A Lovely Letter from the General Manager of the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

This week, I felt deeply honoured when I received this beautifully written letter from the Managing Director and General Manager of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Mr Yukio Kanao, thanking me for my most recent blog post.

If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, you should definitely consider staying a few nights in a luxurious room or spending a few hours dining in one of the magnificent restaurants at The Imperial, Tokyo’s most prestigious hotel. You’ll certainly be in good company. A noteworthy fact is that Princess Sayako (the third child and only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan) held her wedding ceremony to Yoshiki Kuroda at this hotel in 2005.

This introduction to the Imperial Hotel on their official website gives you even more reasons to book a room:

“A rarefied combination of East and West, the Imperial Hotel’s stately buildings are within close distance of virtually everything important in Tokyo. Only a short walk away are the fabled delights of the elegant Ginza, Tokyo’s centre for high fashion; the central business district of Marunouchi, where international transactions by the world’s leading companies occur every day; Japan’s government offices in Kasumigaseki and the nearby Diet; and the tranquil gardens of Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace.

In addition, the Imperial Hotel’s proximity to major traffic hubs assures convenient access to popular areas such as Roppongi, Akihabara, Shibuya, and beyond.”

Letter from Imperial Hotel, General Manager

Most Romantic Birthday Ever at Les Saisons in the Imperial Hotel Tokyo

If you love great food and fine dining this blog post will be right up your street but that’s not any old street. I’m referring to a very posh address within walking distance to Ginza, Yūrakuchō and Ōtemachi. It’s right in the heart of Tokyo and it’s a hotel that represents the pinnacle of exceptional dining and five-star accommodation. If you’ve ever been to Japan you’ve probably heard of this opulent venue — it’s the Imperial Hotel Tokyo!


My husband enjoys visiting Japan as much as I do and he knew we’d be celebrating my birthday while we were in Tokyo so he said we should have lunch or dinner somewhere really special. When I lived in Tokyo, I always thought the Imperial Hotel was the epitome of good taste and such a romantic location to have a meal with a boyfriend or your husband, so I told Roy the Imperial Hotel would be expensive but such a memorable place to celebrate my birthday and he agreed (bless his heart) straight away and told me to make a booking at the restaurant of my choice (he was afraid they’d speak in Japanese so he wanted me to make the call).

When I was younger my father took me, my boyfriend Gus, and the rest of my family to Petit Choux, one of the best French restaurants in Melbourne, for my eighteenth birthday and it was such a wonderful night in so many ways so I wanted to try the French cuisine at Les Saisons. I was hoping this lunch at the Imperial Hotel would be just as amazing as the meal I enjoyed so many years ago.

As you can see in the photo below, which was taken in the foyer of the Imperial Hotel, I really dressed up for the occasion. I don’t know why I’m clutching my carrier bag for dear life but I do know I was wearing extremely high heels and I was really afraid of slipping on the highly-polished floor. I asked Roy to hold my hand as I walked through the reception area and up the stairs to the restaurant after this photo was taken, thinking it would be pretty embarrassing if I twisted my ankle and fell flat on my face in front of all the sophisticated guests and staff members in this very posh lobby!

Imperial Hotel

As soon as you enter Les Saisons you’re aware of the elegant and refined atmosphere that encompasses you from the moment you step through the door. This permeates throughout the entire room which is obviously very beautifully furnished. The carpet acts like a burnt orange, cream and mint green-coloured sea undulating in and around several extremely luxurious islands. There’s enough distance between the tables for you to be aware of the other patrons but you’re not close enough to hear any other conversations. The restaurant was so serene and quiet I almost tiptoed across the plush carpet as we were led to our table, not wanting to draw attention to myself, but as soon as we sat down I immediately felt at ease. It was like being swept into a lavish cocoon where we could relax, sit back and enjoy being waited upon by the friendly and attentive staff who were there simply to serve me, my husband and the nine or ten other guests, while they made sure our time in their restaurant was truly memorable.

