Tokyo’s old-meets-new appeal boosts MICE options

The metropolis stands out for event organisers and planners with its traditional and modern mix within close proximity, whether it is unique venues or creative programming

An immersive adventure at JIDAIYA sees fam trip participants dressing up in elegant yukatas and then transported “through time” on rickshaws cutting through the streets of Asakusa, Tokyo
An immersive adventure at JIDAIYA sees fam trip participants dressing up in elegant yukatas and then transported “through time” on rickshaws cutting through the streets of Asakusa, Tokyo

Brought to you by Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tokyo’s unique appeal as a business events destination of choice lies in its fascinating fusion of its traditional and modern elements, where the crossroad of old-meets-new awaits delegates.

Whether it is sourcing for unique venues or coming up with novel programming, event organisers and planners are spoilt for choice as the boundary-pushing metropolis stands out with these opposites existing side by side.

Corporate groups also have no lack of teambuilding activities of both traditional and trendy kinds to foster bonding between employees, as the recent fam trip organised by Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB) clearly showed.

Director of Business Events Tokyo, TCVB, Hironobu Fujimura told TTGmice: “We have a long history and the buildings from the Edo period are still here. Next to a very tall modern building could be a small alley that has an old town feel where it’s as if you have stepped back in time.

“After a convention, delegates can go to a good izakaya (casual bar/restaurant) in one of these small alleys to enjoy a meal and some drinks. This is a good example of Tokyo’s contrast between the old and new. We have so many such spots within walking distance in the city centre.”

Traditional & cultural blend
A hot favourite among MICE organisers and planners attending the fam trip was the TAIKO-LAB (drums) programme where participants got to try their hand at the traditional instrument, commonly used as a lively accompaniment at sporting and cultural events.

Ideal as a teambuilding activity for corporate groups – of varying sizes – seeking an engaging cultural experience, delegates can beat their drums in joyful unison, under the fun instruction of a Taiko master.

The centre has three studios which can hold 50, 25 and 25 people respectively so in total, it can cater to 100pax-strong delegations.

Another itinerary highlight was an immersive adventure at Edo-styled cultural experience facility, JIDAIYA, where kimono advisors dressed participants up in elegant yukatas (cotton summer kimonos), complete with the ladies getting their hair done up in a chic bun to complement the traditional outfits.

The participants are then transported “through time” on rickshaws cutting through the crowded streets of Asakusa, a historic neighbourhood lined with nostalgic craft shops and bustling street food stalls.

Also at Asakusa, the fam trip incorporated an indigo dyeing workshop at Wanariya for participants to experiment with the traditional art form of fabric dyeing.

For a taste of Japanese religious traditions, participants visited the Meiji Jingu shrine, located at the heart of the capital. Nestled amid greenery, the historic shrine is only a few minutes walk from Harajuku Station and the popular Yoyogi Park. Here, the group partook in a solemn purification kigansai (private ritual).

As part of the itinerary, fam trip delegates also took part in a calming Zazen (sitting meditation) session led by a monk at a Korin-in temple.

Contemporary aspects
To introduce the group to trendy new venues that boast equally awe-inspiring sweeping views of the capital, apart from the famed Tokyo Tower, they were brought on site inspections to explore Shibuya Sky and Tokyo Skytree.

Shibuya Sky, which rises about 229m into the sky, is a 360-degree open-air observation deck overlooking the well-known Shibuya Scramble Crossing. It is located within the Shibuya Scramble Square building, the tallest building in the area that comprises an observation deck, offices, an industrial exchange facility, and retail spaces.

The world’s tallest self-standing broadcasting tower, Tokyo Skytree, also provides panoramic views of the capital. Visitors can relish an exhilarating ride on the transparent Tembo Shuttle from Tembo Deck Floor 350 to Tembo Galleria Floor 445, where the three-dimensional view makes them feel as if they are “floating”.

The Tokyo Skytree Tembo Gallery stands 450m above ground and is outfitted with a stretch of glass-walled corridors. This space welcomes private hire, and organisers can also utilise Sky Restaurant 634 to host events.

Housed within the same Tokyo Skytree Town is a newly added unique venue, Sumida Aquarium, suitable for planners looking to explore an unusual setting for cocktail receptions and small-scale cosy events. Occupying two levels on the 5th and 6th floors, guests can admire a magnificent array of aquatic life on display and get up close with penguins and seals in one of Japan’s largest indoor open tanks.

Event organisers who prefer to expose participants to Japanese pop culture can consider including a hands-on manga (comics) class in their programme. Professional manga artist, Kazuo Maekawa, will lead the class in some basic drawing techniques.

New stays are aplenty in Tokyo. Interesting choices now come in the form of HOTEL GROOVE SHINJUKU and BELLUSTAR TOKYO at the heart of Shinjuku.

HOTEL GROOVE SHINJUKU, a PARKROYAL Hotel, features 538 rooms, including some that double up as art installations. The reception floor, home to the hotel’s restaurant and bar, acts as a social space to connect both locals and overseas guests. The open terrace and party room on the same floor can also be utilised for wedding celebrations.

The 97-key BELLUSTAR TOKYO, a Pan Pacific Hotel, presents a luxury haven where all guestrooms boast floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the city skyline.

Both are located at the new Tokyu Kabukicho Tower, one of Japan’s largest hotels and entertainment establishments, close to Shinjuku’s nightlife district, Omoide Yokocho, Golden Gai, Isetan Shinjuku and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

Sam Lee, product manager from Nam Ho Travel Service (Singapore), who was part of the fam trip delegation, welcomed the Shibuya Sky showcase, as the new observation deck has been gaining popularity among travellers.

Another delegate, managing director, orbitz travel & car hire, Veronica Lim, counted the TAIKO-LAB (drums) programme as well as yukata dress-up and sightseeing by rickshaw as stand-outs for her during the fam trip.

To add more wow factor to the offerings, Lim suggested that the drumming activity could be conducted not only at a studio but outdoors or at unique spaces, such as a shrine or Japanese garden, for a “different feel”, while the manga drawing workshop could feature some cosplayers for participants to draw and take photos with.

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