Temperatures may be falling, but these winter activities should keep your spirits bright as 2014 comes to a close.
A Grand Weekend Brunch
One of the best ways to start off a luxurious, relaxing weekend is with a leisurely brunch. Starting in the month of December, The French Kitchen Restaurant, located on the second floor of the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, will be beginning a “Grand Weekend Brunch” service.
The relaxed, convivial setting of the restaurant makes it a perfect place for large groups of friends and family to gather, as well as an ideal location for couples to enjoy a romantic meal for two. The French Kitchen, whose cuisine is guided by Master Chef David Bellin, is known for its authentically prepared French dishes, including Pâté de Campagne, Sole Grenobloise, and Boeuf Bourguignon.
Both brunch packages feature the opportunity to sample a variety of the restaurant’s traditional specialties as well as some seasonal offerings. The luxurious buffets (seatings are limited to a duration of two hours) are accompanied by two different beverage options. For the first plan (¥6,200), the meal comes with a glass of Champagne Louis Roederer, while the second option (¥8,800) pairs the plentiful buffet with a free-flow of Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Premier, a selection of cocktails, red and white wine, a port wine that complements the cheese buffet, and an array of The French Kitchen’s house spirits and soft drinks.
Hungry yet? The Grand Weekend Brunch begins on December 6, and will be held on weekends and national holidays from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm.
The French Kitchen, Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan 106-0032
Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-10-3 2F
Roppongi Hills Illuminations
Hit the posh Roppongi Hills for a full evening of seasonal cheer. The spacious architectural wonder offers more than just magical illuminations. Until Christmas Day, you can hit the German Market to warm up with some mulled wine and a few sausages, and even pick up some crafty wooden toys. If you’re in for something a bit stronger, Whisky Hills is also going on until that same date, with participating restaurants and cafés around the area.
Not to be outdone by its neighbor, Tokyo Midtown also offers its own twist on Christmas, and once again this year the luxury complex is all about Santa Claus, complete with a 4-meter tall tree made of 1,800 piled up Santas. If that’s a bit overboard, head outside to view the gorgeous Champagne glass-shaped illuminated trees.
And for the Rolls Royce of illuminations, we have Tokyo Tower getting all glammed up this season, featuring a glitzy light show until Christmas Day. Tokyo Tower also features a massive Christmas tree (12 meters, nothing less) that blinks to the tune of Christmas carols twice per hour. Even if you’ve had enough illuminations this holiday season, Tokyo Tower is the ultimate Tokyo sight we’ll never tire of. And, did we mention it’s free?
Roppongi Hills, 6 Chome Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032
Christmas Market Yokohama
For the fifth consecutive year, the annual Christmas Market is back in Yokohama, and if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, it is well worth the short trek from central Tokyo.
Not only will the illuminated trees and decorations give you an eyeful (Christmas would not be Christmas without illuminations, right?), but the actual event is where the fun is. German-style huts are set up all over the cobblestoned plaza, all selling Christmas items, such as ornaments for Christmas trees and wooden dolls from the Erzgebirge region in Germany.
The real star of this event is the food, of course: you can sample typical German fare such as schnitzels, Stollen cakes (a fruit cake with marzipan), glühwein (that would be mulled wine) and sausages, of course. Admission to the event is free, and you can browse all the different stalls and hopefully find some treasures for the holidays and stock up on goodies for your loved ones.
Closest Station: Bashamichi Station: Minato Mirai Line/ Sakuragicho Station: JR Line
Get Your Skates On
Burn all those holiday calories and show off your ice skating skills on a few different rinks around the Greater Tokyo area. After its successful debut last winter, the spectacular Yokohama Art Rink is back until late February. Rookies and pros alike will enjoy gliding on the ice, which has been turned into a colorful canvas created by a local artist. It stays open throughout the evening, so could be a great (albeit slightly awkward if you’re not skilled on skates) date idea, with the bay and cityscape as a backdrop.
If you’re in the middle of Tokyo, there’s the White Sacas Tokyotown ice garden, which features regular performances by renowned figure skating athletes throughout the holidays. The rink is also open to the public, so make sure you check the calendar before you head down.
5 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo 107-0052. Closest Station Akasaka or Nogizaka (Chiyoda Line)
Soak Away Your Stress
If you’re lucky enough to get a few days off and want to escape the crowds, you don’t need to go too far. Soak away your stress and worries in one of Tokyo’s natural onsen—yes, Tokyo has hot springs. Just grab two towels, pay the required fee, scrub down and bathe for as long as you want. You’ll emerge refreshed, revitalized and ready to face the holiday frenzy (and Christmas carols on repeat in every shop).
Two places you’ll want to try are Utsukushi-no-yu in Suginami Ward, which features a rustic-looking rotenburo (open air bath), arranged with wood, stonework, and trees, and LaQua in Koraku, a hot mineral bath theme park where spring water is pumped up from 1,700 meters below ground. Featuring an outdoor bath, a massage bubble bath and saunas, it is dubbed a “space for healing.” You can check out a more complete listing here, or have a look at an app that finds you onsen around Tokyo.
A Taste of Home—Wherever Home Might Be
There’s likely going to be a moment when you’ll just want to stay in amidst all the holiday revelry, and still enjoy some good food while you’re at it. Maishoku is an online service that puts you in touch with more than 200 different restaurants, with a variety of cuisines that ranges from American and Italian to Thai and Vietnamese. And until January 5, 2015, you can get a 15% discount on all orders up to ¥10,000. Just enter the code xmas14week at checkout.