Welcome to Dispatch, a vicarious visit to stylish spots around the world. This month I talk to Gina Pierantozzi, who recently had the good fortune to spend six weeks in Tokyo, Japan.

(Who is Gina? My longtime friend, business partner in The Redecorators and a true style fanatic.)

DOREEN: Describe Tokyo.
GINA: Tokyo is one of the few places I've been that truly feels different from the U.S. When you first arrive it seems very cold--steel skyscrapers, everyone dressed in black. But then you realize it's all about the details. A shop girl takes as much time and care wrapping a $2 piece of candy as a $20,000 handbag. No interaction or job is small or insignificant. Everything is done with incredible pride, care and attention.

Tell us about the ice.

The ice! Okay, you cannot just plop down in a bar and grab a drink. Cocktail creation is an art. Every drink has a particular glass, yes. But there's also a particular shape and type of ice for each drink. All cut by hand. The bartender in the photo above chipped away at that hunk of ice until a perfect diamond emerged.

Did you have to order a glass of wine to tide you over while waiting for a cocktail?

Almost! One night Jimmy [husband] ordered a drink. The Master Bartender went through the twenty minute ritual of creating a cocktail. Finally he presents his masterpiece. But before Jimmy can take a sip it's yanked away--"oh, so sorry, so sorry!" Out comes a flashlight and all three bartenders bend over the glass to examine it. Turns out there was a crack in the ice.

If ice warrants that much attention, what's the food like?

Pristine. That's fugu above. And below, food at a department store. Just an ordinary department store.

What about the restaurants?

There are thousands of them. Look at the photo below--those signs list restaurants in just ONE building.

Tokyo''s so outrageously expensive that most office workers live an hour or more away by train. Every night they go out with co-workers and get plastered. If they miss the last train home they sleep in the train station. Fully dressed, suit and tie, sprawled out on a bench with a briefcase beside them. And no one robs them. I couldn't get over that. This huge city teeming with people and virtually no crime.

In addition to all the restaurants, vending machines line the streets. No garbage cans. Not a speck of litter. But vending machines and food kiosks everywhere. Where does it all go? I have no idea.

How was the shopping? I love the vintage kimono you gave me.
That's about all that would fit you! I'm five-two (and-three-quarters) and I felt like a giant over there. Size 9 shoes? Forget it. I did find an incredible rich white face cream. Turns out its nightingale shit, but wow does it work great.

The fashions look surprisingly bold.

There are two extremes. It's either what looks like government-issue uniform of black bottoms and white tops (for men and women) or crazy, all-out anything goes.

TOP FIVE things a Style Maniac should do in Tokyo:
  1. Seek out the Secret Bars. They are marked only by a small sign so ask your concierge for detailed directions. You walk down steep, narrow flights of stairs to emerge into a magnificent bar with tuxedoed mixologists creating fantastic drinks.
  2. The restaurant supply district, Asakusa, where shops offer gazillions of dishes and custom-made knives hand-honed in front of you.
  3. Another section of Asakusa where the geisha girls buy their makeup.
  4. Visit a Sumo stable and learn about the rituals, hierarchy, feeding and surprising grace of the men in this Japanese sport.
  5. Omotesando is a high-end shopping street featuring Louis Vuitton, Fendi, etc. Parallel to it runs Takeshita Dori, a street where all the kids shop for cheap, crazy clothes. The contrast and combination of the two was my favorite part of Tokyo.

Photos by Gina Pierantozzi

"Use the good china for breakfast."