Visit Japan’s Luxury Ryokan Without Setting Foot Outside Tokyo

With travel suspended for the time being, the Palace Hotel Tokyo is currently hosting a series of dinner parties to bring a taste of regional Japanese cuisine and culture to the capital.

In collaboration with The Ryokan Collection, a consortium of luxury Japanese inns and boutique hotels, the “Essence of Japan” events feature eight ryokan hostels.

The series began on January 14 with a meal featuring Ryokan Kurashiki’s cuisine and will continue until March 18. At each event, the ryokan’s head chef is joined by the property’s chef. Okami, the female owner who runs the hostel. More than a host or butler, the role of okami — which dates back to the origins of ryokan 1,300 years ago — embodies the history and spirit of each inn. As Hiroki Fukunaga, the founder of The Ryokan Collection, points out, the okami is “the symbol of the family business” responsible for overseeing the detailed and heartfelt service that forms the basis of Japan. omotenashi mark of hospitality.

Dressed in an elegant chocolate brown kimono, Maho Kubo, the elegant okami of Bettei Senjuan, begins the second session on January 28. As it showcases the inn’s location along the Tanigawa River in Gunma Prefecture, wall projections display the area’s scenic landscape. and the inn’s splendid open-air hot spring baths.

Maho Kubo, the owner of Bettei Senjuan, a ‘ryokan’ (traditional Japanese inn) in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, holds a cageless egg basket. | PALACE HOTEL TOKYO

The meal opens with a colorful assortment of regional delicacies – sake-leesed tofu topped with caviar and wasabi, cured ham wrapped around angelica sprouts with cream cheese and pleasantly bitter simmered butterbur. The sashimi course showcases the bounty of Gunma’s rivers with ginhikari rainbow trout and golden salmon roe. A grilled pork and taro dish accompanies a plate of deep-fried shirauo glazed fish prepared by Keiji Miyabe of the Palace Hotel’s Wadakura Japanese restaurant. The main course features one of the region’s most famous produce, tender Joshu beef, cooked in sweet soy sauce with a variety of mushrooms and your choice of two types of raw eggs – one with a pale yolk , the other with a dark orange yellow. .

Seven kinds of Mizubasho sake from Gunma-based producer Nagai Sake Inc. accompany each dish. The crispy and refreshing Mizubasho Junmai Ginjo matches the sashimi, while the fruitiness and subtle umami of the Mizubasho Junmai Daiginjo Premium complements the grilled shiitake mushrooms topped with a mixture of miso and sea urchin. The range also includes two bottles from the new Mizubasho Artist series. Sweet and light Artist Series Still Sake complements lobster in tomato jelly; the Artist Series Dessert Sake, with flavors of passion fruit and stone fruit, pairs well with tiramisu and plump strawberries. A portion of Artist Series sake proceeds are donated to environmental conservation projects in the Oze area of ​​Gunma.

Akira Miyashita, head bartender of the Lounge Bar Prive at the Palace Hotel Tokyo, concocted a cocktail for each venue presented at
Akira Miyashita, head bartender of the Palace Hotel Tokyo’s Lounge Bar Prive, concocted a cocktail for each venue featured at “Essence of Japan,” including the apple-themed one for Zaborin in Hokkaido. | PALACE HOTEL TOKYO

Rounding out the dinner series, Akira Miyashita, Head Bartender of the Palace Hotel’s Lounge Bar Prive, created a bespoke cocktail menu inspired by each ryokan. In Miyashita’s intoxicating tribute to Ryokan Kurashiki, fragrant lemons from the city of Kurashiki on the Seto Inland Sea in Okayama Prefecture add a sour burst to a sweet limoncello base; the sugar coating on the rim of the glass is a nod to the inn’s history as the home of a wealthy sugar merchant. For Zaborin, a delicate local apple juice is mixed with apple brandy and cardamom, served in a glass sprayed with a fine dusting of powdered sugar to evoke the snowy landscape of Niseko in Hokkaido. . “The Void Filled With Light” is a delicious blend of white wine with citrus fruits of yuzu and Chinese quince from the sunny Beniya Mukayu Gardens in Ishikawa Prefecture. Cutting-edge offerings include “Setsugekka” — a lively swirl of Stolichnaya vodka, yuzu syrup, and tonic — and the hotel’s classic dry martini, flavored with bitter orange.

While dinners are limited to one night for each ryokan, the full line of collaboration cocktails will be available through March 18.

The “Essence of Japan” events will take place from Friday to March 18 starting at 6:00 p.m. at the Palace Hotel Tokyo. The price is ¥48,000, which includes food, drink, 10% service charge, and consumption tax. For inquiries and reservations, call +81-3-3211-5326 (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) or visit the website.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is urging residents and visitors to exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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About Walter J. Leslie

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