Park Hyatt Tokyo: 20 Years After Lost In Translation, This Iconic Property Looks Ahead To Its Sequel

Iconic is a word that gets thrown around a lot, including in describing the world’s best-known hotels – but in the case of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, that moniker is fitting. Built as Japan’s first western luxury hotel in 1994 at the top of a high-rise in Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku district, the Park Hyatt was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Dr. Kenzo Tange, considered to be the father of modern Japanese architecture.

Its striking design, featuring three soaring towers each topped by glass pyramid atriums, was attention-grabbing from the outset. But it was the 2003 film Lost in Translation – starring Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, and, well, the Park Hyatt itself – that elevated the hotel to its lofty stature. The Park Hyatt has been Tokyo’s most famous luxury hotel ever since.

As the Park Hyatt celebrates the 20th anniversary of Lost in Translation, visitors still come to get a taste of the magic captured by the film – and it does not take long to see why the hotel has resonated with so many during that time. As guests ascend to the hotel’s 41st floor main lobby the elevator lights gradually adjust from dim to bright, the transition preparing visitors for the burst of light that greets them in the hotel’s 4-story glass atrium lobby. That massive, open lobby space – with its bamboo garden in the center, and mesmerizing floor-to-ceiling glass views over Tokyo all around – never fails to impress.

Leaving the atrium guests then embark on a long passageway with multiple 90 degree turns. On the way one passes the hotel’s open and artsy restaurant Girandole on one side (that’s where the hotel’s delicious buffet breakfast is served), then the two-story contemporary restaurant Kozue (often with views of Mount Fuji) on the other. The passageway then works its way through the Library, whose shelves contain over 2,000 books on topics ranging from art to history to culture.

All forms of artwork line the sophisticated and elegant path that leads to the hotel’s reception area. By the time a guest of the hotel is greeted at reception by its eager-to-please staff and handed one of the Park Hyatt’s stylish leather touchless room keys, it is already very clear that the hotel is a special place.

Just a few floors up on the 47th floor, occupying the atrium space of a second tower, lies another of the hotel’s famous features – its rooftop pool, the centerpiece of its luxurious Club on the Park spa and fitness center. It is hard to imagine a hotel pool more spectacular or famous than the one Scarlett Johansson dove into 20 years ago. “It’s a cool pool, isn’t it?” asked Bill Murray of Johansson in the film. It most certainly is! So cool that I could not help but pay it a visit in the wee hours of the morning so I could experience it with nobody else around.

Adjacent to the pool on each side lies the hotel’s fitness center and aerobics studio. If one ever needed extra motivation to work out while on vacation, the jaw-dropping views of Tokyo surrounding you at the Park Hyatt’s gym certainly provide it. While your workout itself may not be particularly memorable, the experience at the Park Hyatt will be unforgettable.

At the Club on the Park, which is open both to hotel guests and to private members, the 47th floor is the place for activity while the 45th floor is devoted to the tranquility of the mind, body, and soul. Replete with all the facilities one could ask for –

whirlpools, steam and dry saunas, plunge pools, 360-degree showers, relaxation rooms, and specialized treatment rooms – the spa offers a vast array of services, in many cases taking advantage of the same glorious views of Tokyo found at the fitness center above.

Perhaps no other spot at the Park Hyatt, however, is more iconic or has become more immortalized as a result of its association with Lost in Translation than the New York Bar.

Perched 52 floors up at the top of the third hotel tower, the Bar is stylish and sophisticated, and with – what else – floor-to-ceiling views overlooking Tokyo is a spectacular venue to take in live jazz music. But don’t expect to be able to have a quiet conversation over vodka and whiskey a la Scarlett and Bill. Judging by my visits to the Bar, it remains even now a Tokyo hotspot, full of energy and revelers, both local and visiting.

A slightly quieter experience can be had adjacent to the New York Bar at the New York Grill, which truly evokes the spirit of the Big Apple with its four massive paintings of New York scenes by Italian artist Valerio Adami. The Grill’s specialties include rotisserie duck, fresh seafood, and prime quality Japanese and imported beef, all of which may be accompanied with a selection from the largest collection of U.S. wines anywhere in Japan.

Yes, 20 years after Lost in Translation the Park Hyatt still feels special and exclusive, a place where important visitors to Tokyo from around the world pass through. But when your aim – and your expectation – is to be the best of the best, that is a very high bar to meet, and in some ways the Park Hyatt has slipped just below that bar. Most notably, that is the case in its guestrooms. Mind you, the rooms at the Park Hyatt are nice. The standard rooms at the hotel are among the largest in Tokyo, a city where space is very much at a premium.

The rooms all boast walk-in closets, work spaces and magnificent views – the best views of the city. The marble and granite bathrooms feature double sinks, deep-soaking tubs, separate showers, Toto toilets, and Dyson hairdryers. Yet, the décor, the color (or lack thereof), the lighting, and the technology of the rooms just isn’t quite what you would expect of a hotel with the pedigree of the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The rooms, frankly, need a refresh.

Fortunately – and to their credit – the powers that be at Hyatt recognize this, and plans are well underway for a major property-wide remodel to coincide with the Park Hyatt’s 30th anniversary year in 2024 – a mid-life facelift, if you will, to revitalize and restore the esteemed hotel to its former glory and rightful place atop Tokyo’s finest hotels. The work, slated to begin next spring and expected to take roughly one year, will be led by the design firm Jouin Manku. And overseeing operations at the Park Hyatt during this phase for the hotel is its newly-appointed General Manager, Fredrik Harfors. Harfors not only brings 22 years of experience with Hyatt to the task, but also most recently guided both the Park Hyatt Bangkok and Park Hyatt Jakarta through similar transitional processes.

Having stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo multiple times over the years, I am grateful to have returned one last time to this legendary hotel before its upcoming makeover – and I look forward with much anticipation to seeing what the iconic Park Hyatt is to become.

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