An Executive House Zen room at Hotel New Otani Photo: MAI SHOJI
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A 'workation' in an urban oasis: Hotel New Otani's Executive House Zen

By Mai Shoji

Hotel New Otani Tokyo was built in 1964 just in time to welcome foreign masses for the first Tokyo Olympics. In the year when Tokyo was supposed to have its second chance to host the quadrennial sports event, I had a yearning to escape from the thought of “what should-have-been,” and stayed at the hotel’s Executive House Zen to surrender myself to serenity and renew my optimism of life.

As a fan of their Japanese garden, I occasionally walk in this valuable oasis in the bustling city to re-acknowledge my Japanese roots. It’s a hotel that I would bring my friends from foreign countries to for its deep aesthetics of historical Japan complimented with Western essence. Despite my countless visits, I stayed at The Executive House Zen for the first time. As a hotel honored for the second consecutive year with five stars by Forbes Travel Guide, the two days I spent there were just what I would expect of the New Otani.

Relax and enjoy the spectacular view of Tokyo. Photo: HOTEL NEW OTANI

For me, it was a “workation” - a coined word for work and vacation. I took a voyage through their “Zen 24 hours escape ~ Stay as you like~” package, which lets guests stay 24 hours from the time of check-in. For example, guests who can only check in after a client dinner have very little time to enjoy the hotel, but with this service, they have the privilege of choosing the time of stay. It clearly indicates a guest orientated omotenashi service.

My journey began upon check-in at 2 p.m. with a welcoming drink of ameyu (literally translates to candy hot water - earl grey scented ginger syrup tea) at the exclusive reception on the 11th floor of the main building. Wasambon (fine grained Japanese sugar) in the sweet drink soothed me with a welcoming warmth topped with a somewhat nostalgic taste. Check-in was smooth and effortless.

Only the key-bearers can stop on the 12th floor and access the corridors. My room was breathtaking, chic, substantially spacious, with a comfortable sofa on one side and a couple of luxurious beds on the other.

The bathroom is separated from the rest of the room by a glass panel. Photo: HOTEL NEW OTANI

An astounding bathtub is separated by a clear glass panel so as to be a part of the entire room. The walk-in closet is big enough for a whole season’s worth of clothes, and the bathroom was fully equipped with luxury brand amenities.

With view of the gorgeous Red Rose Garden below, I gazed over the 2,000 rose bushes and skyscrapers ahead. I was rest assured of VIP treatment, having been told the exclusive secretarial service is available by calling a hotline at any time.

Unpacking, I appreciated the letter from the executive manager and the complimentary refreshments on the elegant chair by the window as I soaked myself in refinement.

A letter from the executive manager and complimentary refreshments Photo: MAI SHOJI

My only plan was to stroll in the 10-acre Japanese garden, without being chased by time. I observed the colorful koi (carp) in the Seisen Pond, different ancient stone lanterns, the flawless karesansui (traditional stone garden), the biggest akadama stone in the country weighing 22 tons, the tea ceremony house Warakuan, and taking pictures of the contrast of fossil wood in the pond, which has sat there since the 16th century, and scarlet-colored Taiko-bashi bridge.

Carp swim in the Seisen Pond. Photo: MAI SHOJI

The scarlet bridge stands out in the beautiful garden. Photo: MAI SHOJI

I thought of the spirit of samurai lord Kato Kiyomasa who had one of his residences here 400 years ago. After World War II, the property was sold to the founder of Hotel New Otani, Yonetaro Otani, who established his private residence on the grounds.

The garden is illuminated at night. Photo: HOTEL NEW OTANI

Luxuriant foliage can be seen in autumn and the contrast of the scarlet bridge with snow is something to look forward to in the winter. You can also enjoy walks at night, as the garden is illuminated with LED lights. An illusion of various colors is created by world-renowned lighting designer Motoko Ishii, presented daily from 30 minutes before sunset to midnight.

The hotel is worth a visit just to view the autumn foliage. Photo: HOTEL NEW OTANI

Taking a rest from my exploration, I sat by the waterfall to reflect on the unique events that took place this year. There’s always a new discovery on every visit and it was a most needed moment before I went in for dinner.

A waterfall in an urban oasis Photo: MAI SHOJI

There are only a handful of rotating restaurants in the nation, View & Dining The Sky, being one of the first. If you can’t decide which restaurant to choose from the hotel’s 37 restaurants, this is the way to do it. Sushi, tempura, teppanyaki, Chinese, French patisseries? They have it all! Although the restaurant doesn’t move anymore, the 360-degree panoramic view and the freshly prepared buffet are still their highlights and have improved.

View & Dining The Sky has cooks standing by for freshly prepared food at buffet counters. Photo: HOTEL NEW OTANI

The spacious restaurant can seat up to 109 and includes two private rooms. I had a splendid view of the Akasaka district with city lights brightening up my table. Hitting the buffet hard, I first tried the salad and appetizer buffet. I asked the itamae (sushi chef) for omakase (chef’s selection). Much like the branch of one of the most famous sushi restaurants in New Otani, Kyubey, the rice here is mixed with red vinegar. The fish was thickly cut and fleshy for a satisfying appetite.

