Andazamania: Live coverage of grand opening of Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills

Here we go!

Updating throughout the day and night. Please refresh this page to get the latest updates.

There are easier ways of getting there, but because I have a JR train pass, I will walk from Shinbashi Station.

Between the gap. About a 15 minute walk. Bring an umbrella.

Between the gap. About a 15 minute walk. Bring an umbrella.

 

And…

We're here!

We’re here!

I was escorted up the elevator by a man that I’d never met, but who knew me from my Grand Hyatt Tokyo stays.  Both hotels are owned by the same company, so there are likely many similarities to be found.

I was escorted into this area to wait for assistance:

Reminds me a little of the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa checkin area.

Reminds me a little of the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa check-in area.

I was assisted by several staff in this area over the next 20 minutes or so, including the Front Office Manager.  They asked me for my choice of drink, and I requested ice coffee, which was brought promptly.

Neither shaken nor stirred.

Neither shaken nor stirred.

The bulk of my assistance came from a nice lady named Mami, who spoke good English but was noticeably more comfortable speaking Japanese.  There were a few questions that stumped her, such as the variety of pillows available and whether there were swimsuits available for use at the pool, but that’s to be expected on opening day.

I noticed some delicious cookies on the desk, and waited for 10 minutes for an invitation before I could stands no more and asked if I could have them, at which point Mami was happy to oblige.

They were excellent cookies, so I forgive the oversight.

They were excellent cookies, so I forgive the oversight.

It was at this point that they showed me the area behind the desks, where drinks and a coffee machine were available.  The Front Office Manager told me that I could come down and take what I liked and use this lobby-like area at any time, part of the mi casa su casa approach that Andaz takes.

Free soft drinks and juice.

Free soft drinks and juice.

Free coffee.

Free coffee.

During one of the times that the Front Office Manager stopped over, I broached the subject of Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond suite upgrades.  She said that they could NOT be used at the Andaz Tokyo, on account of the limited number of suites available.  What about those that had gotten them applied in the confusion of the first day of reservations?  She had to check on that, which made me quite nervous, but she said that those that got to use them WOULD have them honored.  So at least I will still be able to review a suite for you later this summer.

As for today, my Andaz Twin was upgraded to an Andaz Bay View Twin.  I was hoping for an upgrade to an Andaz Large room, but apparently those are only available with King beds.  I thought about asking for a switch, but I figured that I might as well review the Bay Twin now, and try for the Andaz Large room another time.

Mami, the main person assisting me with the check-in process, also was the person to show me to my room.  She insisted on carrying my heavy bag, but after a few seconds I insisted that I wanted it back.  No matter how long I stay in Japan, I cannot allow a woman half my size to carry my heavy stuff around!

About 90 minutes before regular check-in time, we arrived at the room.

 

To boldly go where...wait, I already used that joke already.

To boldly go where…wait, I already used that joke already.

The room is very white and very bright.  It reminded me of something I had seen before, but I couldn’t put my finger on it…

Not a particularly good angle to watch television from.

Not a particularly good angle to watch television from.

But then it finally hit me.  The inspiration for this hotel, just a few minutes walk away.  The Nakagin Capsule Tower!

It's what people in 1965 thought the world would be like in 1987!

It’s what people in 1965 thought the world would be like in 1987!

A few more pictures of the main area of the room:

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Time to check out the Minibar for Rabbit:

Well...

Well…

Despite the much ballyhooed “free minibar”, only the non-alcoholic items are free.  And these are exactly the same items that are available in the downstair lobby-like area, only not as many.

The offerings continue down below.

Again, only the non-alcoholic stuff is free.

Again, only the non-alcoholic stuff is free.

The only munchies available are two little packets of rice packets.  I haven’t eaten any lunch yet as I rush to update this blog, so I have consumed the munchies.  They are quite tasty.  But when I think “Minibar”, I think of something a little more well-stocked than this.  Definitely the biggest disappointment I have encountered so far.

On to the bathroom:

Circles are in play big time here.

Circles are in play big time here.

I knew my estimate was a bit too conservative…the toilet has fifteen buttons to work it!

Don't forget to do what you came here to do.

Don’t forget to do what you came here to do.

There’s a nice big circular tub to soak in:

Deep.

Deep.

I am not sure what brand these amenities are…or even if they have a brand!

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The towels are nice and fluffy, and there’s an explanation for the nice smell in the room:

Come back each season to experience a new smell!

Come back each season to experience a new smell!

OK, I’m going to go out and explore the rest of the hotel.  It seems that the upper floors can only be accessed by those with a paid reservation, so I assume that everything is nice and quiet.

