Japan’s capital is one of the world’s busiest and potentially most overwhelming business hubs. Tokyo is known for its spellbinding contrast of cutting-edge modernity and timeless tradition, a dedication to outstanding standards of service, eclectic trendsetting fashion and design, and mouthwatering cuisine. Tokyo is also the world’s largest city with 37 million residents in 2018.
Agnieszka Woźniak, ACMA, CGMA, leaf and blend product cost director, Global Supply Chain Finance, for the tobacco company JT International GmbH in Germany, travels to Japan as part of an exchange programme between JT and JTI finance employees, that encourages international counterparts to work closely on various finance and personal development areas to further collaboration, exchange best practices, and provide a learning opportunity.
She shares her impressions of Tokyo, as well as tips for navigating and enjoying a trip to this surprising city.
Where would you recommend business travellers stay?
Chiyoda is pretty much at the centre of Tokyo’s sprawl. I added a couple of personal days to my business trip, and for those days I booked the Akasaka Excel Hotel, a good place to stay in a good location. The luxury hotel where I was booked for my workdays, the Capitol Hotel, is highly recommended, as it was in convenient proximity to the office where I had my meetings and near Chiyoda.
What are some experiences you recommend if someone has a bit of extra time during their stay?
Planning what to do in Tokyo is very dependent on the season. For example, if you are lucky to be there in April you can catch magnificent flowering cherry trees in bloom. In autumn the parks offer a different kind of wonder. In my case I had to find places to go in February, wintertime in Japan. I am glad I scheduled time for walking, as there are lots of open spaces and parks worth seeing. Always set aside some time to enjoy nature in Japan!
What are some dishes or drinks travellers should seek out and try?
I love sushi, so Tokyo was a great place to experience it even more, both to enjoy favourites and experience even more variations. There were a lot of very good restaurants; however, what I can fully recommend is Ninja Akasaka, a perfect place to enjoy good quality local food, with a very nice way of serving.
Do you have any tips for things travellers should avoid?
Don’t underestimate jet lag. A good tip is to schedule evening flights from Europe to have the chance to sleep during the flight. The evening arrival in Tokyo allows for a couple of hours to get settled and go to sleep just before midnight, in sync with local time. Another tip is to start getting used to Tokyo time prior to the trip. I started to go to sleep earlier, around 8pm, and I woke up earlier, around 5am. That made it easier to preset the body clock — and it worked!
What are some underrated or unknown places and experiences in the city you think travellers would enjoy?
When possible get a hotel near your meeting or event, to maximise your chances of walking. In my case I was just a ten-minute walk away, and it made a big difference. Make sure to eat local food. Go for a karaoke — totally different versus what we have in Europe. Also absolutely make it to the Skytree tower in the Sumida district in the eastern side of the city for a jaw-dropping view.
What’s the best way to get around the city?
For the list of absolute musts, take the train to experience the legendary high-speed transportation that Japan is known for. For an easy way to get to the hotel from the airport, take the Friendly Airport Limousine buses, which conveniently offer Wi-Fi.
What’s your ideal day in Tokyo?
As for ideal timing it should be April — once the trees start blooming. I’d wake up early and just after breakfast go for a walking tour along the beautiful Imperial Palace East Gardens in Chiyoda City. After that I would go for lunch, for real Japanese food, at the best place, Ninja Akasaka, not far from Chiyoda City. After that I would travel to Ginza district, by taxi, where there are a lot of shops, where you can buy some souvenirs, cosmetics, and so many unusual and interesting things. After that an evening trip to Tokyo Skytree to admire the amazing view of Tokyo. To finish the day, I would go for karaoke. The must is to have Japanese friends with you as they love this activity and make the evening much more fun.
— Sylvia Edwards Davis is a freelance writer based in France. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.