In collaboration with The Okura Tokyo
When: October/November 2019
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Length of stay: 4 nights
Room booked: Club Room
Room got: Club Corner
Price per night: 100 000 JPY – prices in Tokyo were unusually high, because of different events
Travel companions: Wife
Status / collaboration: AMEX Platinum booking / Collaboration with hotel
The Okura Tokyo, one of the oldest luxury hotels in Japan is now, in a way, one of the newest, because they just finished a 3 year reconstruction of the entire hotel, so even though it has a long history behind it, this is a brand new property. When it comes to recently opened hotels, there is always a risk that some things are still finding their place. Maybe it was because of all the experience they’ve had from the previous hotel or perhaps it was Japanese efficiency, but a month after re-opening the whole property was already running smoothly.
The Okura is located in the Minato-ku area of Tokyo, south of the Palace garden and east of Roppongi.
But who is The Okura for? I would say that if you want a new international luxury hotel with a touch of traditional Japanese hospitality, this is the place for you. The location of the hotel is convenient, but we didn’t find that much to do in the immediate vicinity. However areas like Roppongi and Ginza are only a short walk away and there are metro stations close by, so it’s easy to get around.
The new hotel consists of two buildings called the Prestige Tower (taller main building) and the Heritage Wing. The Prestige Tower is 41 stories tall and it entails the Club Lounge as well as the Club floors. The Heritage Wing is 17 stories high and consists of mostly suites with a more traditional Japanese flare. We stayed at the Prestige Tower on the 39th floor in a Club Corner room.
The Okura is full of art and beauty from the hallways to the different art installations around the public areas.
Unfortunately I cannot tell much about the usual check-in process on the Club Level, because we arrived at midnight, so the Club Lounge was already closed. We were literally the only customers in the main lobby, so our check-in went smoothly and efficiently. However during our stay there we never saw lines at check-in, so I would guess it’s pretty much always efficient and fast, because the hotel was almost at full capacity. After the check-in process we were escorted to our room.
The actual room and pretty much the whole hotel is very sleek, down-to-earth and understated in a good way. Most things have been hidden behind wooden panels or sliding doors which helps make the room look very calm and clean. Also the big ceiling height makes the room feel even more spacious than it already is.
Let’s start with the bed which is simply enormous! It’s apparently “only” 220 cm wide, but it felt a lot bigger. Also a big bed needs a big blanket, which was the plushiest and heaviest (in a good way) blanket I’ve ever seen. When trying to watch TV from the bed I had to force the blanket down, because it was so fluffy like a cloud floating through the sky. You cannot see it in the picture, but I have a short video of it in my Instastories highlight-section of the Okura, if you want to check it out.
One small thing I really appreciate in hotels are electric curtains, especially ones that make the room pitch black, which is kind of necessary when the sun rises at 5 am and shines straight into the room. I love the feeling of waking up in a luxurious bed and opening the curtains with a push of a button to reveal the beautiful Tokyo cityscape. And the views from our room! They were the highlight. We had a corner room, so we could see Roppongi, Shinjuku and even Tokyo Tower just behind our window, which was a great surprise, because we had no idea what the view would be like as the curtains were closed when we arrived.
The bathroom was beautiful and toilet had been separated fully into its own room, which helped make the bathroom look even better.
The best part about the bathroom was the huge window right next to the bathtub, because it brought natural light into the room and provided beautiful views over Tokyo while soaking in a bubble bath. But if you want to keep the curtains closed, you can always watch TV! This was my first time I had a TV in a bathtub (I’ve seen them within mirrors, but not in the tub), so I was really excited about it. The bathtub itself was actually one of the best I’ve experienced, because it was the perfect size. Some are too long, some are too shallow, but this was just perfect.
Regarding the actual toilet, I have two minor complaints. One is the fact that there were no towel hooks, so you just had to keep the towels on the side of the sink, where they didn’t dry that well. The other is that maybe the toilet needs a bit of decorating, because even though it’s just a toilet, it felt a bit unfinished without any art etc. on the walls. Other than that I loved that it was a Japanese Toto-toilet with all kinds of buttons.
In the beginning of our stay the cleanliness of the room was unfortunately a bit lacking. There was some kind of dirt on our sheets, which housekeeping should have noticed while changing them and also we found hairs especially in the bathroom. After one or two nights if felt like the cleaning got better, because other than the things I mentioned, the room was kept very clean throughout our stay.
I really liked the iPad they provided to control everything in the room from the curtains to the lighting. It was an intuitive and “futuristic” way. Sorry, no picture here, because apparently I only took videos of it, not pictures.
This is one of the most important aspects of almost any company, but especially every luxury hotel. The staff at The Okura is always friendly and helpful, which can be expected of a hotel of this caliber. One of the highlights are the kimono-clad ladies, who guide customers to the elevators and bow politely until the elevator doors have closed. This nice little touch is one way of bringing some Japanese flair into the hotel.