You can create your own dinner course at View & Dining The Sky. Photo: MAI SHOJI

I cheekily served myself a few different items at the Chinese buffet. While on the round, I ordered some freshly fried tempura. None of the food is kept out for a long time and much of it is cooked after the order is taken. I was getting full, but had to try teppanyaki. The chef saw my indecisiveness and kindly suggested half of each wagyu from Shimane Prefecture and domestic beef from Tochigi. I was jolted by the size of my appetite but high quality meat is never a burden. Dessert lovers must not forget to keep a little space for exquisite desserts including popular pastries from Satsuki and Pierre Herme Paris that line up like a rainbow at the Sweets Bar.

The Sweets Bar has a selection from Satsuki and Pierre Hermes Paris. Photo: MAI SHOJI

Guests of Executive House Zen can make use of six food presentations for beverages and light meals from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. - Breakfast (7 to 10 a.m.), morning snack (10 to noon), lunch (12 to 2 p.m.), afternoon tea (2:30 to 4:30 p.m.), hors d’oeuvre (5:30 to 8 p.m.), and nightcap & chocolates (8 to 9:30 p.m.). Knowing there are always food and drinks whenever you need them without having to ask someone to serve you, is unsurpassable.

Ready for a good night's sleep Photo: MAI SHOJI

Wrapped in Executive House Zen’s exclusive pajamas made of highest quality Egyptian cotton, and bedsheets made by prestigious Italian brand Frette as soft as a baby’s skin, I felt like I was lying on a feathery cloud. I sunk in the royal bed and dreamt about breakfast.

Breakfast can be chosen from the executive lounge’s food presentation or from four restaurants in the hotel. I was able to fully enjoy the breakfast presentation from 9 a.m. There are no worries of sleeping in because staff will constantly refill each buffet before switching to lunch.

I wanted to try everything - freshly cooked Koshihikari rice, miso soup with flying fish broth, Chinese medicinal porridge with 10 condiments, croissant by Pierre Hermes Paris, coddled egg with potato puree, fresh herbs and local vegetables, fruits, orange juice and coffee. Exclusive items include Hanbey fu gluten from Kyoto which is an establishment with a 300-year history of making fu.

During my stay, I had a quick job outside the hotel for an hour the next morning. Returning to the hotel from work was a superb feeling which completed my workation standpoint. I had lunch (and champagne) waiting for me, without having to bother to opt for where and what time to eat or make reservations. I took advantage of the food presentation at the executive lounge again, and helped myself to some inari, futomaki sushi and egg sandwiches made of prime eggs from Nagasaki Prefecture.

I visited the membership sports club Golden Spa New Otani after lunch. Their gym, swimming pool and sauna are free to use for guests of Executive House Zen. Towels, bathrobe, gym wear, swimsuit and even socks and sneakers can be rented. The delight of not having to bring anything at all heightens the VIP feel. The number allowed in the gym is limited under COVID measures so you should confirm with the concierge beforehand. I was the only one in the swimming pool. It was a quick hour of exercise and jacuzzi but it was enough to refresh myself completely after working in the morning.

Because my check-in was 2 p.m. the day before, I was able to relax with a novel in one hand and a cup of tea to enjoy the last hour of “my” room. The catered workation was very different from that of my prior occasional visits to the hotel. I felt the full commitment of satisfying customers and the ultimate comfort.

Complements of the hotel include sanitary kit (mask, hand sanitizer, and mask holder), postcards with postage fee covered by the concierge, the hotel’s brownies that melt like fudge in your mouth, baumkuchen for another snack time and original water bottles. For those of you staying on a workation, it’s a great plus that you can also make use of the Business Center conference room (two hours per each day).

Stick-type hand sanitizer and masks with cases are complementary sanitary items for guests. Photo: MAI SHOJI

The New Otani has implemented hygienic precautions. Antiseptic dispensers are placed at various locations throughout the hotel. Staff are wearing surgical masks on duty and their health is constantly monitored. There is rigorous disinfecting of guest rooms, public spaces and restrooms. Only a few hotels allow room windows to open, but air in every room at the New Otani can be kept fresh by pressing the button under the window for ventilation.

“We offer ultimate luxury and personalized service that speaks to the heart,” says Sayuri Tanaka, the hotel’s assistant manager of global marketing. “Executive House Zen offers a special Go To campaign price setting as well as ¥12,000 worth of restaurant credit. We are fortunate to have many local guests enjoy a weekend getaway.” (The credit is subject to reservations made via New Otani’s official website.)

Hotel New Otani

Address: 4−1 Kioicho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo 102-8578

Tel: 03-3265-1111

Zen 24h Escape ~Stay as you like~

View & Dining The Sky

Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m., 12 noon-2 p.m., 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m., or 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Dinner 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., 6 p.m. - 8 p.m., 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., or 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

(Reservations are required due to COVID-19 restrictions, open only every Wednesday to Sunday)


The Golden Spa New Otani

4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0094

Tel: 03-3265-9611

Hotel New Otani is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.

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