When Mandarin Oriental opened its first property in Tokyo in the winter of 2005, a lot of uncertainties enveloped its leap into the Japanese market. No other luxury hotel group has ventured into the historic, albeit busy, business district of Nihombashi, until then. Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo stuck out like a sore thumb, being a nonconformist high-rise hotel accommodation in such an unusual location. The bold introduction somehow resulted to a lukewarm reception.
Overtime, though, Tokyoites seemed to have warmed up to the idea of indulging themselves 37 stories up the ground. Who wouldn’t? Being in the last 9 floors of the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, the tallest building in the area, it is quite understandable that the hotel’s bar, restaurants, and rooms all offer commanding views of the city.
Looking back, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group might have just made the right decisions – recently being named as one of Tokyo’s top hotels in a Forbes Travel Guide.
But what does it take to be one of Tokyo’s top hotels?
“Being innovative”, says Akane Murakami, Mandarin Oriental Tokyo’s Marketing Manager. “It is easy to say that you are innovative, but it’s different when you say you are truly passionate about experimenting with new ideas. Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo is always trying to mix things up with the aim of bringing the best of the world to the city.”
The journey started when the hotel group chose to take a risk. Nihombashi might be the beating heart of Tokyo, but building a luxury brand around its history alone would not have been enough. The hotel’s design must push limits, and blur the lines, if it were to be a class of its own.
With its clean lines, framing a mélange of the old and the new, the Western and the Oriental, Mandarin Oriental had set the stage for amalgamating Cesar Pelli’s world-renowned genius with Ryu Kosaka’s chic Japanese aesthetics. The hotel was created as a modern take on a life-giving tree: with the entrance area forming the roots; and the restaurants and rooms, the branches. The heavy use of wood elements, flowing water, and rough stone in the 37th and 38th floor evokes a sense of being perfectly at ease in nature.
Lounging in the Mandarin Bar, one cannot help but feel like a bird perched atop a tree branch, with a stream running past below. The full sensory experience magically uplifts a city-dweller’s roughed up spirit.
Although the overarching idea is firmly rooted in traditional Japanese sensibilities, the execution is unmistakably contemporary. The velvet, leather, stainless steel, and glass accents work so well for the open plan design. What distinguishes one area from another is a change in motíf. It’s surprising how seamlessly one area melds with the next. One could get pleasantly lost in another restaurant without even meaning to.
Most hotels could not pull all of these off; most try but inevitably fail. Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo though, can’t seem to play it safe. They keep on coming up with new idea after another, setting the bar higher each time.
*This story is in cooperation with the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo.