The Park Hyatt Tokyo is the most luxurious hotel of 1994. It hasn’t changed much since then.
There’s no denying that the 2003 Sofia Coppola film “Lost in Translation,” which is filmed largely, and lovingly, at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, made the hotel a star in its own right.
Indeed, the Park Hyatt Tokyo is legendary, and is considered one of the jewels in the crown of the Park Hyatt chain, one of just seven Hyatts worldwide to be a Category 7 in the Gold Passport program.
With room rates regularly above $650, the Park Hyatt Tokyo is indeed aspirational, and it’s a coveted redemption for those using their two Hyatt Chase Visa free nights, or otherwise using 30,000 Gold Passport points a night.
Needless to say, I was very excited to check it out, and my friend was excited to use his two free Hyatt credit card nights at the Park Hyatt.
Spoiler alert: save your redemptions for another property, folks.
Let me explain first, because I want to stress that the hotel service remains polished and phenomenal, and it’s certainly a comfortable, nice place to sleep. It is by no means a “bad hotel.”
Anyway, my friend and I checked out of the Andaz at 1:30pm and took a taxi to the Park Hyatt, which is in Shinjuku, about a 20 minute taxi ride away. We pulled up to a driveway in an enormous office complex called Shinjuku Towers, which is essentially a three-stepped skyscraper. The Park Hyatt occupies the top floors of each “step,” as it were.
The bellman at the front door quickly took our bags and asked for the reservation name, and we were led into a peaceful lobby (which is technically on the second floor of the building) which gave way to the elevator bank. Off to the left of the second-floor lobby was a two-story pastry shop / “delicatessen” / gift shop complex which led down to the first floor office building lobby (and access to the southern entrance/exit of the skyscraper).
The entrance lobby was decorated with fairly dramatic sculptures and art. In some ways, the art reminded me of the art at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme.
Adjacent to the elevator was an artistically-drawn diagram of the hotel complex, which proved a necessary read. It’s an understatement to say that the hotel layout is complicated, requiring any number of elevator banks to reach guestrooms, restaurants, reception, meeting rooms and the gym/spa, Club on the Park.
The quirky yet elegant artwork carried through into the elevator.
Interestingly, the mood lighting in the elevator would adjust, from dim and subdued at the entrance level, to brighter as it led to the reception floor. This is likely because the elevator opens onto an incredibly bright, light-filled atrium housing the hotel’s Peak Bar and Lounge.
From the Peak Bar and Lounge area, we were led a few twists and turns down a hallway, past the “European” restaurant, Girandole, through a library, and finally into a reception room with a number of tables and attendants. We were led to a table where there was already an envelope with my friend’s name on it, and the host (who also appeared to be one of the concierges) completed check-in. We were handed two physical keys on Tiffany keyrings.
It’s worth pointing out here that our initial impression of the hotel was a bit mixed — certainly, the service was top-notch and the check in was a warm, welcoming process. The public areas, however, struck us both as rather cold and dated. For instance, the Peak Bar and Lounge seemed straight out of a fancy suburban office building in the 90’s, while the decor in the hallways was… again, a bit dated, with pink carpet and blue armchairs throughout.
In any event, we were led to our room on the 44th floor. Unlike at the Andaz where the lobby levels occupied the top floors and rooms are below, at the Park Hyatt the reception area is on the 41st floor, rooms occupy the 42nd through 50th floors (except that the gym occupies a portion of the 45th and 47th floor), and the New York Bar & Grill occupies the 51st floor.
The hallways in the guestroom floors were beautifully lit, with a strong green tea perfumed scent throughout. The fragrance was appealing, though it’s worth noting if you’re sensitive to fragrances you may be a bit put off, as it’s pervasive.
The hallway walls were covered in a blue/green silk, which, while a bit dated, I didn’t mind as it struck me as classically Japanese in a timeless sort of way.
And then we reached our room, a Park Twin.
I guess my expectations had been set much too high by the Andaz, because this room was immediately a disappointment (to us both). Far from being special and sumptuous, it instead seemed to have not been touched since the 1990’s, except maybe to swap out tube televisions for flat-screens.
I have no doubt this was the height of luxury and class in 1994, when the hotel opened, but with teal carpet and very nineties furniture, it just seemed a bit… sad, and distinctly reminded of my father’s early 90’s office suite. In fact, I wouldn’t have been shocked if designers would have considered this just slightly dated by the time the hotel opened.
The room had windows facing two different directions, and two twin beds faced the television and the smaller window, which faced west.
Lighting and shades were controlled by bedside switches, which were neither marked, intuitive or particularly attractive. They were, essentially, clear plastic knobs.
Each bedside table had two outlets. That was the extent of the power situation in the room, other than another outlet in the bathroom. I didn’t see any outlets near the desk.
There was a seating area between the television and the beds, which again was showing its age, decor-wise.
Do you see the side table next to the chair? It’s a hand playing a harp, as the base, and a smoked glass oval as the top.
I’m not sure if this wasn’t creepy in the 90’s, but beyond being vaguely unsettling, it sure strained the levels of taste.
There was a console containing the minibar, a Nespresso machine, and a tea service area next to the desk.
Opposite the minibar, in the mini-hallway leading to the bathroom, was the closet, which was spacious, though still decked out in teal.
The views from the room were spectacular (as they were from the Andaz). We faced south directly onto Yoyogi Park and the famed Meiji Shrine (though we couldn’t see the shrine itself through the foliage).
Beyond the park, you could make out the skyscrapers of the Shibuya business and shopping district.
Finally, just beyond the closet was the bathroom, which was a bit underwhelming, again because of dated decor and, frankly, clunky fixtures.
For instance, the bathroom boasted a television, but it was a small standalone television just placed on the glass makeup counter, and just sort of looked unattractive, and in the way.
The sink was on a surprisingly small console with not a whole lot of counter space, and the faucets were… well, in my opinion, ugly, basically stainless steel surrounded by an off-white plastic shell.
Similarly, the shower had the same stainless steel/plastic casing fixtures, and was “European style,” without an overhead fixture (the Andaz had both).
The shower wasn’t particularly large. There was stainless steel shelving holding the toiletries, which were Aesop-branded (and fantastic).
There was also a Toto Washlet-style toilet in a room behind the bathtub, although this toilet was distinctly “clunkier” than the newer toilet at the Andaz, with worn controls and visible wires.
Even though the hardware and physical aspects of the bathroom were lacking, it’s worth pointing out the amenities were terrific, and the towels and bathrobes plentiful and unbelievably plush and comfy, so in that regard I give it high marks.
Overall, the room was serviceable — certainly, the beds were comfortable (and each had three large, fluffy pillows as opposed to the Andaz’s single Japanese-style pillow), the shower pressure decent, and the view amazing.
However, to put it bluntly, the room is nothing special, and almost laughably dated. At $650+ a night, the room simply does not meet expectations. You’re paying for the reputation, not the actual luxury of the room (or lack thereof).
Shinjuku is a central shopping and entertainment hub loaded with department stores, bars and restaurants, and with easy train access to other parts of the city.
The Park Hyatt Tokyo is located in a purpose-built business district a few blocks to the west of Shinjuku Station, which reminded me uncannily of the Bunker Hill business district of downtown Los Angeles. The blocks largely consist of skyscrapers and elevated roadways, with no street-level shopping or conveniences.
It’s about a 15 minute walk to the “fun” part of Shinjuku as well as the train station and subway station, and the Park Hyatt also runs a shuttle to “downtown” Shinjuku every twenty minutes. Shinjuku itself is incredibly convenient, and full of amenities.
The tourist-friendly neighborhoods of Shibuya, Omatesando and Harajuku are a rather quick taxi ride or 45-minute walk to the south, and Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine are, similarly, either a $6 cab ride or a 30 minute walk away.
Undeniably the Park Hyatt Tokyo is located generally in a central location — much more so than the Andaz Tokyo — but in immediate terms the Shinjuku Towers are a bit isolated from central Shinjuku, and the lack of direct subway access was frustrating. We found ourselves taking taxis just about everywhere, whereas at the Andaz the adjacent subway stop made train access easy. On the other hand, because Shinjuku is centrally located, any taxi you’ll take around Shinjuku, Shibuya or surrounding areas will be quick and relatively inexpensive.
The gym and lap pool are located on the 47th floor, at the top of the middle “tower” of the hotel, and both are free to use for hotel guests. Essentially, there are two gym rooms located on either side of the lap pool. While the gyms boast stunning views, they don’t boast a variety of equipment. (It also seems strange to me you have to walk out of one gym, around the pool, and over to the other gym to do a full workout routine.)
I tried to use an elliptical machine one morning to discover a line for the machines, as there were only two — meanwhile, there was a bank of 10+ treadmills, all empty.
If you’re a runner, you’ll appreciate the treadmills and the views they have over the city.
However, if you use any other machines, you’ll be disappointed with the scarcity of equipment. Again, this struck me as another way in which the hotel was very dated – elliptical machines have been quite popular for years now, and yet the gym had but two of them in an otherwise enormous space.
Because our return flight to Los Angeles left at 12:30am on a Thursday morning and we were given a late checkout at 2pm on Wednesday, we stored our bags, went souvenir shopping in Shinjuku and returned to the hotel around 5pm to use the spa facilities, hang out and shower before leaving for the airport. It’s worth noting that, even for hotel guests, use of the spa facilities (unlike at the Andaz) requires a ¥4000 (~$33) day pass.
The Club on the Park, as well as the gym and pool facilities, are accessed on the 45th floor, with a separate elevator up to the pool/gym area.
Upon purchase of a day pass, we were led by an attendant to the men’s locker room / spa area, which was enormous. We were lucky to have been blessed with a sunset view of Mount Fuji perfectly framed from the spa lobby.
I didn’t take photos of the locker room area, but it’s insanely dated in an over-the-top 90’s way. Imagine seas of green marble walls, blond wood, and Broadway-theater dressing room-style vanity bulbs surrounding mirrors. The men’s lounge was spacious, however, and included a few seating areas (with, again, rather dated leather recliners) and a setup with flavored waters, juices and nuts.
The men’s wet spa facilities just beyond the locker room held an incredibly, searing hot onsen-style hot tub as well as a frigid ice-cold water bath, and four small saunas. There was no steam room. The showers were stocked with Aesop shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
One aspect of the Club on the Park I loved were the dressing areas, which had several different styles of Aesop hair product and lotions and oils galore. It was a great place to spend some relaxing time, and to shower and freshen up, before leaving for the airport.
Food and Drink
The Park Hyatt Tokyo has a traditional Japanese restaurant, Kozue, a European restaurant, Girandole (where breakfast is served), the Peak Bar and Lounge on the 41st floor, and of course the famed New York Bar and New York Grill on the 51st floor, where key scenes from “Lost in Translation” were filmed.
The casual patisserie, The Delicatessen, on the first and second floor of the building is frustratingly not open in the mornings. When I asked hotel staff where I could get a quick breakfast, the answer was that the only place to get breakfast was Girandole, which was, aside from being expensive, far too formal and time-consuming for my taste. Frustratingly, there’s no Starbucks or any other breakfast- or coffee-appropriate place within close walking distance. On the last day, we discovered that the adjacent office building had a shabby coffee shop, which served terrible and overpriced coffee and breakfast pastries — I would not recommend it.
You have to walk past Girandole to get from the elevators to the guestrooms, and while it’s an airy space, I hardly ever saw a soul eating there.
We did have drinks at the New York Bar one evening, and there was a bit of a wait to be seated (although it wasn’t too bad). The bar is gorgeous, though the live music — it’s worth pointing out — is very loud and the drinks are wildly expensive (think $20 minimum, $15 if you want a beer). It was a lovely place, atmosphere-wise, but maybe not the ideal place to hold a conversation.
The New York Bar and New York Grill are, to be clear, tourist destinations in the wake of “Lost in Translation.” Our last day we rode the elevators up with two American tourist girls who could best be described of as “basic backpacker” (pigtails, camera around their necks, backpacks, Tevas) who very loudly shouted at us when we reached the Peak Bar and Lounge, “IS THIS THE LOST IN TRANSLATION BAR!?!?” Though I was tempted to lead them astray since they were clearly underdressed for the actual New York Bar, I did point them to the 51st floor, and I do hope they enjoyed their photo-op.
On the last evening, we also shared an over-mayonnaised chicken sandwich and a couple of very expensive drinks at the Peak Lounge, which was substantially calmer than the New York Bar — if you’re just looking for a drink at the lobby bar with a view, the Peak Lounge is perhaps an easier option than the New York Bar, which is a scene.
Park Hyatt Tokyo Bottom Line
The bottom line is, save your points, save your free-night redemptions and for goodness sake’s, save your money until the Park Hyatt Tokyo gets a top-to-bottom makeover. I’m not aware of any planned, but it’s certainly ripe for one. When that happens, I have no doubt that, like the refreshed Park Hyatt Sydney, the hotel will be a stunner of epic proportions. It certainly has the bones for it, as well as the history.
For now, I would choose the Andaz instead, every time.
In the meantime, if you do want to see what all the fuss is about, go in with eyes wide open. The service will be phenomenal, as to be expected from a five-star Japanese hotel. If you’re not design-minded, or if you still listen to the Gin Blossoms on your Discman and wear Hypercolor shirts and Reebok Pumps, you may well have no quibbles with the Park Hyatt Tokyo whatsoever. From a “soft product” standpoint, the hotel is flawless.
However, the hard product — design, decor and technology — leaves a great deal to be desired.
When you couple that with the sort of tourist-trap anecdote above — which was hardly the first instance we saw loud, obnoxious tourists take photographs of the OH MY GOD THIS IS THE LOST IN TRANSLATION HOTEL — the experience, from a luxury hotel standpoint, is suboptimal.
There are folks who still ooh and aah over the Park Hyatt on TripAdvisor, and bless their hearts. You may be one of them, too. But the simple truth is that the Park Hyatt Tokyo has not been updated in 21 years. A refresh is sorely needed.
Not to beat a dead horse, but if you’re looking for flawless style, design, and luxury, you could save yourself some money and some points and book the Andaz instead.