Tokyo, Japan’s top destination for business events, reinforces its appeal through strong city-wide partnerships and a tantalising blend of traditions and modernity.
Visions of skyscrapers, trains that run on a precise schedule, dancing robots and trend-setting youths naturally come to mind when people speak of Tokyo.
Looking to change Tokyo’s narrative by playing up the city’s diverse nature, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government launched the campaign, Tokyo Tokyo Old meets New. It highlights Tokyo’s new and traditional attractions, and suggests new and creative ways for event delegates to experience them.
To deliver a complete Tokyo experience, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB) has forged a close partnership with Tokyo MICE hubs, such as DMO Roppongi, Hachioji Visitors & Convention Bureau, and Tokyo Waterfront City Association (learn more about Tokyo’s MICE hubs at https://tokyomice.org/).
The TCVB Business Events Team explained that while event requests are typically submitted to the national bureau, the team will “connect planners with the relevant DMOs after investigating their requests”.
A buzzing city like Tokyo deserves a business event programme with a passionate start, and an ice-breaker or team bonding activity involving traditional taiko drums makes a great option.
Taiko-Lab offers private group classes in its Aoyama studio in Tokyo, where lessons are led by experienced taiko drummers who perform at concerts around the world every year. An up-close taiko performance gets corporate participants in the mood, before they have a go on the drums themselves. Basic drumming techniques are imparted, and all moves are later combined to create a memorable team performance.
With energy levels running high, head to the youthful streets of Harajuku and Omotesando, where creative shops, restaurants and cafes abound. If the intricate maze of the two areas is too much to navigate over limited time, then stick to Takeshita Street where the group can return to their childhood days and have fun photos taken at a purikura photo booth machine club, as well as snack on pretty crepes and rainbow-coloured cotton candy. End the adventure at the Kawaii Monster Café where the interior is a colourful dreamscape populated by oversized animal heads, milk bottles, mushrooms, and candy. Servers, dressed in enormous wigs and cute outfits, double up as performers on a giant candy stage for regular shows. Venue buyouts are welcome.
Moving on from vibrant Tokyo to its quieter, more refined side, journey on foot through an evergreen forest to Meiji Jingu shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. A new events complex has risen in the past year on the temple grounds, giving corporate groups a chance to meet in a unique and sacred location. Forrest Terrace Meiji Jingu, nestled among 700,000m2 of lush forest in the inner garden, offers three function halls, all of which look out to greenery. Banquet Hall Keyaki is the largest venue, with capacity for 96 people in classroom-style.
Event attendees can also convene in Tohrinsoh, a traditional Japanese house with tatami flooring, which is now recognised as a Tokyo Metropolitan Historic Building. It can accommodate a 52-pax banquet.
Extend the uniquely Japan experience with Mon-ko, an unusual game of incense listening, once appreciated by ancient Japanese aristocrats. It requires patient participants to take turns to identify a unique scent emanating from a censer containing a tiny piece of incense wood warmed by a smouldering piece of charcoal.
Alternatively, an elegant Japanese tea ceremony is always a favoured activity. Indulge VIPs in the experience at Chosho-an within The Okura Heritage Wing.
Tokyo’s impressive selection of luxury accommodation was most recently updated with the long-awaited opening of The Okura Tokyo on September 12, 2019. The revitalised and rebranded version of the former Hotel Okura Tokyo is now made up of The Okura Heritage Wing for an exquisite traditional Japanese stay, and The Okura Prestige Tower which promises a modern welcome.
Elsewhere in the Japanese capital city, the upscale Roppongi area is a hot choice for high-end business events, particularly smaller gatherings with 100 to 200 guests. Natural draws for planners with plush budgets include Grand Hyatt Tokyo, which boast their own function facilities, as well as dedicated conference centres and unique venues such as Roppongi Academyhills, Roppongi Hills Club, and Tokyo City View.
However, DMO Roppongi’s secretariat, Mariko Yamagishi, said the area’s popularity extends beyond high-end events. She said: “The convenience of having nearby conference facilities, other hotels, as well as restaurants and bars that open till late makes Roppongi attractive to all types of business events.”
She shared that Advertising Week Asia 2019 was held across Tokyo Midtown Hall & Conference and Suntory Museum of Art, while a Dutch marketing company and a UK consulting company conducted their events at the Nogi-jinja shrine.
And the Roppongi area will get hotter still, according to Yamagishi who revealed that the DMO is growing its inventory of event facilities. The National Art Center, Tokyo is one of the newest venue to join the destination marketer.
“The area around Roppongi is also becoming ever more convenient and attractive, with a new development going up right next door,” she said.
The referenced development is the Toranomon-Azabudai Project, slated for completion in 2023, which will add offices, residences, a hotel, an international school, retail shops, restaurants and cultural facilities into a large section of Central Tokyo.
Event possibilities in Tokyo extend to the bayfront where Aomi, Odaiba and Ariake are.
Today, the Tokyo Waterfront Area is known around the world for being one of the key locations of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Among experienced event planners, the Tokyo Bay district has earned a following for being a compact and convenient MICE hub that is served by two train lines: New Transit Yurikamome and Rinkai Line.
It is home to the landmark Tokyo Big Sight exhibition centre, Telecom Center Building which has rentable venues within, massive shopping malls such as Palette Town and DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, as well as hotels across different star ratings.
A great way to appreciate the bay area is by a river cruise. Tokyo Cruise operates three futuristic, pod-like ships – Emeraldas, Himiko and Hotaluna – from multiple piers along the bayfront. Planners can choose to charter the ships for private cocktail parties, or simply buy-out special sections onboard Emeraldas to seat their VIPs.
Drumming up excitement for the district is the new Tokyo International Cruise Terminal which will open in 2020, remarked Ryuusuke Ohki secretary-general of the Tokyo Waterfront City Association.
“To help event delegates enjoy the Tokyo Waterfront Area, we will be introducing a coupon in the new fiscal year to provide discounts to merchants and access to transportation in the area,” said Ohki.
Extending a meeting programme beyond Central Tokyo has its perks. The pace slows down, the vistas and attractions are different.
Over in Tama in Western Tokyo, stands the Ishikawa Brewery whose six buildings are registered National Heritage Sites. A guided tour of the facilities allows visitors to appreciate the architecture and the established brewing process, learn about the heritage of the Ishikawa family that still resides onsite, as well as sample sake unique to the brewery.
Ishikawa Brewery offers an Italian restaurant, a Japanese restaurant and a party venue on the second floor for private events.
Yet another gem to discover in Western Tokyo is Hachioji, famed for being a post town on the ancient Koshu Kaido road that connected travellers with the old Japanese capital of Edo. Today, Hachioji on the foothills of the Okutama Mountains, offer nature getaways. Hiking up Mount Takao can be a memorable experience for groups yearning for a change in environment after days of indoor conferences.
Pair that excursion with a visit to Takaosan Yakuoin Buddhist temple, where a top-notch and beautifully-plated vegetarian kaiseki-style meal awaits. Take the temple experience further by having a resident monk guide the group through the temple architecture and history, and should the stars be aligned, delegates could experience the unique fire prayer ceremony.
With so many points of appeal cutting across the modern and the traditional, the luxurious and nature’s best, event planners will be hard-pressed to ever run out of fresh ideas in Tokyo.