Not Lost in Translation in Tokyo
Spring always makes me think of cherry trees and blooming flowers and parks in Japan and it has always been my desire to go to Tokyo at this time of the year. In early March, a trip presented itself so we “flew the coop”’ and, by a stroke of luck, found ourselves in a Tokyo hotel that has one of the best reputations in the world.
It’s the Park Hyatt Tokyo–the “go-to hotel” in in the Japanese capital–and upon arrival, we were immediately immersed into Japanese hotel heaven. Being a bit rung-out from the long journey, we couldn’t wait for the Park Hyatt to begin its magical decompression.
Located in the Shinjuku Park Tower in West Shinjuku, the Park Hyatt occupies the top 14 floors of the 52-story building complex. It has 177 generously-sized rooms which includes 23 suites, five restaurants, a complete spa, health club and a glamorous swimming pool that helped put the hotel on the map.
On first arrival, the Park Hyatt is undeniably one of the most guest friendly establishments I’ve ever encountered. Exiting our taxi, seemingly, a phalanx of exceedingly courteous doormen descended upon us to assist with our arrival and bags. Within seconds our bags disappeared and we were directed to a bank of elevators, one of which whisked us upwards to the 41st floor. Getting out of the elevator, one walks past the bamboo shrouded “Peak Lounge,” then down a passageway past the hotel’s European restaurant, “Girandole,” and then past rows of shelves of books and a treasure trove of beautiful art books and onto the reception area.
The time at the reception area is short indeed; instead of standing, or even sitting at a traditional check-in counter or desk, guests are immediately escorted by one of the smartly attired receptionists to another private elevator bank and whisked up to one of nine floors that make up the accommodation levels of the hotel.
Into the rooms and we are shown all the room necessities, amenities and payment details are quickly and politely dispensed with. A plate of pastries and muesli with fresh juices are also laid out and waiting on a coffee table for guests to have a quick refreshment before going on to whatever–a nap, exploring the hotel’s attractions, i.e. “the pool,” or going outside for a bit of exploring the Shinjuku neighborhood.
The hotel has a shuttle van running every 20 minutes between the hotel and Shinjuku Station, a five minute ride depending on traffic, although walking is about 10 minutes. Shinjuku is the world’s largest train station with more than two million commuters using its 200 portals every day. The trains at the station, both under and overground, will easily take one anywhere in or around Tokyo or beyond. Tokyo is very much a commuting country where space is a premium and the cost of parking in Tokyo is astronomic. Also built into the Shinjuku station complex are a variety of well-known department stores; no retail opportunities missed here.
Nearby the hotel–a ten minute walk–is a park and the world renown Menji Jingu Shrine. While strolling through the park, we happened onto a wedding in the Shrine. After watching the participants amble by, we continued our walk through the Park to Harajaku, a shopping district very similar to Soho in New York City. It’s a great area of Tokyo, but that’s another story.
Walking through the park and Harajaku to get rid of our jet lag wasn’t quite working–at least walking and window shopping wasn’t the answer. So we returned to the hotel.
Our next “grand awakening idea” was, “let’s go for a swim in one of the most famous swimming pools in the world.”
The Park Hyatt’s large-scale swimming pool, located on the 47th floor, achieved its iconic status starring in the 2003 feature film, Lost In Translation. Co-starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson, numerous scenes were shot by the pool, thus giving the pool its renown status. The pool seems so surreal located so high above the Tokyo skyline. It’s length is a healthy 65 feet by four wide swimming lanes, and good enough for any healthy workout–and it is open all day and early evening.
The pool did the job. After swimming a few laps, we were re-energized for another walk on the town amidst the neon ”glamourama” that lights up Tokyo every evening.
Aside from the pool and its fascinating history, one of the interesting “finds” at the hotel was, in fact, an individual that works there. It’s the chief concierge, Mr. Adrian Fautt. Originally a native of Southern California and having attended a world-renowned university in Los Angeles, Mr. Fautt is a veritable encyclopedia of Japan when it comes to suggestions and recommendations on what to do and see, where to eat and where to shop. Whether you want an evening strolling the Ginza or Harajaku, or a day’s outing in nearby quaint Kawagoe, his easy-going manner combined with his cultural and linguistic expertise, his energy, enthusiasm and knowledge, make this gentleman a five-star diamond asset for the Park Hyatt.
On our final evening, we decided to splurge for the last supper. We usually avoid hotel dining rooms, but the New York Grill on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt has the reputation of being one of the top ten restaurants in Tokyo. We heard that recommendation from a few of our foodie friends that had dined there as well as reading about it in every travel story of where to dine in Tokyo. It was a toss-up between Kozue, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant or the New York Grill, and we were thrilled with our decision.
The New York Grill sports four huge paintings and other art works combined with floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering spectacular views in all directions of Tokyo. In addition to its very buzzy open kitchen, there are large tables where cutlery, dishes, napkins, water and wine glasses aren’t jammed up against each other. And then there’s the fun of deciphering the menu and wine list with the help restaurant manager, Daniel Ganser. Mr. Ganser, originally from Austria with a great culinary sense and expertise, has to be one of the most jovial and energetic individuals to ever run such a masterful and extraordinary dispensary of finely crafted food and drink combined with artful presentation. He genuinely knows his stuff and it’s a pleasure to be on the receiving end of his savory pitches.
I ordered the scallops and my wife ordered the duck–and we shared a side of crispy duck fat potato fries. The meal was simply divine. To top it off, there was a jazz band playing well-known standards to accompany the superb meal, making the evening extra special.
So ended our quick Tokyo sojourn, but thanks to the personal care, gracious customer service and incredibly elegant accommodation at the Park Hyatt, Tokyo, the memories will be long lasting. This is one unique property that really did live up to its reputation!