Tokyo is a city of constant change. For the most part, it prides itself in visions of the new. This perhaps explains why it is one of the most dynamic places in the world. For example, neighborhoods are overhauled and buildings are torn down and rebuilt so quickly here that it’s hard to remember what was once in place before. Cars, too, along with furniture and clothes are often used for three or four years and then traded in for newer versions.
Amidst all this activity, it’s refreshing to encounter some places that have never needed to change. The Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku is one of these. It opened over 20 years ago to great acclaim for its design, service and vision. In fact, this hotel defined the new direction for the global hospitality industry. After the hotel industry got a glimpse of it, perceptions were never the same again. When it opened, it left everyone who visited breathless over its aesthetics.
GREAT DESIGNS ARE TIMELESS
However, 20 years is a long time to hold on to an aesthetic, especially in Tokyo. But the Park Hyatt Tokyo has impressively and literally stayed the course. Every detail in practically every room or public space is still there from the 1990s. The restaurants, too, have kept their original interiors. There have been no changes at all in design.
In fact, regulars might even venture forth that even the books in the hotel library on the lobby floor, displayed for everyone to see, have also stayed in place. Meanwhile, I noticed that the framed ink drawings that the designers and hotel opening team — GM David Udell and Assistant GM Ernesto de Lima — had chosen were also in their original places in the corridors.
JUST LIKE DAY 1 AT THE PARK HYATT TOKYO
Interestingly, in spite of practically no revisions, the hotel has the atmosphere of being as new and fresh as the day it opened. So it’s not just the visual that has stayed the same. The feeling of freshness has remained too. I used to visit this hotel a lot in the early days, so I got to know every detail, every nook and cranny. And recently, returning for a stay after a hiatus of many years, I was very surprised to see that the hotel had remained exactly the same.
“Wow, the hotel is exactly as I remember it,” I said to the reception team who met us upon arrival. Indeed, as we took the elevator up to the lobby floor, I observed that even the quirky brass heads that are anchored to its walls have stood the test of time. The neutral and olive green color scheme and the sleek modern furnishings have also been kept as is.
THE POWER OF (NO) CHANGE
Later on I met Herve Mazella, the hotel’s general manager, for tea in the bright glass domed lobby with a bamboo garden in the middle. “When we change something, we do it in a way that it fits the existing design. We wish to ensure it keeps looking fresh and it also feels that it has always been like that. The entire team of the Park Hyatt Tokyo cares about and respects this hotel legacy.”
Indeed, a quick visit to the poolside area and gym makes me feel like I’m in a time warp. The furniture are recent acquisitions but nothing seems to have changed. The whole floor is exactly as I remember it. So I’m having a bad case of deja vu. I’m my twenty-something year old self again, in my twenty-something year old bikini body, enjoying the views of Tokyo from the lounge chair by the pool.
In the fast-paced world of Tokyo, coupled with the world turning upside down due to the pandemic, it’s just so nice to see a favorite place still standing exactly as I always remember it, a reminder of the good old days and a provider of hope that more of these days will soon come again. In the meantime, while waiting for a resumption of normality, I can always check into the Park Hyatt Tokyo for a temporary feeling of it.