Introducing…the Grand Hyatt Tokyo (at last)

May 21st, 2014

I’ve been trying for the longest time to think of a way to describe the Grand Hyatt Tokyo on its own merits, but my strongest impression remains the differences between the Park and the Regency.  So I’ve decided to just go with that.

To me, the Park Hyatt Tokyo and the Hyatt Regency Tokyo are two sides of the same coin.  Both hotels were intended to be elegant escapes for well-heeled old money, and both are in the same relatively isolated sections of the city.  While the Park has avoided the pratfalls of its successor and still lives up to its intended role, the Regency’s dated dreams of grandeur burst with the economic bubble of the 80′s.  However, the Regency has successfully reinvented themselves as a champion of the people, providing quality lodging and excellent service at an affordable price, giving normal people a taste of the old money class.

The Grand Hyatt Tokyo is a completely different coin.

For starters, the Grand is located in the new Roppongi Hills complex, a city in the sky that never sleeps, and is the symbol of Tokyo’s new money.  You don’t go to Roppongi Hills to get away from life, you go to Roppongi Hills to be thrown smack dab in the middle of it.  From the finest shops, to the finest bars and restaurants, to the finest movies (where the stars themselves occasionally come to do PR work), there’s never a dull moment for the person that never sleeps.

A single picture cannot do Roppongi Hills justice. But this is pretty just the same.

A single picture cannot do Roppongi Hills justice. But this is pretty just the same.

But, for the person that does sleep, there is the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

Centrally located in the middle of the complex, the Grand Hyatt tries not to blend in, but to make you take notice.  In the spacious lobby, wood, rock, and marble all join forces to impart an aura of power and confidence.  A salesman cannot walk through this hotel and not leave with the impression that the next big sale is right around the corner for the taking.

The self-confidence of this hotel manifests itself in its other facilities as well.  While the Park and Regency try to impress with rooftop pools and windows inviting you to look at Tokyo from above, the pool in the Grand Hyatt’s Nagomi Spa complex draws you into its own esoteric environment, forged of rare red granite.  Not content with a blasé rectangular pool, the circular jacuzzi juts into the swimming area, giving the whole thing the peculiar design of a small letter d.  While the chairs at the Park Hyatt Tokyo are designed for maximal comfort, any comfort you experience in a Grand Hyatt Tokyo pool chair is purely coincidental, though the enhanced feng shui might make up for it.

There is a rooftop pool at this hotel, but it is for the exclusive use of one group:  the guests of the Presidential Suite.  While the Park Hyatt’s Presidential Suite excels with the highest quality furnishings and its own private butler (and the Regency seemingly gives up on making its Presidential Suite special, focusing on the more accessible Atrium Suites instead), the Grand Hyatt goes in a completely different direction with private gardens and an outdoor heated pool (the only suite with its own pool in all of Tokyo), all on its own private floor.  While the Park Hyatt’s Presidential Suite is a discrete place to pamper those that have known wealth all their life, the Grand Hyatt is the place to go to skinny dip and nakedly scream “I HAVE MONEY!” at the world.

(Again, I must humbly admit that I have no first hand experience with any Presidential Suite.  But if Hyatt would like to offer me a chance to perform an unbiased review of these rooms [or even a heavily biased review], I would grudgingly accept their offer.)

And I guess that, in a nutshell, is the difference I feel between the Grand Hyatt and the other two currently existing Tokyo Hyatt hotels.  While the others make me relaxed and comfortable, everything about this one gets me all amped up to take on the world.  That’s not to say that you can’t relax at the Grand Hyatt (this is the only one of the Tokyo Hyatt hotels where I’ve experienced a massage, and the experience was possibly the closest I’ve ever come to achieving a state of nirvana), but it is really designed to be enjoyed by those that take life by the throat and shake it down for all it’s worth.

Going to the Park and Regency feels like going home.  Going to the Grand feels like going on a great adventure.

There are a lot of things that I want to talk about with regards to this hotel in more detail going forward, such as the aforementioned massage and spa facilities, the truly excellent food and staff of the Grand Club Lounge that competes for my attention with The Oak Door and many other fabulous restaurants (that themselves must compete with many other great restaurants just a few steps away), and some of the many, many things to see and do within the complex.  Most of all, I’m looking forward to talking about the greatest non-suite room in all of Tokyo;  the elusive Club Deluxe Corner Queen.

But I spend more time at home than on adventures, so this is still my least familiar of the Tokyo Hyatt hotels.  If there’s something I’m missing or selling short, please let me know!

