Lexington to Tokyo
Saturday, April 8th, 2017
Six years ago I embarked on a quest to open a world class, luxury inn and restaurant in Lexington, MA. Along the way, I was inspired by properties that I had visited or dreamed of visiting. When I realized that most of the properties were members of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux association, I made it a goal to become a member too. Earning that accolade just six months after opening was an accomplishment of which my team and I always will be proud. Little did I know that celebratory milestone would only mark the beginning of an incredible opportunity to meet and learn from owners and general managers from properties like ours all over the world. One of the privileges of membership is the opportunity to meet with our delegation, our national team and our global delegation. In the past twelve months, I have visited The Old Edwards Inn in North Carolina, and I have toured the cities of Chicago and Tokyo with Relais & Chateaux.
My trip to Japan has indeed been one of the highlights of my journey as an innkeeper. Tokyo is a magical place unlike any other that I have ever visited. I was able to enjoy sightseeing focusing on the city’s rich history and culture but really I focused most on its beautiful culinary traditions. The fresh soba noodles that I ate for my first lunch were spectacular—my guide indicated that might have something to do with the proximity of the harvest. My tour guide took the time to get to know me quickly and took me to the famous kitchenware area. You could buy everything from plastic reproductions of every dish imaginable to the most exquisite knives. As I visited right after Thanksgiving, the Japanese were preparing for their gift giving season. Having
lived in London, I thought I was experienced with food courts. The food hall at Mitsukoshi department store was breathtaking. Culinary traditions from all over the globe were represented. The scene was so colorful, but taking pictures is frowned upon, so I am left with only those snapshots in my mind.
The culinary experience only continued as the Japanese delegation were the most gracious hosts. Our meetings were held over lunches comprised of an incredible array of traditional Japanese foods—sushi, sashimi, tempura, udon—almost all being made to order. There was a corresponding buffet with traditional French food. In addition, many of Relais & Chateaux beverage partners were serving some of their best vintages. What could be bad about spending lunch with the Grand Dame?
One of the more humorous adventures was my real live version of Pokemon-Go. My son Conor had asked for me to bring back something Pokemon related. My concierge highlighted my map and off I went in search of Tokyo station. Being a tourist, I did not realize that Tokyo Station is the size of New York’s Grand Central Station and Penn Station combined. I laughed out loud when I finally found the shop at the end of a “Character Ally,” a row of stores featuring merchandise from many of the famous Japanese characters that are so familiar to my son. He loves the Pikachu bowl I brought home with Pokemon brand miso soup! Although I really felt as if I was in a more alive version of Pokemon go, I enjoyed my twilight stroll through the city noticing how calm this city of twelve million truly is. During my entire stay I did not hear any sirens or honking horns. There is a serenity about the city and the people whether you are walking, driving or using public transportation.
My stay in Tokyo was much too short and I have already begun to plan a return trip that will enable be to visit so many of the other beautiful places.