to remind me why Tokyo is my mostloved Asian city.
THE VALUE OF LUXURY
It’s 11am. Following a bad flight from Kuala Lumpur and after episodes of stomachache and restroom hopping, the only thing I need is a place to rest. I arrive at the Club Lounge of Keio Plaza Hotel after an 80-minute train ride from Narita Airport to be greeted by smiling faces and ushered to my room, which I am told, is already waiting for me.
My Premier Grand room on the 37th floor is a piece of real estate heaven and all the lethargy I suffer throughout the flight vanishes when I step into the newly-furnished room. The room is very spacious by Tokyo’s standards, with a work desk, two single seaters and a side table, and still enough room to move around.
Amenities-wise, it ticks all the right boxes — a coffee machine, Japanese tea pot with cups, USB ports next to the bed to recharge your phones, automated toilet, pyjama and a breathtaking view of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
I am convinced that I am in heaven. I take a shower, change and the moment I lay down on what I call the Goldilocks bed — not too hard, not too soft — I sleep for three hours straight, something I don’t do when I go to a foreign city because I’m big on exploring. But when you are in heaven, the world can wait.
Breakfast is served at the Club Lounge and I request for Japanese set. There’s grilled salmon, rice, pickles and the best miso soup I have ever tasted in my life. It’s tasty without being too dense and while the miso taste is unmistakable, it isn’t like anything I have tried before.
Japanese breakfast is served on Arita porcelain, made in a region famed for its dinner ware. A little pamphlet is enclosed so diners can learn about the significance of porcelain and the meaning of the patterns and colours.
Keio Plaza Hotel, owned by Keio, which runs a railway line, is a luxury hotel that incorporates Japanese culture into its business.
Every month, it holds an exhibition on Japanese culture at its lobby. In July, it was porcelain. In June, it was the Noh, the predecessor to performance art Kabuki, where actors wear masks instead of painting their faces.
The hotel organises tea ceremonies for patrons who’d like to learn about the traditional art. It also has sessions on learning how to wear the kimono and the yukata.
It even has Japanese suites — with tatami floors, traditional Japanese bath and folded mattresses that guests can sleep on. Even the windows of these rooms are traditional Japanese windows, making this a ryokan situated inside a modern building. Brilliant.
Where was I? Food, yes. Aside from the miso, I fall in love with its pumpkin soup served the next day. Super-smooth and creamy, it is just a lovely, simple dish done to understated perfection.
I come to realise that the hotel food is excellent. It doesn’t boast a wide variety but quality is on point. There’s green juice in the morning and an egg station where you can request for Eggs Benedict.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Located just minutes on foot from Shinjuku