Be back soon!  And please comment if there is anything you would like me to research for you while I’m here.

I have sent a bunch of pictures of the hotel area and spa/pool are via my Twitter account. It will take awhile to integrate them into this post, so please see them there for now.

Here’s a five minute video of the pool and exercise facilities:

What should I do next…

You know, I came into this really wanting to like this place and give it a glowing review. But between the room design (especially the sleeping area), and the offputting clash between Andaz hospitality (that I’ve never really experienced, but I’m getting a glimpse of from the foreign staff) and Japanese uber-politeness…I’m just not feeling it with this hotel yet.

I have no complaints about the friendliness and earnest feelings of the staff, which are genuine. But this blend of east and west is just not working. Speaking in the highest level of politeness (さようでございます and such) works to soothe and relax the customer of a Japanese ryokan, but in a Western-style hotel, it just produces an uncomfortable feeling. I feel totally on edge when I’m walking through the hotel, and the insane asylum pitch-white walls of the bedroom make me feel totally on edge when I’m in my room.

The pool and spa are gorgeous, and a welcome oasis in this hotel. Outside of that area, there is nowhere to unwind. There is nowhere to relax. Contrary to the supposed mission of Andaz, this is the most uncomfortable that any Hyatt hotel has ever made me feel.

On another note, when I asked about the Diamond amenity, I was told that all guests were getting a special amenity today, so I should just take the 1000 points.  Which I did.  First time that a Tokyo Hyatt hotel has tried to steer me towards the point amenity rather than away from it!

The amenity just arrived, and it is very nice:

Very nice box

Very nice box

I will refrain from making a Forrest Gump reference here:

Over fifteen different kinds of chocolates!

Eleven different kinds of chocolates!

The only other Diamond benefit mentioned was free breakfast, served in the Tavern restaurant from 6:30am.  No mention of being able to receive it with room service.

Here’s a shot of the room keys.  Here, you don’t stick them in a slot, you just touch them against a panel to unlock the door.  Artwork is by Toshiya Takahama, but it doesn’t appear to be anything special to commemorate the opening night.

Being overwhelmed by avant-garde fanciness.

Being overwhelmed by avant-garde fanciness.

I am on the 50th floor, but I can hear the sound of a nearby ambulance quite clearly…

I wanted to checkout the rooftop promenade, but apparently it is in use by the rooftop bar, and there is a long line waiting for that.  I’m not sure why, as there is very little visibility with the rain at this point.  Anyway, I decided to try out room service instead.

The room service menu is a little light.  Normally I like to compare the hotels by their spaghetti bolognese  (currently #1 is Park Hyatt Tokyo, followed by Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Hyatt Regency Hakone, and Hyatt Regency Tokyo, though all are at least pretty good), but they do not have that dish on the menu.  So I decided to go with the “Classic Bebu Burger”: smoky bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles.  Should be arriving in a few minutes…

WOW! This burger is awesome!

My compliments to the chef.

My compliments to the chef.

Let’s open it up to get the low down:

Light on the mayonnaise. I respect that.

Light on the mayonnaise. I respect that.

Very juicy, flavorful meat, complemented nicely by the cheddar cheese, vegetables and sparse use of mayonnaise.  What really makes this burger is the bun…the perfect combination of crunchiness and chewiness.

Props to the shoestring fries as well.  Though not as good at the duck-fat fries of the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Bar, they are delightfully crispy with a strong potato flavor.  You could also get a salad as the side for your hamburger, but if your arteries can handle it, go with the fries.

This might bump out the spa as the highlight of the stay.  Well done Andaz Tokyo!

My one complaint is that they could have supplied me with a little more ketchup.  Next time I’ll ask for at least two of those plates.

Guess it’s time to check out the rest of the Toranomon Hills complex.

And I’m back. The place was jumping! Here’s a quick look at most of it:

I tried to take a walk around the vicinity, but the torrential rains kept me from getting too far.  However, here’s a shot of the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills building at night:

The June 12th guests will have the first honor of enjoying the roof bar outdoors at night.

The June 12th guests will have the first honor of enjoying the roof bar outdoors at night.

The hotel has prepared these pretty yukata for you to sleep in:

...but yukata ride up on my butt when I sleep...

…but yukata ride up on my butt when I sleep…

But if you call Housekeeping, you can have plain old pajamas brought up for you instead.

Now that's more like it!

Now that’s more like it!

The pool, exercise room, and locker facilities are open from 5am to 10pm daily.  You can go down there in your bathrobe and slippers…which is what I intend to do right now!

Some fishies greet you in the elevator on the way to the AO Spa.

Why fishes?  Why not?

