It’s hard to pinpoint the absolute center of Tokyo, especially if you’re coming to town for the first time. It may be more challenging than usual this year, given the excitement and activities around the Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Even with so many options, however, Shinjuku is a choice location, thanks to the many subway, commuter and high-speed train lines running through its station.
The family-friendly luxury property The Keio Shinjuku Tokyo Hotel, almost adjacent to the station, checks off major boxes. Easy and safe access to Shinjuku Station? Check, and there’s an indoor passage steps from the back door of the hotel directly into the station. Bus service to Narita and Haneda airports? Check. Amenities for traveling families? Check. A short walk to pharmacies and food markets? Check. Chances are you will probably need snacks and bottled water … or your teen will want their fix of Japanese cosmetics or green tea Kit Kats. The area around the hotel is a celebration of the forthcoming Games with logos and lovable mascots Miraitowa and Someity gracing every possible wall, nook and cranny.
The Keio Plaza Hotel is effectively a self-contained microcosm of the greater Tokyo area. With dining, for example, there isn’t just one Japanese restaurant to go alongside the Western-style options. There are individual restaurants specializing in Tepanyaki (skewered grilled meats and vegetables); formal Kaiseki (multicourse meals; tempura; sushi; and soba noodles, along with Chinese and Korean options. Adding breakfast to your package is also a fine investment. At the Glass Court, one can find a rotating selection of freshly prepared Western and Japanese morning dishes served alongside fresh-baked bread, pastry and excellent coffee. Many of the stations are manned, ensuring freshness and assistance should a dish need a modification for dietary needs.
The suites are designed with families in mind, decorated with a minimalist style integrating contemporary Japanese and traditional Western hotel ideas. Beyond the basics, the management takes pride in its offering extra amenities for families with young children staying in suites to cover every potential need and concern. Baby cribs are available upon advance request for infants up to 10 months in most suites except Japanese Tatami (traditional) suites, as well as bed guards, kid-sized yukatas (cotton kimonos), slippers, toothbrushes and other essentials.
The concierge desk is also well equipped to recommend cultural programs as well as guidance for must-do attractions kids will love. As one of the Tokyo Disney Resort Good Neighbor Hotels, it provides complimentary shuttle bus service directly from the front door to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea as well as tips on the best visiting times to avoid crowds.
The hotel also offers its own immersive traditional tea ceremony and yukata kimono cultural experiences, as well as a rotating series of art exhibitions. Through March 16, the hotel is drumming up excitement ahead of summer with its “The Power of Athletes on the World Stage” photo exhibition, focusing on some of the extraordinary sportsmen and women who will represent Japan this summer. There will also be an annual display in the lobby and other public spaces of more than 6,800 handmade silk dolls until March 26 commemorating the Hina-Matsuri festival, when families pray for the health and growth of their daughters.
Attractions a quick walk, bus or train ride from the Shinjuku hotel includes the Sengoku Photo Studio near Akihabara, the city’s gaming, electronics and anime destination. Kids and kids-at-heart can gear up as the Samurai did in the Sengoku era for photo sessions. In addition to several historic temples and interesting street art, Akihabara is also home to 2k450 Aki-Oka Artisan Market, a quiet oasis of handcrafted home décor items and fashion accessories. The Suginami Anime Museum, open daily except Monday and free of charge, presents a comprehensive history of Japanese anime, from its origins and history to the glimpse of its future. Displays are all-ages appropriate and interactive, ensuring visitors can get creative while understanding anime’s international appeal. Its library includes a database on anime creators and a movie theater showing well-loved works of anime for fans wanting to go a little deeper.
In addition to strong WiFi signals, rooms are outfitted with mobile phones for use in town. Domestic calls within Japan and overseas (the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom) can be placed free of charge, adding value with greater piece of mind during the trip. There is also a health club open to guests as well as a paved walking and running path that takes advantage of the neighborhood’s landscaping and scenery.
Similar to its sister property Mall of America in Minnesota, American Dream Mall in Newark, New Jersey, 20 miles from Manhattan, is a destination mall to travel to for shopping and family fun. However, where Mall of America dedicates 45 percent of its square footage to entertainment and 55 percent to retail, American Dream Mall flips those figures.
Fans of country music can explore Tennessee’s rich musical legacy across all 95 counties with hundreds of landmarks and attractions on the new Tennessee Music Pathways route, inspired by the latest documentary from Ken Burns.
In a small corner of southern Italy, nestled between Pozzuoli and Torre del Greco, Naples sits along the Gulf that feeds out into the Tyrrhenian Sea and boasts some of the best of Italy — think authentic pizza and incredible Italian cuisine culture, cityscapes and historic sites, stunning coastlines and natural beauty.
By Hainan Airlines
There is something to be said for hitting a city’s most iconic neighborhoods, even if there is a steady stream of tourists milling about. On the other hand, there’s something delicious about discovering neighborhoods not yet on the tourist track.