table at les saisons

The staff at Les Saisons have thought of everything to make their guests feel comfortable. I was delighted to see they’d provided an elegantly appointed footstool in between the dining chairs for your handbag or your phone so they were within easy reach. We also quickly discovered how nice the waiting staff were at this restaurant. The name of our head waitress was Yuka Ishikawa. She came over to introduce herself and have a chat at the end of the meal. We talked about the dinner menu, the restaurant, and the head Chef du Cuisine Thierry Voisin who has been living in Japan for about 12 years. According to Maki Yasuda at Japan Today, “Thierry Voisin took the helm of its kitchen in 2005 and has truly done the hotel proud. Having come to Les Saisons straight from Boyer Les Crayeres, the multi-Michelin-starred mecca for gourmands in Reims, he has brought with him the best of Europe and merged it with the dining culture of Japan with finesse, earning him a place in the Michelin Tokyo book as well.”

Yuka-san has been working at the Imperial Hotel for 12 years and she has spent the past four years as a “Captain” at Les Saisons. She spoke English fluently so I asked if she’d lived overseas and Roy and I were very impressed when she told us she’d only spent five years living in Massachusetts in the States. Not only did she have a wonderful command of the English language, she also had a real passion for her job at this prestigious five-star hotel.

The whole meal was delicious but I thought the tastes and textures of the dishes were a bit different to what I’d eaten in the past at French restaurants in Australia and France, where the food can often be extremely rich and very filling. In contrast, this French cuisine at Les Saisons was light and refreshing. You might even refer to it as sappari (さっぱり) in Japanese. This made sense because this restaurant mainly serves French food to Japanese guests and Japanese food is usually much lighter on the palate than Western food.

I must admit the whole affair was very grand right from the start. When they bring out a ball of butter on an impressive silver dish like this one you know you’re about to have a meal that will stand out in your mind for many years to come!

Les Saisons butter

Every time a different dish was served we were offered a bread roll that was suited to that particular dish. They were all very light but slightly crunchy on the outside and each one had a unique taste. I particularly liked this bread roll pictured below. It was infused with nori and it went perfectly with the lobster entrée.

Les Saisons bread roll

There were only a few other guests in the restaurant that Tuesday so our food arrived quickly but not too fast. We had lots of time to savour each dish and it never felt rushed.

The first course arrived and I was blown away by the presentation. I’d chosen the lobster entrée and Roy had decided to try the daurade (European sea bream).

Lobster in Apple and Lemongrass Jelly, Compoted Celeriac with White Port Wine
オマール海老のりんごとシトロネルのジュレ寄せ 白ポルト酒でコンフィにしたセロリ

Les Saisons A

Lightly Poached Daurade with Shellfish Sauce, Girolle Mushroom

Les Saisons B

For the main, I enjoyed the roasted chicken and Roy savoured every mouthful of his pork dish.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables, Seasonal Fruits with Honey Vinegar
地鶏と野菜のロースト 季節のフルーツに蜂蜜ヴィネガーをからめて

Les Saisons C

Pork in Three Styles

Les Saisons D

These cakes and sweets after the main course were just lovely!

Petits Fours

Les Saisons sweets

Luckily we still had room for dessert and we were not disappointed. Roy thought the sherberts were just right for the end of a very satisfying meal and I loved the fresh mango and the curry ice-cream.

Sherbets and Ice Creams

Les Saisons sorbet

Mango with Lime Jelly, Curry Ice Cream

Les Saisons G

Just when we thought we’d finished eating the staff presented us with this raspberry shortcake as a special complimentary dessert to celebrate my birthday and it was a wonderful surprise.

Birthday Cake

Les Saisons cake

So, how much was this splendid meal for two? The menu changes every three months. You can choose from a 3-course (7,000 yen), 4-course (8,800 yen), or 5-course (12,000 yen) set menu at lunchtime. We decided to go for the 4-course option. We both enjoyed a glass of French wine from the Sancerre region in France and this cost 3,600 yen for two glasses. I also had a glass of San Pellegrino mineral water and an iced tea for 1,100 yen and Roy finished off his meal with a beer for 1,400 yen. A service charge of 2,370 yen was added to the bill but the goods and services tax (1,970 yen) was included in the price of the meal. In the end, the total cost was 26,070 yen. We didn’t leave a tip because it’s considered rude in Japan to tip.