Why fishes? Why not?

The entrance was nice…but it was not the first time that I would be reminded of the Conrad Tokyo.

Not that being Conrad Tokyo 2.0 is a particularly bad thing.

Not that being Conrad Tokyo 2.0 is a particularly bad thing.

You can wait for somebody to help you, or you can just make a left and help yourself.  Those under 16 cannot use the locker room, so that will have to enter the pool area from here (children under four cannot enter the pool at all)  The rest of us can head to the locker room to change:

The locker room is better than the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, but not as a good as the Park Hyatt Tokyo

The locker room is better than the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, but not as a good as the Park Hyatt Tokyo

I’ve already covered the pool rather extensively in the YouTube video, but here’s a shot of the view as you enter the room.

Here's where the Conrad flashback gets REALLY strong.

Here’s where the Conrad flashbacks gets REALLY strong.

The exercise room is adjacent to the pool area, and is visible from the little walkway separating the pool area from the outer walkway (that is, unfortunately, not exposed to the outdoors.  So not nearly as impressive as Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands infinity pool).  It is pretty adequately stacked for a hotel with only 164 total rooms.

Lots of lonely machines

Lots of lonely machines

The view might be even better than that of the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

The view might be even better than that from the Park Hyatt Tokyo, though you can’t tell from these pictures…

The bathing facilities of the locker room were quite good, bordering on excellent.  The showers are the rain shower type that fall from the ceiling.  The unnamed toilertries turned out to be a local brand called Pelican Soap, and were quite good.  Not nearly on Aesop level, but better than any other shampoo and body soap I’ve experienced at a Hyatt hotel.

The plunge pool was so tiny that even one person would have difficulty fitting in it, but the bath was fairly spacious. Best of all was the beautiful dry sauna, so nice looking that it’s the one area of this hotel that I would rank above the Park Hyatt Tokyo up to this point.  Unfortunately, somebody else was using the premises, so I was only able to get a quick shot of the bath.

Not pictured is a big red LED sign that gives the temperature of the water to the nearest tenth of a degree.

Not pictured is a big red LED sign that gives the temperature of the water to the nearest tenth of a degree.

Also in the locker room area was a relaxation place.  In a back room, there were four partitioned massage chairs.  Pretty comfortable, but not as advanced as the chairs available at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

At the entrance to this room was some water, some fruit, and little chocolate type snacks.

A little more meager than the Grand Hyatt Tokyo offerings. And I missed the dried fruit that the Park Hyatt Tokyo has.

More meager than the Grand Hyatt Tokyo offerings. And I missed the dried fruit that the Park Hyatt Tokyo has.

There are no plates or utensils around, so I couldn’t figure out how to eat the fruit.  But my curiosity over what that red fruit was got the better of me.  So I ripped it apart and found that it was…a pomegranate!  It was quite tasty, but I now how seeds and juice all over me and the floor.  Fortunately, I was alone at the time, so I rushed to devour it Lord Of The Flies style, and swept away any incriminating evidence with my bath towel.  For the life of me, I could never figure out how I was supposed to eat that over there, so I swiped a few to eat back in my room in a more civilized manner.

...and I did.

…and I did.

So…it’s 10pm.  The spa and pool are closed, I don’t feel like venturing out to the bar, and I’ve heard nary a peep from any of you all day.  And I’ve got to go back to the day job tomorrow.  So I’m calling it an early night.  I’ll be back again when I wake up.  If it’s in the middle of the night, I’ll check out the late night lobby scene.  If it’s around 5am, I’ll check out the pool/exercise area.  Otherwise, I’ll be back at 6:30am to report on breakfast at the Tavern.

Thanks for visiting!  There’s still some time for me to followup on stuff, so leave me a comment if there’s anything you want to know while I’m here.

P.S. If you haven’t visited my Twitter feed yet, there’s still several pictures there that haven’t been posted here yet.

Good (early) morning from the Andaz Tokyo!

Let's

Rain…

Let's

Rain…

Let's

Go away!

It’s 4:30am.  Let’s check out the mi casa su casa concept now!

At 4:40am, I went down to grab a cappuccino (because that’s what I’d do in my house), but the coffee machine wasn’t functional.

Because who wants coffee early in the morning?

Because who wants coffee early in the morning?

There were a bunch of staff having a meeting of some sort.  None of them seemed to notice me, so I went over to one of them and asked if I could get a coffee, and he said he’d see what he could do.

Hard to tell who's a customer and who's an employee.

Hard to tell who’s a customer and who’s an employee.