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Introducing…Hyatt Gold Passport

May 19th, 2014

As this blog is still in its infancy as of this writing, the vast majority of my tiny readership is coming from Milepoint and Flyertalk, two excellent resources for all things travel and hotel related, so this post is probably information that those people already know.  But I have a dream…that one day, this site will create millions and millions of new Tokyo Hyatt Fans.  And we will form an army, march down to Omaha, and demand the return of the Faster Free Nights campaign!

…but I’m getting ahead of myself.  The point is that those new people will need to be brought up to speed.  Leave no Tokyo Hyatt Fan behind is our motto!  So with that, let me start this session of Tokyo Hyatt Fan 101 with an introduction of Hyatt’s loyalty program, known as Gold Passport, and an explanation as to why this should concern you.

Hyatt Gold Passport is a membership club that gives benefits to its members, and encourages them to deal directly with Hyatt as opposed to third party reservation services such as Expedia and Priceline.  It is free to join, and it is open to everyone.  There is zero reason not to join, and it imparts privileges on the user the second enollment is completed.  Some benefits are property specific (as an example, I believe that membership allows for free admission into the Hyatt Regency Tokyo pool, whereas a 2000 yen fee would otherwise apply), but the vast majority extend of benefits throughout the worldwide Hyatt chain.

There are three published tiers to Hyatt Gold Passport membership:  Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.  The following is a brief explanation of the benefits of each level and how they may be attained:

Gold

Gold Membership is the introductory level of Gold Passport membership.  It includes the following benefits, that are available at all tier levels:

  • For every dollar spent at a Hyatt hotel you earn five Hyatt Gold Passport points.
  • Points may be redeemed for free nights at Hyatt hotels, or may be converted into miles with some partner airlines.
  • Points may also be combined with cash to make discounted reservations, or used to upgrade a Hyatt Daily Rate reservation to a club room or suite.
  • See the Redemption Options page on the Hyatt website for more information.

At current rates, 12000 points will earn a free night in a standard room at Hyatt Regency Tokyo, 25000 points are good for a standard room at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo and Andaz Tokyo, and 30000 points can be redeemed for a free night at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Platinum

The normal method of being upgraded to Platinum membership is by making at least five paid stays or 15 paid nights (whichever happens first) within a single calendar year.  There are several other methods of obtaining the Platinum tier status, which I will discuss at another time.

In addition to all of the benefits of Gold membership, Platinum members also earn the following:

  • 15% bonus on points earned
  • One level non-suite room upgrade, based on availability.
  • Free in-room internet access
  • Dedicated check in for elite members
  • 72-hour guaranteed room availability (with some blackout dates at the discretion of each property)
  • Late checkout until 2pm upon request (subject to availability)
  • Access to special “My Elite Rate”, a 20% savings on Hyatt Daily Rate.

The last one is arguably the biggest benefit of Platinum status, as this could save you many thousands of yen on your Tokyo Hyatt reservation.

Platinum status is definitely good to have, but if you really want to maximize your enjoyment of the Tokyo Hyatt hotels, you will want to strive to become a Diamond member.

Diamond

The highest published tier of the Hyatt Gold Passport program, the normal method of earning Diamond status is by completing 25 paid stays or 50 paid nights (whichever happens first) in a Hyatt hotel within a calendar year. Diamond status gets you all of the above benefits plus the following:

  • 30% bonus on points earned
  • Upgrade to the best available non-suite
  • Free access for all of the room’s guests to the club lounge at Hyatt hotels that have them, or free full breakfast at hotels that don’t.
  • A welcome bonus during every stay of either 1000 points or a food/beverage amenity of the hotel’s choosing.
  • Up to four paid stays a year of up to seven nights each can receive a guaranteed suite upgrade.
  • 48-hour guaranteed room availability (with some blackout dates at the discretion of each property)
  • Late checkout until 4pm upon request (subject to availability)

Specific hotels may also grant additional privileges to Diamond members.  For example, while the Park Hyatt Tokyo does not have a club lounge, here is a sample of the benefits that a Diamond member can receive that a Gold member (or non-member) will not:

  • 20% off the standard room rate
  • Upgrade from that discounted base room (let’s say 38000 yen a night) to the spacious and gorgeous Park Suite (more than 138,000 yen in value!)
  • Free breakfast buffet, Healthy Breakfast course, or Japanese breakfast in restaurant.  The latter two may also be received as room service (3900 yen value a night)
  • Free drinks and Hors d’oeuvres from 5pm to 9pm at the Peak Bar and Lounge (value of…well, how much can you drink in four hours?)
  • Free access to Club on the Park facilities (4200 yen per night per adult)  Bathe in the bath that Bill Murray bathed in!  Pet the rock penguin!
Look at him!  Isn't he adorable?