Was it worth the money? Absolutely! It was a very romantic restaurant, the food was delicious and the service was exceptional.

Would we eat here again? Definitely, but next time I’d like to try the kaiseki cuisine at the Tokyo Nadaman restaurant or the Tokyo Kitcho restaurant. Roy and I really like tempura so we’d also love to dine at the Ten-ichi restaurant which is located on the lower level on the first floor inside the Imperial Hotel.


Les Saisons at the Imperial Hotel Tokyo,
Main Bldg 1-1, Uchisaiwaicho 1-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8558

Tel: +81-3-3539-8087 Booking a table in advance is recommended. Please note that men are required to wear a jacket when they dine at Les Saisons.

The Imperial Hotel Tokyo is a 3-minute walk from Hibiya subway Station (Exit A13), a 5-minute walk from Ginza subway Station (Exit C1), and a 5-minute walk from JR Yūrakuchō Station.

Breakfast: 7 a.m. – 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Dinner: 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m

If you’re travelling to Japan I can assure you a stay at the Imperial Hotel Tokyo will exceed all your expectations.

Where Can You Combine Budget Accommodation in Tokyo with Culture, Cooking and Omotenashi?

Definition of omotenashi:

“Omotenashi” is hard to define, but Japanese use it to describe what they believe is their unique approach to hospitality. “Omotenashi” involves the subjugation of self in service to a guest, without being “servile”. Anticipating needs is at the heart of the concept; and it is certainly fair to say that in Japan, acting on others’ needs without being asked to do so is at the height of savvy.” — Japan Today

Yasuno (pictured on the left) enjoying the cherry blossom season.

Your host Miss Yasuno (pictured on the left) enjoying the cherry blossom season.

A stay at Miss Yasuno’s fully licensed Airbnb house in Yotsugi, Katsushika City (located at the east end of Tokyo Metropolis) will allow you to experience first-hand the true essence of omotenashi and, if you wish, authentic Japanese cooking. You’ll also be given the opportunity to deepen your understanding of the Japanese culture by wearing kimono and, if you have the time, Miss Yasuno’s father (who used to teach history at university level) is more than happy to share with you his knowledge of Japanese traditions and customs and his interpretation of the history of Japan. Miss Yasuno and her father speak excellent English so you don’t have to worry about any communication problems but try not to speak too fast.

If you want to book this Airbnb home you can click here to go directly to the Airbnb website or you can contact Miss Yasuno’s father on Twitter @Tokyonobo. His tweets are really popular because he shares some fantastic photos of Tokyo and the surrounding area so he’s a great person to follow if you’re interested in Japan.

This spacious (by Japanese standards) but cosy home is perfect for one person, if you’re travelling with a couple of friends, or if you’re visiting Japan as a family with toddlers. Ideally, there’s a maximum of three guests allowed but this is flexible.

It only costs £55 (US$71) per night (plus minimal utility fees) to stay here and 87 people have given it a 5-star rating so you can’t beat that if you’re a family looking for an excellent but cheap place to stay! Furthermore, it’s only three stops from Oshiage Station (5-minutes by subway) and a 3-minute walk from Yotsugi Station. It won’t take you very long at all to get to most of the major areas in Tokyo such as Ueno, Asakusa, Tokyo Skytree and Akihabara. It also has direct access to both Narita and Haneda Airports.

There’s also a 3-night minimum stay but you can cancel within 48 hours of booking and 14 days before check-in to get a full refund. You have private use of the house during the day because Miss Yasuno’s family own the house next door but Miss Yasuno will sleep in a room on the floor above you at night. Amenities include wireless internet, split-system air-conditioning, central heating radiators and fans, a TV, a refrigerator, a microwave, a coffee machine, an electric kettle, dishes, glasses and cutlery, a washing machine and a dryer, an iron, a hairdryer, and eco-friendly shampoo and body soap.