Every time I stay at a non-luxury hotel, I miss the turndown service that the hotel provides each evening. They obviously have it at The Okura, but every hotel has their own way of doing it. In The Okura they turn down the lighting, freshen up the room, close the curtains, bring some Japanese chocolates on the nightstand as well as new water bottles. Also each morning we found a newspaper behind our door, which makes the hotel feel more like home. Also the pyjamas are a nice touch.
By the way, if you like, the hotel offers complimentary pressing of three items and also a complimentary shoe shining service. There is also a possibility to go to the Go Salon, if you want a professional to teach you how to play the Japanese game called Go. If I had more time, I would have definitely taken the opportunity to do so.
The Okura also has something that not many hotels have, its own art museum. It’s situated in its own building on the front side of the hotel, and staying guests get free tickets.
In addition to the breakfast we had at the club lounge, we wanted to try a real Japanese breakfast for the first time, so on one morning we went to the hotel’s Japanese Yamazato-restaurant that can be found in the Heritage Wing. Because this breakfast is included when you stay at the club level, I seriously recommend giving it a try even if you think it won’t be your thing. I’ve always thought that I want to only eat “breakfast food” that I’m used to in the morning, but the Japanese breakfast was delicious. Also it makes you full in such a way that you can basically skip lunch later.
The setting of the restaurant is very plain, but in a good way. The servers are dressed in beautiful kimonos and behind the window you can see a tranquil Japanese garden, which is a relaxing way to start the day. Japanese breakfast consists of multiple small dishes that are all brought in front of you on a single tray. You can choose which kind of rice you want, but mostly the meal is predetermined.
For a westerner such a breakfast is an intriguing way to get to know Japanese culture and customs better. I still prefer to eat my usual breakfast on most days, but this is now definitely an option on some days when in Japan.
Having a club lounge at a hotel is one of the most important features for me when deciding where to stay. The lounge provides a tranquil place where you can relax, have breakfast, some small foods and also a few drinks.
It might be because the hotel is so new, but I got the feeling that the lounge needs to be improved in some basic areas. The staff is friendly and helpful, but the customer service was still the thing that needs most work. First of all I understand that the lounge’s reception has to keep track of the people coming and going, so that only those with access can be there. But in a hotel like this it should be enough to tell your room number on the first morning and that’s it. Usually in luxury hotels they know you by then and won’t ask the room number anymore during your stay, but here it had to be said every morning. It’s such a small thing, I know, but it takes away from the feeling of exclusivity and “we know our customers” –mentality.
Also what was weird to me was the fact that the staff within the lounge (not including the reception) didn’t really communicate with the customers. They cleaned tables and filled the buffet, but didn’t once come to ask if we wanted something or if everything is in order. No-one asked if we wanted coffee or tea during breakfast.
One of my pet peeves is people not following a dress code inside the lounge. Granted this was the time of the rugby world cup, so many of the customers wanted to use a jersey to support their team, which is totally fine, but people should at least wear shoes! It should be obvious to anyone that you can’t come into the lounge wearing bath slippers and then taking them off while you eat. If a hotel has rules, including a dress code, it needs to be enforced in a respectful manner. Because if I would come into the lounge barefoot in gym shorts, it would be disrespectful to the other customers.
Even with the minor complaints the club lounge was a tranquil place with lots of space to sit down and admire the beautiful view. I felt that the breakfast spread could have been a bit bigger, but I’m sure everyone will find enough there. I liked the fact that there is an omelet station where you can order different kinds of eggs from the chef, but maybe it would be a good addition to also offer things like waffles and pancakes, like most hotels do.
There were a couple of different food and beverage spreads in the lounge during the day, but in addition to breakfast we only tried the evening cocktail hour once. Seeing Japanese Hibiki whisky on offer was a surprise to me, because it’s usually hard to get even in Japan because of its popularity. My other favourite was the Pommery champagne they had. I’m not exactly sure how, but their magnum sized Pommery was somehow done in collaboration with the hotel, which is a nice touch. However pouring from a magnum is a bit harder than from a normal bottle, so it would have been nice to have them serve it to the table.
I think the lounge has a lot of potential, but it just wasn’t on the level it should be yet, but after a few little tweaks I’m sure it will get there.
All in all I feel like The Okura has a lot of potential to become a great hotel, but I believe it still needs a bit more time. Don’t get me wrong, because it already is a lovely hotel and I’m sure customers will have a great time staying there. The whole property is beautiful, the staff is polite and efficient and everything is a great mix of international luxury and traditional Japanese hospitality. By the time the olympics start in half a year, I’m sure The Okura Tokyo will once again be one of the grand hotels of Japan.
Thank you for reading one of my loooong hotel reviews. I hope this helps you when choosing a hotel in Tokyo. If you want to follow my travels through Instagram, you can do it here: @escapemundaneblog