I think that the guy I asked was at least trying to do something, but after five minutes I still had no coffee.  At least the refrigerator was available, so I just grabbed a Coke Zero and went back to the room.  At least the “make do with what you have” aspect is true to the mi casa su casa concept…

Jumping back a bit, a word on the sleeping arrangements in this hotel.  The bed and beddings are comfortable.  It’s a bit hard for Western tastes, but after many years in Japan I am used to and actually prefer that.

Even with the lights off, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of being in a padded room with this design, but if I closed my eyes and forced myself not to think of it I could get over it.  What I could not get over was the incessant ticking of this chintzy little clock (one of the few things in the room with an Andaz brand on it)  Fortunately, there was a solution to that:

Step one: pop tab. Step two, spend two minutes trying to dig out battery.

Step one: pop tab. Step two, spend two minutes trying to dig out battery.

However, there was no solution to the incessant humming noise that permeates this hotel, that you notice when everything is turned off and incessant clocks are disabled (what does it say about a room when I constantly use the word “incessant” to describe it?)  As Anna from Frozen says, “Conceal, don’t feel”, so I took advantage of the hotel television’s Sleep function to drown out the humming with a news program, eventually falling asleep until a little after four, at which point I was able to restart this little adventure.

It’s now a little after 5am.  The spa should be open now, so let’s see what’s hopping there.

Recognized the guy working there as someone that had worked at the Park Hyatt Tokyo poolside area for seven years previously.  They certainly do have the talent to make this hotel a success.

Some more pictures of the pool and locker room area.

You may choose whichever locker you wish.

You may choose whichever locker you wish.

A warning about the lockers: they are the type where you put in your own four digit code to lock them.  However, when locking or opening the lockers, the numbers do not reset to zero;  they stay as whatever code you entered.  So you must reset them manually, or risk somebody coming in and taking your stuff, or discovering the PIN number to your bank account…

Some more pictures from the bathing area.  First, the sauna that I raved about earlier:

Not the greatest picture, but taken at great risk to my phone.

Not the greatest picture, but taken at great risk to my phone.

Rain shower:

Regular shower also including. Amenities are nice, but not a religious experience.

Regular shower also including. Amenities are nice, but not a religious experience.

Some dark pictures of the nice bath and tiny plunge pool, just so we have them represented.

41.2 degress celsius.

41.2 degress celsius.

About 20 degrees celsius.

About 20 degrees celsius.

Back to the relaxation area, here is one of the massage chairs I mentioned earlier:

All of the buttons and labels are Japanese, so have fun figuring out what does what!

All of the buttons and labels are Japanese, so have fun figuring out what does what!

Back to the snack area, but there was no fruit today, just a sad empty bowl.

And I wanted to challenge eating the pomegranate once more. :(

And I wanted to challenge eating the pomegranate once more. :(

Some of the chocolate wafer snacks available in the glass bin.  There was a coffee flavored one yesterday, but I guess that was the most popular one, as they were all out of it this morning:

Green tea, black sesame, and "kinako" flavor.

Green tea, black sesame, and “kinako” flavor.

I wanted to try out the exercise room, but apparently they were not able to get the rental clothes available in time for opening, though the somehow managed to scrounge up a swimsuit for me.  So here’s a few pictures of the pool area.

First, the jacuzzi.  There are many, but I don’t know how to pluralize the word.  First, the no bubble area:

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With bubbles:

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A standing place where bubbles come out of the ground:

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And my personal favorite, the jacuzzi chairs.  They are both slightly different: one has strong, hard bubbles, and the other has soft, slightly ticklish bubbles.

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I forgot to point out that the bathing cap that they make you wear is a 100% elastic type, and extremely tight on the head.

But it will really smooth out your wrinkles!

But it will really smooth out your wrinkles!

It seems that the outer walkway is, in fact, partially exposed to the outside, as it was quite wet and slippery from the torrential rains that have been failing since yesterday.

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The staff guy was taking pictures of some marks on the wall.  I took one too for posterity.

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Finally, because it’s almost time for breakfast, here are a bunch of pictures of the pool presented without comment:

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And now, it’s time for breakfast.  If it’s anywhere near as good as the dinnertime room service hamburger I had, then I am really look forward to this!

Arrived at the Tavern at 6:27am.  The Japanese lady told me to wait three minutes.  Then a foreign lady overruled her and told me to come in.  That’s kind of a microcosm of the gulf between the Japanese staff and Andaz hospitality.

But, by hook or by crook, I was the first person to eat breakfast at the Andaz Tokyo!

♪All by myself...♪

♪All by myself…♪

The hamburger set my expectations high, and I was not to be disappointed:

A feast for the eyes!

A feast for the eyes!