As you can see in the photos below this Airbnb house is very inviting and spotlessly clean.

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You can enjoy a good night’s sleep on three large Japanese-style futon beds on traditional tatami flooring. Futons, pillows and blankets are all supplied by Miss Yasuno and she’ll teach you how to lay out the Japanese futon bedding when you arrive.

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Sit back and relax in this Japanese-style deep soaking bath after a long day exploring Tokyo!

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Miss Yasuno is an excellent cook so if you want to learn how to make some Japanese meals while you’re staying at her home you can arrange to do this with her. You can make Japanese onigiri rice balls together for just 500 yen, you can cook a traditional Japanese breakfast with dishes you’re interested in trying for 500-1,000 yen, or you can have Japanese curry or noodles for dinner for 1,500 yen. If you want to try making something more traditional and elaborate that includes fish and meat (a vegan option is also available) you can cook this with Miss Yasuno for only 2-3,000 yen!

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This Airbnb home is in a very convenient location and it’s close to all the major attractions in Tokyo! You can find the nearest train station to Miss Yasuno’s house very easily if you follow the directions on this map below. When you’re staying at this Airbnb home you can ask Miss Yasuno for an easy-to-read walking map which will help you find the best shops and restaurants in the area.

Air 17

Miss Yasuno has 40 beautiful kimonos and some of them are too big for her to wear. Enjoy trying on one of these kimonos with Miss Yasuno’s help then find an idyllic location to have your picture taken! There are several temples and shrines in the nearby vicinity if you’re looking for a more traditional backdrop. While you’re having your picture taken Miss Yasuno will prepare lunch or a short Japanese tea ceremony for you to enjoy when you return.

Miss Yasuno took lessons in the art of Japanese tea ceremony for more than five years and she worked at a high-class traditional restaurant for two years wearing a kimono. She’s an expert at dressing in kimono and she’ll happily share with you her knowledge of the history of the kimono and the meaning behind its design. You’ll also learn how to pose for photos in a stylish, comfortable and graceful manner. The cost is 10,000 yen and this includes kimono rental, a photo shoot and lunch. Guests who stay at this Airbnb home get a slight discount.

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Now you know where to stay in Tokyo if you want to combine budget accommodation with culture, cooking and omotenashi in Japan! This 5-star Airbnb home is perfect for anyone who is interested in a truly authentic Japanese experience.

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu Review: Authentic Homespun Recipes Handed Down from One Generation to the Next

I’m not a food critic, a restaurateur, a professional chef nor a food blogger but I love Japanese food and I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen from a very young age so those are my credentials for reviewing this wonderful cookbook.

Japan cookbook

I’ve purchased several Japanese cookbooks in the past or I’ve printed recipes off the internet but they’re always the same type of popular Japanese recipes and I’ve often thought they were more suited to the type of dishes served up in Japanese restaurants outside of Japan rather than the good old Japanese cooking that grandmothers in Japan lovingly put on the table for their families to enjoy.

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu is everything I expected and more. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been creating the kind of Japanese dishes I’ve always wanted to make and that’s regional dishes and home-style cooking that have never been translated into English until now. Food you could only expect to eat if you were travelling the length and breadth of Japan, staying with families along the way who really know how to cook healthy, delicious and wholesome Japanese food that’s been passed on from one generation to the next.

This cookbook is substantial. It includes over 400 recipes by Hachisu, you can easily find your favourite recipes because it’s broken into sections dedicated to each style of cooking, and there’s a fascinating section on the history of Japanese food towards the beginning. There are also over 50 recipes by famous chefs in the blue section at the back and several full-page photographs, but the lovely introduction at the very beginning by Nancy Singleton Hachisu is definitely well-worth reading before you start cooking.

In the intro, you’ll discover Hachisu has been living in Japan since 1988 as a Japanese farmer’s wife. Her husband Tadaaki is also an excellent cook but after they married Hachisu became the “resident bride” and enthusiastically took over the task of making tempura and the New Year’s soup. Hachisu has been developing her cooking skills for decades so she’s the perfect person to put a cookbook like this together.

