TOKYO — Hotels in the Japanese capital are splashing out on lavish five-course breakfasts and extravagant refurbishments to lure in more tourist dollars amid the boom in foreign visitors.
The adventurous moves might have been frowned upon during difficult times, but operators are buoyed by the positive market conditions, including a weaker yen. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization’s latest statistics, the number of international visitors to Japan in a single month reached more than 1.7 million for the first time ever in April.
One of Tokyo’s oldest hotels, the Imperial Hotel, has started serving up a luxurious five-course breakfast at its French restaurant, Les Saisons. The 9,000 yen ($71.6) feast, called “Le Style Thierry” after its renowned chef Thierry Voisin, starts off with juice, croissants, baguettes, tarts and freshly baked brioche.
That is followed by scrambled eggs with truffles and freshly smoked trout from the base of Mount Fuji. But that is not even the main dish. A slab of Okinawan Agu pork, the black-haired pig famous for its sweet and tender meat, is then rolled out. “The chef massages the meat with green tea and kombu (kelp),” explained the restaurant’s manager, Kenji Nagano.
The 9,000 yen price tag is double that for a standard breakfast, but it is not outrageous when translated into dollars. The Waldorf Astoria in New York, for example, charges $98 for brunch. “Breakfast is actually a great time for business,” said Voisin. “People can take only one hour for lunch, but if you start your breakfast at 7, you can maybe stay two hours.”
Being bold again
The Imperial Hotel turns 125 this year. A newspaper advertisement from 1897 promoting it as “the finest hotel in the East” is on display in the lobby. The recent surge in guests from all over the world is inspiring the hotel to be bold again.
In April, the Imperial refurbished the top two floors of its tower, which boasts some of the best views of Ginza, Tokyo’s upscale shopping district. Conscious of the increasing number of overseas guests, each floor of the “Premium Tower Floors” will have “kimono attendants,” women in traditional Japanese dress to attend to guests’ every need, including shoe polishing.
Another hotel group, Prince Hotels, plans to renovate Tokyo hotels in what the group believes is the “next Ginza.”
Kabukicho is undergoing a transformation from a red-light district and popular hangout for members of yakuza, organized-crime gangs, to a hip, artistic town.
Just steps away from Kabukicho is the Shinjuku Prince Hotel, which is set to undergo a major makeover. A new entrance hall is to be built, with a large electronic panel to hang behind the check-in counter projecting images of cherry blossoms in spring and falling leaves in autumn.
The hotel group also plans to refurbish the top five floors of Sunshine City Prince Hotel in the Ikebukuro district, creating 180 new “panorama” rooms. Each floor will have a room with a theme, such as Japanese animation, comic books or movies.
“We believe that Ikebukuro will be the capital of Japanese subculture,” said Yoshihiro Tatara, senior manager of the group’s marketing department.
Originally published on www.asia.nikkei.com
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