May 15, 2009

"Think of not being able to sleep as a blessing," a long since departed mentor once told me. I reminded myself of this comforting wisdom at 3:45 a.m. yesterday morning, when I finally gave up, got out of bed, and began to write this letter. The cause was jet lag—my husband, John, and I had returned a few days earlier from an extraordinary trip to Tokyo and Vietnam. I’ll tell you more about the Vietnam segment in a future issue (we were celebrating a milestone anniversary by indulging ourselves with the ultimate private Butterfield & Robinson biking trip); a guide to some of my favorite finds in Tokyo is at the bottom of this page.

I also have some great advisers in my life at T+L, whose wisdom now enhances my travels. When I was preparing for my recent vacation, three in particular shared their expert knowledge with me: Peter Jon Lindberg, on Vietnam, and Anya von Bremzen and Shane Mitchell, on Tokyo. One of Anya’s best tips, Tofuya Ukai, a dazzling downtown kaiseki-style restaurant—was taken directly from her feature story this month, "Best New Restaurants 2007". My past visits to other destinations highlighted in the April issue were premature, I’m sorry to say. I missed the significant insights of Alexandra Marshall on São Paulo ("High-Voltage Brazil"); Christopher Petkanas on the Veneto ("Viva Il Veneto"); Valerie Stivers-Isakova on Sochi, a classic Black Sea resort ("Russian Riviera"); and Gini Alhadeff on Wyoming ("True West"). But these places have simply been added onto my towering pile of future travel pleasures.

After reading T+L associate editor Amy Farley’s "Health and Fitness on the Road", as well as "Ask T+L", I know that my patch of jet lag has been offset by myriad physical benefits for the body and the mind. The blessings of sleeplessness are no doubt regularly experienced by many of the writers and photographers who contribute to T+L, but these are a secondary grace. They follow from the blessings of travel, which last far longer.

—Nancy Novogrod

Trip Tips: Tokyo

Tabio A chain of shops with the most colorful and thick opaque tights I’ve seen (at the Omotesando Hills shopping mall). Omotesando Main Bldg. 4-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/5785-0561; www.omotesandohills.com.

Dog’s Care Joker Another chain, this one of canine emporiums, with great leashes and toys as well as outrageous clothing and gourmet feasts for dogs. Keyakizaka St., 6-12-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku; 81-3/5786-7711; www.joker.co.jp.

Shunju Tsugihagi Unspeakably delicious sushi. Nihon Seimei Bldg. B1, 1-1-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku; 81-3/3595-0511.

Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art Japanese 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century woodblock prints. 1-10-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/3403-0880; www.ukiyoe-ota-muse.jp.

Mori Museum Well-curated exhibitions on mostly contemporary subjects. Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (53F), 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku; 81-3/5786-7711; www.mori.art.museum.

Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art

Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, a uniquely Japanese art form, are the focus of this niche museum collection, bequethed by the estate of Seizo Ota, the late chairman of a major Japanese insurance company. Prints in the 12,000-piece collection date back over 200 years and include several masterpieces of the style, including pieces by Hiroshige and the iconic Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. Housed in a free-standing brick building in Jingumae, the museum is small but comprehensive, spread over three floors and including rotating exhibits. 

Dog's Care Joker

Dog's Care Joker brings Roppongi Hills pampering to pooches. Luxury stores and services abound in this part of town, so its no suprise that pets should have their own outpost for high-end plush toys, leashes, collars, and clothing, as well as healthcare consultations and "beauty treatments," which range from grooming to massage and mud packs. Pets can get "tatoos" with custom dye jobs or board at the store's hotel suite. The store even offers dog birthday parties on site. For owners, there's a selection of large handbags for transporting small breeds in the Parisian style. 

Tabio

A whole store devoted to hoisery: that's Tabio, where shoppers can find anything to adorn the legs, from tights to socks to leg warmers to furry "boot covers" and "sockettes." Tabio fills a large, well-lit retail space with shelf after shelf of products for men and women, with a bent toward the creative. Options include striped tights in unexpected hues and over-the-knee socks for women; "deoderant socks" and five-toed socks for men; and namesake tabio socks (with a seperate spot for the big toe) for both. Conservative sock wearers will find options, too. 

Shunju Tsugihagi Hibiya

Roughly translated, tsugihagi means something akin to "patchwork" in English, and that's the apporach this contemporary izakaya takes in everything from its atmosphere to its menu. With decorative wooden panels repurposed from a 200-year-old Balinese home, a traditional sushi counter, a grill counter, and more intimate "themed" dining areas, Shunju Tsugihagi Hibiya straddles the boundary between traditional and urbane sensibilities. The menu includes everything from sushi and sashimi to grilled steak or lobster and a chef's tasting menu. 

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