Adam Chapin, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Background A former Japanese studies major, then a guest services officer at the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, Chapin, 27, was recruited for his fluency in Japanese and understanding of local customs.
Sushi from the Source “Get to the Tsukiji fish market by 5:30 a.m. to see the massive tuna auction, then have breakfast at the 150-year-old Sushi Bun (No. 8, 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3541-3860; breakfast for two $45), where a meal will cost you a fraction of what you’d spend in the Ginza district. Their menu changes daily, but the dish that they are most famous for is anago (sea eel). Do as locals do and have a beer or a sake with your sushi breakfast. It’s a great way to start the day.”
Escape the Chaos “Tokyo is quieter than other large cities. Still, the sheer number of cars, trains, and people can be exhausting. That’s why I love the peaceful and often overlooked Asakura Sculpture Hall (7-18-10 Yanaka, Taito-ku; 81-3/3821-4549), the former house and studio of Fumio Asakura. The outside is stark, black, and modern, but inside there are traditional tatami-mat rooms filled with mother-of-pearl–inlaid lacquer tables and the brushes and chisels Asakura used to make his sculptures. Explore the elegant wooden walkways around the inner water garden.”
Go Underground “Taxis are really expensive, but the subway system is not as difficult to navigate as people think. The maps seem overwhelming, but there are English signs in every station. That said, don’t use the subway before nine a.m. Rush hour in Tokyo is crazy.”
Shop Locally “Savvy guests don’t want to go to the stores they can see in any city. For smaller boutiques and cool Japanese clothing lines I send them to the Daikanyama district, near Shibuya. Everyone loves the designs of Tsumori Chisato (11-1-1F Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, 81-3/5728-3225). She used to work for Issey Miyake, but Chisato’s clothes are much more feminine, with bright colors and intricate patterns.”
Ramen 101 “I recommend Jangara Ramen (1-7-7 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3281-0701; lunch for two $25) because this chain has menus in English but isn’t touristy. Ramen is all about the toppings: bamboo shoots, fish eggs, and pork slices. And why do the Japanese slurp their noodles loudly?It’s not rude—it’s supposed to enhance the flavor.”
Buzz Alert “Japan is an incubator for unusual trends. One of the latest is the Maid Café, several of which have popped up all over the Akihabara district. These are just cafés, except all the waitresses are dressed up like French maids! When you walk in, they say, 'Welcome back, master.'”