It was very reminiscent of breakfast at the French Kitchen in the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

Running low on time, so here’s some more food and restaurant pictures without comment.

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The food was all very high quality, and the chefs in the kitchen all very friendly and accommodating.  If I could ask for one thing from this restaurant, it would be a little more variety…particularly in the salad area, where there was only some greens, tomatoes, and oil and vinegar for dressing.  But all in all, there was definitely an adequate selection.

Despite being a Diamond member, I was given a bill for over 4500 yen.  The manager explained that everyone gets a bill, and the amount is taken off the folio later.  Okay, that’s fine if that actually happens, but not the most user friendly way of handling things.  Actually, the acknowledgement of Diamonds on the whole is weak compared with the other Tokyo Hyatt hotels.  Everyone got an amenity, the only “bonus” mentioned was breakfast, and the room upgrade was not particularly stunning.

Speaking of the room, here’s how they expect one of the guests to watch television in bed:

What, an 8 degree angle isn't good enough for you?

What, an 8 degree angle isn’t good enough for you?

Some closing thoughts in a few…

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I liken the rooms at this hotel to taking the finest Japanese beef, and the finest Italian ice cream, mixing it in a blender, and serving it to the unsuspecting customer.  This hotel had so much potential, but it squandered it on being different for the sake of being different.  What a shame.

The Front Office Manager at the Andaz Tokyo is beyond awesome.  If they could clone forty of her to run this hotel, the service would be perfect.  But as it stands right now, the Japanese staff, while all great people, do not buy into the Andaz hospitality concept, and do not execute the Andaz mission.  I imagine that, in time, and with great difficulty, they will become adequate at performing the task, but it really seems like fitting a square peg into a round hole.  If they truly want to execute the Andaz brand in Tokyo, I think that they should settle on an entirely foreign staff.  The hotel is already quite expensive, so jacking up the rates another 20 or 30% probably won’t make any difference.

That’s not to say that everything about the Andaz Tokyo experience is bad.  The food ranks among the best that I’ve eaten anywhere.  While the pool itself is nearly a clone of the Conrad Tokyo, the jacuzzi and spa areas are amazing, and the view is indeed breathtaking.  And I’m still looking forward to trying out the suite later this summer to see if the sleeping arrangements aren’t any better over there.

If you can get past the dismal bedroom design, wait a few months for the hotel to smooth out its service issues and give it a try.  But don’t do so at the expense of a once in a lifetime experience at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, or if the value of the Hyatt Regency Tokyo is a better fit for your budget.

Thank you so much for reading!  I’m off to see if I’ll have any issue using Hyatt Check Certificates to pay for this…

8 thoughts on “Andazamania: Live coverage of grand opening of Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills

  1. Love your website. I stayed at Andaz few weeks ago and liked the room and lighting design much more than you do. The wall mounted TV actually pulls out and swivels much more so to provide better viewing from bed.

    • In this particular room the TV swivel was not working (it was working in the living room of the suite that I reviewed) That was the very first day, so perhaps that particular problem has been resolved.

      Glad you enjoyed your stay!

  2. Thank you for the awesome review! I have a quick question: is the spa free to use for everyone? Or just diamonds/certain room types? I’m debating whether to use my certificate (from the chase credit card) on this or the Park Hyatt. Park Hyatt seems like a more logical choice, but I really want to go to Tsukiji market for breakfast haha.

    • Hi Annie.

      The Club on the Park spa is free for Diamonds and for certain room rates, such as the Weekday Retreat rate. Check the Park Hyatt Tokyo website Offers page for more information on rate plans that include the Spa access for non-Diamonds.

  3. Thanks a lot for this excellent and very detailed review. I have stayed at some Hyatt properties too (Hamburg, Shanghai, Tokyo, Dubai) and love the PHT. Its by far the best hotel I have stayed so far and I will for sure, after reading your review, stick with staying at the PHT instead of staying at the Andaz. That said, I will check out the Bebu restaurant next time Im in Tokyo ;-).

    Thanks again and Im looking forward to many other great reviews to come.

    By the way, are you going to post a PHT suite review anytime soon?

    • Thanks for the comments!

      I will try to fit in a Park Hyatt Tokyo Park Suite review soon. :)

  4. Between Conrad Tokyo or andaz Tokyo , who wins? Thanks :)

    • Hi Markus.

      Interesting question! :)

      I think it’s a bit of a tossup at this point. Conrad has better rooms, better location, and a very nice club lounge. Andaz has better pool/spa, better food, and is probably more “interesting” of the two.

      I really don’t want to choose…but, gun to my head, I would say Conrad at this time. The cute white duck is the difference maker. ;)

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