You’ll also discover this author went to a lot of trouble to meet as many grandmothers as possible in her favourite regions in Japan so she could record a great number of recipes for this cookbook and then adapt these recipes to include her own individual twists. It’s this energy and authenticity which makes this cookbook so great. It was also interesting to discover a lot of the recipes in this book came from the writings of Harumi Kawaguchi, a Zen nun and a close friend of Hachisu. This has definitely influenced many of the simpler dishes and I certainly felt a degree of mindfulness when I prepared some of these meals. Although a lot of the dishes are natural, wholesome and modest in their presentation there are also many other dishes that do require some degree of skill in the kitchen and quite a bit of preparation and this includes several dishes that are full of rich ingredients that perfectly complement lighter dishes when served on the table.

I also really liked the way Hachisu shared an interesting fact in her introduction on page 13 about the Japanese “s” row of the phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) and how this applies to cooking in Japan:

Sa-shi-su-se-so is a mnemonic for the main flavouring ingredients of Japanese cuisine. Sa=sato [sugar or mirin], shi=shio [salt], su=su [vinegar], se=seu the archaic reading of shoyu [soy sauce], and so=miso. These are the only essential ingredients.”

I’ve already made seven meals from this cookbook, including sushi, rice and noodle dishes, and I was so impressed by how well everything turned out. I’ll definitely buy Hachisu’s other cookbook “Japanese Farm Food” in the near future because all these recipes were fabulous.

So, let’s get on to the recipes I’ve been making from this cookbook over the last few weeks. I really hope my review of each recipe will show you just how much my husband Roy and I enjoyed each and every dish.


crab and nori

This looks like a simple dish that’s easy to prepare but it was actually quite difficult for me to make. Reason being, I don’t own the recommended tamagoyaki nabe (Japanese omelette pan) so I had to make do with my small round frying pan and cut the rounded edges off into a square. You have to keep an eye on the egg omelette when you’re making it so you don’t overcook the egg and create brown patches. You want a nice pale yellow colour on all sides. Hachisu recommended six eggs and just 3oz (90g) of crabmeat but I would use quite a bit more crabmeat next time because I think the taste of the egg in this masked the flavour of the crabmeat. It did look really good in the end and you’ll definitely love this nori roll if you’re a big fan of tamago nigiri sushi.




spinach gratin

Roy loved this dish! He really liked the combination of spinach, bacon, scalloped potatoes, béchamel sauce, tomatoes and bread crumbs. I’ve already made it several times and I’m sure I’ll continue to make it again and again in the future. If you’ve never been to Japan you might be wondering why a gratin has been included in a Japanese cookbook but this is actually a very popular dish that is often made at home in modern Japan and it’s also included on menus at a lot of family restaurants. Hachisu says you should make a home-made béchamel sauce and I completely agree with her. It really is a lot better for you and a lot more scrumptious than the store-bought variety. Don’t overcook the bacon because this could easily affect the taste (and not in a good way) and be generous with the panko breadcrumbs.



One-pot seafood udon 1

“A cross between nabe (one-pot dish) and udon, unusually, this dish is baked in the oven.”

If you’re tired of eating kitsune udon all the time and you’re looking for a really tasty, healthy and low-calorie meal then this seafood udon dish is a great alternative and it only takes 25 minutes to prepare and cook! This recipe certainly has some delicious ingredients — prawns, crabmeat, maitake mushrooms (I used shiitake mushrooms because I couldn’t get the maitake variety), negi, spinach, and udon!

I did cheat a little bit. I used pre-cooked udon noodles, three sachets of udon soup stock powder which made about 1.3 litres of hot noodle broth and canned shredded crabmeat to save myself time and money. I wouldn’t use shredded crabmeat again. Instead, I’d add fresh crabmeat or canned chunks of crabmeat. Hachisu recommends fresh crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage.

