The besuited Azwin Ferdauz, who sports black-rimmed glasses and a gelled coiffure, is executive manager for “service and quality” at the wonderful Conrad Tokyo. This means he maintains guest satisfaction by getting feedback—how about adding bath salts in the bathrooms?—and making changes (bath salts added, check). But to others, he’s just Ari, the authority on pulling strings and calling in favors. Get to know him, and he’ll tell you that a trip to Tokyo isn’t complete without having at least one experience across four categories: food, culture, technology, and craziness. Herewith, his suggestions for each.
“I always send guests to Tentake (6-16-6 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3543-3000; tentake.jp), a five-minute walk from the Tsukiji fish market, to try fugu, a blowfish that contains a poison that is 1,200 times deadlier than cyanide. Only a certified chef who has undergone training can prepare it. I recommend ordering it sashimi-style with ponzu vinegar and scallions to complement the chewy texture of the meat. I joke with guests and challenge them to go try this dish and see if they come back alive!”
“While a lot of Tokyo’s traditional neighborhoods, like Asakusa, are overrun with tourists, Yanaka feels more untouched. Start at Yanaka Ginza, an old- style shopping alley just outside Nippori Station, which has local delicacies and crafted gifts. From there, take a 15-minute walk to Nezu Shrine (1-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku; nedujinja.or.jp), which is less crowded than others. Next, tour Kyu-Iwasaki-tei garden (1-3-45 Ikenohata, Taito-ku; tokyo-park.or.jp), the former residence of the son of the founder of Mitsubishi—a 120-year-old house surrounded by a lush garden.”
“Visit Mr. Asimo at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (2-3-6 Aomi, Koto-ku; miraikan.jst.go.jp), near the Conrad Tokyo. In 1986, Honda embarked on a journey to make a robot as humanoid as possible, and in 2005, Asimo was born. He’s the world’s most advanced standing robot. They have four shows a day, and for ten minutes, Asimo comes out and dances, runs, plays, and talks. It’s as if you’re watching a four- year-old inside a robotic suit. It’s great fun for families.”
“There’s a bizarre fashion trend among Japanese women called ganguro style, where girls get deep fake tans, multicolored hairstyles, and extreme makeup and nail art. There’s a new café in Harajuku, the epicenter of street fashion, that I send guests to called Ganguro Café (Dogenzaka Sun-J Bldg. 4F, 2-28-5 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku; ganguro.jugemcart.com). It’s the nuttiest of them all. You have a coffee, eat some cake, and then have a session where they dress you like a ganguro girl. Once made up, you stroll down Harajuku and become part of Harajuku.”