The Summer Olympics will be hosted in Tokyo, Japan in 2020 and many travelers will be visiting the city with tea on their minds. If it’s a classical afternoon tea they desire, the lobby lounge of the Ritz Carlton offers a sumptuous teatime with an unmatched view.
I often avoid using the term “high tea” because, historically, the more correct title should be “afternoon tea.” But, at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, “high tea” – with views of Mount Fuji in the distance – is an accurate description of the elegant tea affair that unfolds daily on the 45th floor of one of the city’s most luxurious hotels.
My wife Shelley and I were guests of the hotel during the annual Cherry Blossom celebration that colors the city – and entire country – each March and April. Sprigs of cherry blossoms decorate the hotel lobby and the theme carries over into the teatime menu.
The tea selections include traditional black teas, herbals, fruit blends, and Japanese Sencha. Each tea is served in the appropriate manner and correct cups.
The colorful tea trays include a bountiful offering of tea sandwiches, savories, scones, and sweets – served in courses while a pianist accompanies the stylish affair.
You’ll probably need to walk off those extravagant teatime calories with a bit of exercise.
I love to walk the grounds of the Imperial Palace in the early morning before the crowds of tourists arrive. If you are just arriving from the United States, your body’s natural clock will awaken you before sunrise. You might as well work off the jet-lag with a free stroll through the emperor’s gardens.
Visitors in the know like to choose a hotel near the main train station or take a taxi from your hotel to the palace gate. You’ll be delighted to learn that taxi drivers here open the door for guests and wear white gloves.
I always look for green spots within this bustling urban metropolis. The Nezu Museum is a small and easy-to-explore museum with a garden oasis located in the fashionable and refined neighborhood of Minami-Aoyama. The fascinating collection of world-class Asian antiquities includes many tea-related items. Afterward, a stroll through the serene gardens can be topped off with a delicious lunch in the garden cafe.
Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine Meiji-jingu is dedicated to the late 19th-century emperor who opened Japan to the West. This is a wonderfully serene 200-acre park that can be explored for a few hours or a half-day.
The 40-foot-high torii gate at the entrance is made of 1,500-year-old cypress, and there’s a second one like it closer to the shrine itself where tourists love to take selfies to post on social media.
Still hungry for more afternoon tea? The venerable Imperial Hotel is just up the street from the Imperial Palace. The 1923 Imperial Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, fell to the wrecking ball in 1968. Today’s hotel decor continues to pay homage to many of Wright’s signature design details, including those found in the lobby lounge carpet.
I love to visit the throw-back Old Imperial Bar on the second floor where you can contemplate the influence that Japan had on Wright’s architecture.
I love the fact that Wright often gave copies of The Book of Tea to his students at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Photographs are Copyrighted by Bruce Richardson, Benjamin Press.