Fashion Quarterly editor, Sally-Ann Mullin, travelled to Tokyo with Dom Pérignon for 72 hours of Champagne and imaginary shopping
6am: Forget the SkyBus or Park & Ride, I start this trip as I intend to go on – in luxury and style. The chauffeur-driven Mercedes that collects me from my door more than makes up for the early start.
8:45am: Legs stretched out in front of me, feet up and Champagne in hand, I feel like the smug face emoji personified. I’m travelling business class for the first time and it feels damn good. The flight attendant literally tucks me in and I sleep longer and deeper than I typically would in my own bed, dreaming of a life in which I never fly economy again.
4:50pm: Touch down in Narita, Tokyo. My travel companion is Katie Jacobs, who is the New Zealand general manager for Moët Hennessey Asia-Pacific. Katie Braatvedt lived in Tokyo for years so is a dab hand at navigating this sprawling city. She makes the executive decision to catch the train from the airport, passing on the driver and car we have been offered. I’m slightly disturbed as I’m carrying three oversized suitcases of new season samples for our two Fashion Quarterly shoots later in the week, but my anxiety quickly dissipates. The Japanese are so incredibly polite, ordered and respectful, negotiating our way through rush hour commuting crowds and down several packed escalators is a breeze.
8pm: After settling into our suites at the stunning Palace Hotel, which overlooks the lakes and gardens of Tokyo Imperial Palace, Katie and I venture to the upmarket residential neighbourhood of Nishiazabu for dinner at Takabe. It’s a small restaurant that doesn’t look like much from the road, but when the traditional Japanese ‘shōji’ door is slid back, a perfectly designed, six-seat dining room is revealed. Over a bottle of Dom Pérignon we watch, captivated, as the master sushi chef assembles dish after dish. The standout is the delicate Hokkaido uni – a prized sea-urchin with a limited, two-month season we just so happen to be travelling right in the middle of. On the ride home – bellies full and on a top-shelf Champagne buzz mixed with a touch of jet lag – I watch the multi-coloured high-rise neon lights whizz by and I feel incredibly lucky.
11am: We meet up with Loewe Japan’s head of marketing, June Miyachi, who takes us on a luxury shopping tour of Omotesandō – a tree-lined avenue in the shopping district of Shibuya that is sometimes referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées. Loewe, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Celine… this is what my dreams are made of. I’m like a kid in candy store and I imaginarily spend six times my annual salary in two hours.
1:30pm: Lunch at Sasha Kanetanaka, a contemporary Japanese restaurant designed by Dom Pérignon collaborator and world renowned photographer, Hiroshi Sugimoto. The tranquil fit-out is a modern take on traditional Japanese design. The food itself is classic and high-end. After five courses we roll out of there.
3pm: Next is a visit to rock star florist Nicolai Bergmann’s flagship store in the neighbourhood of Aoyama. An oasis in the concrete overload of the city, we enter the shop and are met with wall-to-wall orchids, roses, and a green living wall. The smell is divine. Danish-born Nicolai arrived in Tokyo at 19 years old with intentions to travel, and 20 years later, he’s still here.
Known for his tight, precise style, his creativity knows no limits – a frequent collaborator with Dom Pérignon, he has branched into desserts, pottery, and he even has his own print magazine. He’s also basically the Brad Pitt of his profession and while we chat, I notice several women pull out their phones to take a sneaky snap.
6pm: Back at the hotel I enjoy some quiet time playing with the bells and whistles that my five-star room has to offer. So fascinated am I by the TV in the bathroom mirror, the remote control curtains and light dimmers, and the Japanese game shows I have on in the background, I end up with only 10 minutes to spare before I’m collected for dinner. I’ve never gotten ready so swiftly.
7pm: On the cards for the evening is an exclusive event to celebrate Dom Pérignon’s P2 1998 – a very special drop with a maturation time of 16 years, pegged as “the most Dom Pérignon of Dom Pérignons”. We arrive at an industrial looking building in a mysterious back alley. It’s raining, but true to the Japanese hospitality I’ve come to know and love, men in suits with umbrellas are on hand to aid us into the venue.
The space is completely blacked out, including the lift, and the other guests and I are bubbling with excitement as we are ferried up to the unknown. When the lift door opens, we are all given a flute to warm up before being guided into a large dining room.
7:30pm: I am seated next to the man of the hour – Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave, Mr Richard Geoffroy. I’m initially star struck but the ice quickly breaks as we bond over a love of Marlborough, New Zealand, where he spent a spell working in vineyards early on in his career. Born and bred in Champagne, Geoffroy is known in the industry as an eccentric genius – regularly describing tasting notes in metaphysical rather than literal terms – and I am a captive audience as he waxes lyrical (in a heavy French accent, of course) about the circle of energy from the soil to the grape to the wine and back again.
His current fascination is how the flavour complexities of P2 1998 are highlighted and changed at different temperatures and throughout the night, I am happy to assist him with his research. We are served flutes at four different temperatures and even as a Champagne layman, I can easily detect how the flavour is affected – the warmer it is served, the sweeter it becomes. I learn that we are often serving our Champagne too cold to appreciate the full flavour and body. All I can think is, guilty!
The meal itself is a joint effort between Geoffroy and celebrated Japanese chef and restaurateur, Yoshihiro Narisawa. The duo conceptualised the courses over Skype, which is impressive considering Narisawa speaks little English or French, and Geoffroy no Japanese. In any case, it’s clear that, creatively, both men are singing from the same song sheet. Inspired by the four words energy, intensity, sensuality and playfulness, each of the eight courses is as beautiful and theatrical as it is delicious. I particularly enjoy the raw rock oyster on a bed of Japanese soil and by the time we leave I feel like I’m floating.
12:30pm: After my late night I’m grateful for a leisurely start to the day. I enjoy a delightful room service breakfast, update the Fashion Quarterly Snapchat, and then it’s off to lunch on the rooftop terrace at the Bvlgari Hotel in Ginza. Black branded Dom Pérignon picnic baskets arrive and we have a perfect uptown/downtown meal of truffle fries and toasted sandwiches with more P2 1998. I’m told that the Bvlgari regularly runs special lunch deals like this.
2:30pm: We meet with June Miyachi again for round two of what I’ll call the shopping tours to end all shopping tours. Today we are exploring Ginza – Tokyo’s most upmarket shopping, dining and entertainment district – and our first stop is the Fendi ‘pop-up store’. I’m of course expecting a pop-up store by New Zealand standards – that is, a slightly haphazard retail space with a very temporary feel, set up in some recently vacated real estate.
Instead, what I walk into is next-level amazing. Of the store’s four floors, my favourite is the designated custom fur bar where you can personalise Fendi’s famous fur selections. On offer is every colour and texture of fur you can imagine. At this point even my imaginary bank account is in the red.
6pm: The perfect follow up to my fashion-filled day (and the perfect end to this Dom Pérignon tour of Tokyo) is a very fashionable dinner date with artist and shoe designer, Noritaka Tatehana. He is the man responsible for the heel-less platform shoes favoured by Daphne Guinness and Lady Gaga, and he recently worked with Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen on the caged crystal shoes she sent down the runway as part of her AW16 show.
Over several sensational sashimi courses we talk about creative collaboration, and I’m left full of excitement for the next two days of shooting with two of my own favourite collaborators. One last glass of Dom and it’s time for me to say sayonara – let the next adventure begin!