Linda Thompson finds places to lay your head on a trip to Japan
It takes about 10 hours to get to Japan from New Zealand. So if you're after somewhere to put your head down, why not treat yourself?
In Tokyo you'll find the tranquil and serene five-star Shangri-La Hotel just a minute from Tokyo Station. It was named best hotel in the world by Trip Advisor, and ranked five-star by Forbes.
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It's well-named after the fictional land of peace and perpetual youth in James Hilton's 1933 Lost Horizon novel – even though that was written about a hidden spot in Tibet – and you'll find a copy of the book to set the scene in the bedside drawer of your deluxe room (about $1000+ a night).
The hotel occupies the top 11 floors of the 37-storey Marunouchi Trust Tower Main Building so there are views from everywhere. You can even spot the elusive Mt Fuji, sometimes.
After the craziness of Narita airport and Tokyo station, the room is a sanctuary with massive bed, orchids in the bathroom, gentle Japanese music and breathtaking views. The bathroom is massive, the shower like a gentle massage, the toiletries luxurious French L'Occitane. Yes of course I brought them home.
Chandeliers are everywhere, including one with 890 ginko leaves, the tree of Tokyo, in Czech crystal and another that looks like 10m of crystal raindrops dropping several floors. There are gold artworks on the walls and the hotel has its own spa called, appropriately, Chi, meaning peace.
You can eat at one of the three restaurants, Italian or Japanese, and make the most of eating at the Club on the 27th floor tended to by dinner suit-wearing waiters at breakfast. Silently of course.
If you have to ask what the Presidential Suite costs – it's bigger than my house at 268 sq m, you can't afford it. But between you and me it starts at about $30,000 a night.
The suite is ranked one of the most luxurious and palatial in the world - and it's probably the first time it's been entered by someone wearing The Warehouse and KMart.
When it first opened a couple of years ago there was a special package at only 1.2 million yen – a bargain at about $17,600 for one night.
The suite has rare artworks, a double-height ceiling, its own private spa room, a kitchen (probably not used by the guests but by staff), jacuzzi, and of course the obligatory pool and gym. It has its own separate entrance, naturally. You wouldn't want to mix with those pesky peasants. Conveniently it has a connecting wing for your staff.
Japan values quiet, elegance and privacy. Not surprising in a country of 126 million people, barely bigger than New Zealand, where quiet may be hard to find. It also values its traditions.
So if the luxury - and expense - of the Shangri-La is not quite for you, then try a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn where you leave your shoes and Western ways at the door, don a yukata or casual kimono and enjoy sliding doors, tatami mats and sleeping on a futon.
In small towns, a minshuku or low-budget ryokan may be the only place to stay, and it may be more like a boarding house or B&B.
But if you're after a comfortable, more luxurious traditional experience, try the Sanyo-so Ryokan near Shizuoka. This beautiful haven is set in a vast Japanese garden with natural hot spring baths.
Put on your yukata (wrap left over right – the other way is only for a funeral), your cute little white toe socks and pad around the quiet sanctuary before enjoying a traditional meal served by smiling silent women in kimono.
You'll have an entire apartment, one of only 27, with lovely sitting room and tea service, looking out over the gardens. There's a bathroom – sit on the wooden bucket to wash with the hand-held shower – and access to the single-sex bathing area.
For Kiwi women this can be a bit daunting, showering and then walking naked into a communal bathing pool. We're a bit …better endowed … than tiny Japanese women, and there's nowhere to put the tiny towel other than on your head. Just get over it.
In Nagoya try the Hotel Nagoya Castle, with its spectacular views of Nagoya Castle right out the window across the moat. Four-star luxury and some rather nice Bvlgari toiletries to make you feel like a queen. Yes, they came home too.
There's a pool, gym and jacuzzi, excellent food and reasonable rates, as well as being close to everything.
And if you're not up for five-star luxury in Tokyo, there's any number of pleasant and clean hotels near the train station. Try the Keio Presso, a couple of minutes walk away.
Be prepared for the rooms to be small so you may have to clamber over your suitcase, and the bathroom is one of those all-in-one capsule jobs so don't turn around too quickly. But the staff are a delight, it's close to everything and squeaky clean.
Japan has a reputation for some quirky ideas about sleeping. There are those capsule hotels, kapuseru hoteru, tiny bed-sized pods designed for sleeping but not much else. Probably ideal for a stranded salaryman (and many are men-only) but not quite where you want to lay your head after a hard day's sightseeing.
You'll share a bathroom. You need to swap your clothes and shoes for a yukata and slippers. Privacy is left at the door and you may feel like you're in a morgue, but it's a fairly cheap place to sleep, at about $50 a night.
Cost-wise, the eye-watering sight of all those zeros on the yen can be daunting.
But 100 yen is only $1.46, so the 660 yen you'll spend on four delicious xiao long bao or soup dumplings in the street is actually less than $10. An average comfortable hotel is about the same as a Kiwi motel.
Food is reasonable. A meal at about 1000 yen is really less than $15, and a beer will set you back about $6. Ramen with meat and toppings could be 600 to 1000 yen.
Go for the local specialty and you'll eat and sleep well.