Japan reopens for business, reaffirms ‘it place’ status

After nearly three years of pandemic lockdown, the international hotspot for western business in Asia and close U.S. ally – Japan – welcomes new and seasoned travelers with renewed vigor and its refreshingly quirky tech style.

The formality still exists for business travelers but the nation’s cultural exports, from iterations of Comic Con anime to athletic prowess by two-time U.S. Open tennis champ Naomi Otsuka and Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, Japan’s answer to our legendary Babe Ruth, a whole new visceral level of intrigue has evolved. Everyone seemingly wants to turn Japanese.

Our obsession with all things Japanese started before the pandemic and now reaches a fevered pitch. The data is compelling for both multi-national companies and talent:

• Japan is the world’s third largest economy behind the U.S. and China with a $5 trillion annual GDP.

• There are 196 Japanese companies on the Forbes Global 2000

• 25 percent of the world’s tech products come from Japan.

• 30 percent of the world’s automobiles are Japanese.

So it’s not surprising that cities across the U.S. are rolling out the red carpet in hope of landing the coveted Subaru electric vehicle manufacturing plant, The Japan Times recently reported. The company currently manufactures various Suburu models in Lafayette, Indiana, with its North America headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, and some research functions conducted in Northern California. But Arizona also shouldn’t be ruled out as the southwest state continues to make large strides in the EV manufacturing space with its growing population and business-friendly environment.

The Land of the Rising Sun also lifted its onerous 14-day quarantine earlier this year along with mandated masking and tourist visa requirements, making conducting business in Tokyo, the nation’s epicenter of commerce, that much easier.

Young, freshly minted engineers from around the world pack co-working sites, coffee and tea houses, hotel lobbies and boisterous izakayas (neighborhood bars) across Tokyo in hotspot districts like Shinjuku and Shibuya. The city again pulses commerce, ideas, hope, and business deals. And with so much regional uncertainty, more Americans are returning to the safety of an old friend in Tokyo to conduct business. Here is where you will want to meet.

Tokyo Hilton
Tourists and those eager to meet in-person and soak in Tokyo’s generous hospitality flock to this landmark property at the center of it all. Conrad Hilton, the founder of the iconic brand, opened the nation’s first international hotel at this site in June 1963 marking 60 years in the city.

Rooms and suites are typical in size to standard U.S. hotels, not the stereotypical “closet” size business travelers expect in dense hubs like New York, San Francisco and many Tokyo hotels. The executive floors 35 through 38 were updated for the anniversary and feature sophisticated dark hardwoods, two-tone gray carpets and wall treatments, walk-in dual nozzle/rain showers, those wondrous multi-functional Japanese toilets with warm seats, front and rear bidet, automatic flushing and wall-mounted controls. Traditional touches like shoji-inspired window treatments and the property’s legendary banana bread sets clients and visitors at ease as they prepare for gatherings at the property’s extensive events center on the third and fourth floors. More than 20 meetings rooms of varying sizes and a full-service department seamlessly makes all arrangements.

“We stay focused on delivering exceptional service and pioneering new innovations to meet the evolving needs of our guests, and creating positive environmental and social impact in Japan through our ESG strategy, ‘Travel with Purpose,’” says Hilton regional vice president Timothy Soper.

The New Otani
Another Tokyo institution, this famed property actually pre-dates the Tokyo Hilton, developed by Japanese hotelier Yonetaro Otani, who built the property in preparation for the 1964 Olympic Games. It’s strategic location near the Imperial Palace, built on lush, verdant grounds, creates a unique backdrop for any meeting.

For dramatic 360-degree views of Tokyo’s soaring skyline, schedule your business lunch or dinner atop the circular Sky Dining Room, which offers Kobe beef steaks, Pol Roger Champagne by the glass, and private Sky Suites that seat four to 12 guests. Perfect for a power get-together. And since the U.S. Dollar is so strong against the Japanese Yen (nearly 148Y to $1USD at press time), it’s like dining at 40-plus percent off.

Or if your meeting requires a more relaxed vibe, or if it’s time to celebrate the conclusion of work, blow off steam at the Tokyo branch of legendary Trader Vic’s, the Polynesian-inspired nightclub, on the garden level of the New Otani facing a cascading waterfall, lagoon and verdant, tropical garden. Sharable rum drinks in colorful ceramic tiki glasses, pupu appetizer plates and groovy island sounds like Don Ho complete the scene.

The strong dollar and loosening of travel restrictions has created a rush of tourism to Japan, which has driven up airfare and hotel rates. Roundtrip air pre-pandemic averaged about $850 on Delta, American, Hawaiian and United. American Airlines partners with Japan Airlines on most trans-Pacific crossings. Those same tickets cost upwards of $1,200 today, or $3,500-plus for business class. Hotel accommodations also are 30-50 percent higher. Standard rooms at the Tokyo Hilton or New Otani cost about $330 per night, depending on day of week, view and other variables.

Money well spent to enjoy one of the world’s great travel treats, and to seal a potential deal.

Ranked by annual sales
Toyota Motor
Nippon Telegraph & Telephone
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial
Honda Motor
Japan Post Holdings
Mizuho Financial
Tokio Marine Holdings
Source: Forbes Global 2000

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Photo by Nick Kwan

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