I boiled the broth on the stove first before adding the noodles. I let them cook for five minutes which allowed the noodles to separate before adding the other ingredients. I cooked this all in my Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish which was perfect for cooking this on the stove and transferring it to the oven. Hachisu recommends adding a splash of ponzu at the end and we really thought the soup needed this. After we’d added this, the meal was absolutely delicious. In fact, Roy liked it so much, he finished all of the leftover soup at the bottom of the pot!



mince bowl

Hachisu recommends leftover rice for this dish as well as ground pork or chicken as well as egg threads, shiitake mushrooms and green beans but as she mentioned in the introduction you could use any leftover vegetables you have in the fridge. I replaced the beans with garden peas. This isn’t the fanciest dish and you certainly wouldn’t serve this to important guests but it’s a quick, easy and cheap meal to make and children would really love the easy-to-eat mince and the way you serve each topping in its own section. I had fun making the egg threads (the recipe for this is on page 222) but I’d definitely cut them finer next time.



ginger soy

This is my favourite dish so far. As you can see in the photo, the chicken had a lovely sticky ginger-soy coating. One great fact about this cookbook is that Hachisu has given you exact quantities for each ingredient to be used in all her recipes and if you follow these instructions to a tee then you can’t go wrong. One exception I made was to add carrots because I had a packet of mixed vegetables in the freezer I wanted to use. If you love soy-glazed yakitori then you’ll love this dish.



shrimp pea rice

Hachisu says “A vehicle to use leftovers, hayashi rice is said to have developed in the southern island of Kita Kyushu. The owner of a small casual eatery needed to feed his customers quickly before they boarded the ship, so he put together this flavorful ketchup-based rice dish. While chicken is commonly used in this dish, here the shrimp reflects the seaside roots. Feel free to swap out diced leftover chicken or pork. In the same vein, any chopped vegetables such as carrot, green beans, or turnips can be substituted for the green peas.”

I followed Hachisu’s recipe and used green peas. Again, it might surprise you that Japanese people use quite a bit of ketchup in this dish and in their cooking but I assure you this is another popular dish, especially with children. You’ll really love this dish if you’re a fan of the filling in omurice (a Japanese omelette rice dish).



egg and butter dish

I mentioned above there are over 50 recipes from well-known Japanese and Western chefs at the back of the book in the blue section. I decided to make this particular recipe and I’m so glad I did!

Martin Benn is the chef/owner of Sepia Restaurant in Sydney. He started his career in London before relocating to Australia in 1996 where he gained a position at Tetsuya’s under the famous Chef Tetsuya Wakuda. He was made head chef at this restaurant at just 25 years old!

I knew this dish was going to be full on but I still wanted to try it even though I thought it looked a bit risky and I was worried I wouldn’t get it right. I thought, at first, I was setting myself up for a challenge and it might be a bit sickly because it included 14 tablespoons of butter and 16 egg yolks!! Yes, you read that right. That’s a hell of a lot of butter and I thought our cholesterol levels would skyrocket with all those eggs.

Boy, was I wrong about the taste! I can now see why Benn is such a respected and accomplished chef. This dish was an absolute delight to the taste buds. It reminded me of the rich and creamy dishes you pay through the nose for at fine French restaurants. I’d still warn anyone over the age of 65 to go easy on this dish but both my husband and I really enjoyed it and we were able to eat a full bowl each. I didn’t have any kinome sprigs to place on top of the dish at the end as recommended but the aonori salt (a combination of sea salt crystals and powdered green nori) was a great addition.

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t serve it as a rice bowl again. I think it’s just too much. I’d serve up just three tablespoons of this next to a pan-fried or poached piece of salmon with some green beans sautéed with a little garlic and grated ginger and a dash of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.


I’d like to thank Phaidon for sending me a copy of this cookbook and I’d also like to send out a huge thank you to Nancy Singleton Hachisu for putting together this culinary masterpiece.

I’ll definitely be making a lot more recipes from this cookbook in the future and posting photos of these recipes on my favourite social media platform Twitter so please follow me @RenaeLucasHall for these updates.

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
470 pp, Phaidon. £29.95.

Get your copy on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.