Look at him! Isn’t he adorable?

One of my goals is to keep all posts below 1000 words, and I’m rapidly approaching that limit now, but I hope that this post has shown why it is to your advantage to become a Hyatt Gold Passport member, and to strive for the highest levels of membership.  We will build on this knowledge in the weeks and months to come.  And fear not if 50 nights in a Hyatt isn’t in the cards, as I will introduce smarter methods of obtaining Platinum and/or Diamond status as well!

 

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Introducing…The Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa (Part 1)

May 15th, 2014

(Really, guys?  You had to drag the name out this long?  Every Hyatt in Japan has a spa, and a converted apartment complex is not exactly a resort, either.  Aw, fine, have it your way.)

While I continue to wait for inspiration to write about the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, let us jump ahead to the hotel that, to me, feels more connected to the Hyatt Regency Tokyo and Park Hyatt Tokyo even though it’s an over 100km train ride away: The Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa. (I’m just going to drop that last part for the remainder of this article)

But before that, let’s look at Hakone itself.  Hakone, a magical land forged over millions of years of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, a land of both Heaven…

Almost West Virginia...

Almost West Virginia…

…and Hell.

Even though the place smells like rotten eggs, the blackened boiled eggs served here are quite tasty.

Even though the place smells like rotten eggs, the blackened boiled eggs served here are quite tasty.

A land filled with both natural beauty and man-made kvetch.

An exact replica of the traditional Japanese pirate ships that once terrorized this mountaintop lake.

An exact replica of the traditional Japanese pirate ships that once terrorized this mountaintop lake.

But mostly, a land of hot springs (picture of naked women happily soaking their troubles away not included.)

All of this is within easy reach of your favorite Shinjuku Hyatt (the trendy folks that stay in the Grand Hyatt and the Andaz will have a little more work to do), as the Odakyu Romancecar offers a direct link between Shinjuku station and Hakone Yumoto, the gateway to the Hakone region.

Not related to the Love Boat. No hanky panky here. It's more like the Hogwarts Express/

No relation to the Love Boat. No hanky panky here. It’s more like the Hogwarts Express.

Hakone Yumoto is a fun little area filled with shops and springs, but explore that on your own time.  Our job is to get to the Hyatt Regency Hakone.

(If you want to be a killjoy, you can get off one stop earlier in the city of Odawara and, if you time it right, catch the free shuttle bus that will take you directly to the hotel.)

From Hakone Yumoto, you have two options.  If you are in a hurry, you can catch a public bus that will probably get you there within about 30 minutes.  But the far more interesting option is to stay in the train station and transfer to the Hakone Tozan line, and take it all the way to the end of the line in Gora.

The train line to Gora was finished in 1930, and made getting up the mountain to the resort areas much, much easier (at least, easier for the Japanese;  the first foreign tourists to the area were shuttled up the mountain on rickshaws, paying the princely sum of one rin, or a thousandth of a yen, for the service)

Even though it is only a distance of 8.9km between Hakone Yumoto and Gora stations, the ride will still take a whopping 45 minutes to complete.  To get up the steep mountain, the train uses a series of “switchbacks”.  It will move in one direction up to a certain point;  then, at the designated positions, the train will switch tracks and move in the other direction.  Two times during your trip, you will see the conductor get out of the front of the train, walk to the back of the train, and start driving again from what is now the new front of the train.

If you didn’t understand that from my poor description, here it is in actual moving video:

I imagine that the locals have long since gotten bored with this but, for the first time visitor, it is quite cool, and a reminder that you are now, in the figurative sense, far, far away from Shinjuku.

Eventually, you will reach Gora, where your journey is close to an end.

Your chariot awaits...your phone call

Your chariot awaits…your phone call

The Hyatt Regency Hakone is a small hotel of only 79 rooms, so the shuttle bus does not make regular trips to Gora station.  Therefore, you will likely have to make a phone call to the hotel to let them know that you have arrived, and they will then come to this place to pick you up.  In my experience, it generally only takes them about five minutes to make the trip, and they take you to and from this station as many times as you like during your stay (like when you go out sight seeing and such)  You could walk to the hotel from this station, but it’s over 20 minutes almost all uphill, so I can’t say as I can recommend doing this with luggage in tow (or you could pay to take the cable car up to a higher station and walk downhill to the hotel, but now I’m being needlessly complex)

And…I’ve spend so much time talking about the trip to the hotel that I don’t have any time left to talk about the hotel itself!  We’ll do it next time!  If there is a next time!  But I’m pretty sure that there will be!

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