“When you stay with us, you’re not considered a small part of our business,
you are considered our only business”

Something different

Pullman Tokyo Tamachi offers an alternative to the typical international hotel

 


January 2020 Investing in Japan / Text by Toby Waters / Photos by Michael Holmes


In the mid-19th century, George Pullman founded the luxury railroad manufacturing business the Pullman Company, which is credited with building the US’s first sleeping cars. What began as a firm that built exceptional trains has today become a global hotel chain. But what hasn’t changed is Pullman’s offer of comfort and style on a smaller, more personal scale.

“Large hotels seem to be everywhere throughout the market here in Japan — we want to offer our guests something different,” says Darren Morrish, general manager of Pullman Tokyo Tamachi and Pullman’s area general manager for East Japan. “We are small and personalised, with a unique blend of design, creativity and individualism.”

With this distinctive brand image, Pullman has succeeded in adapting well to the changing tastes of the world’s travellers. Since its acquisition by French hotel group Accor, it has expanded to become a family of 143 hotels, seeing significant growth especially in Asia, where people have a high level of awareness of the brand. Pullman’s focus today is on catering to its core demographic of guests.

“They’re very experienced travellers, from their late-twenties to their mid-forties, who know what they’re looking for — we call these people international nomads,” explains Morrish. “What’s interesting about our brand is how well it bridges both leisure and business.”

Pullman Tokyo Tamachi is well suited to meet the needs of the growing number of bleisure” travellers. Morrish notes that it isn’t unusual to see someone doing sketches in The Junction, one of the hotel’s bars, sitting next to someone in a suit sending e-mails on their phone, or for guests to be playing a game of ping pong across the hall from where a meeting is taking place.

Firms are increasingly choosing to hold meetings and events at the hotel because of this more relaxed atmosphere. Its event rooms — smaller and more intimate than the typical event space in Tokyo — accommodate up to 80 people and allow for more flexibility and greater personalisation.

“Most international hotels in Tokyo have big meeting spaces or ballrooms,” he says. “But we target smaller think tank or executive-style meetings. When you stay with us, you’re not considered a small part of our business, you are considered our only business.”

As an exciting, fast-growing hotel, the Pullman brand is a perfect match for Tamachi, which Morrish describes as one of Tokyo’s “most promising up-and-coming neighbourhoods”.

 

 

“This area is going to be completely transformed in the next 10 to 15 years,” he says. “The majority of people today might not even think of staying in Tamachi, but as it’s on the Yamanote Line, it’s only 10 minutes to both Tokyo Station and Roppongi Station. People might find that this is exactly what they’re looking for.”

One of Morrish’s main goals is to make sure that the hotel is a destination not only for global travellers, but also for locals. And he is accomplishing this through Pullman Tokyo Tamachi’s top-class restaurants and bars to tempt the area’s residents and workers to come inside.

KASA, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, provides a dining experience uncommon not just in Tamachi, but in Tokyo, as well. Its cuisine is an Asian–Mediterranean fusion, with the menu changing every two to three months. All the food is created under the direction of Executive Chef Koji Fukuda.

“He’s a Japanese national who did a lot of his training overseas in Australia and New Zealand,” Morrish says. “He came back to Japan and worked in a number of well-known standalone restaurants. He has also built up a strong following among both Japanese diners and the foreign community.”

KASA distinguishes itself from other hotel restaurants across Tokyo with its sophisticated cuisine at affordable prices. It is also an ideal spot for those who are health-conscious and looking for something different to the buffet-style dining typical at large hotels. The shift away from the image of the quintessential hotel restaurant is also reflected in its stylish design, the relaxed uniforms of the employees and its accommodating opening hours.

“We don’t have a down time,” Morrish explains. “We’re open from 6:30 in the morning until 11 o’clock at night. There’re people constantly coming and going.”

For those who want to unwind after work or have a drink after dinner, the Platform 9 cocktail bar is another hidden gem in Pullman Tokyo Tamachi. The name was inspired by Tamachi Station — since guests can watch trains coming and going along its eight railway lines from the bar’s rooftop terrace — as well as Pullman’s origins as an upscale railway company. Despite this legacy of luxury, the bar is keen to avoid the stuffiness common to many hotel bars in the city.

“Tokyo has some fantastic cocktail bars, but they’re quite formal,” Morrish says. “Even though our bar is quite small, we used a consulting company that has built some of the hottest bars around the world to embed an informal culture and differentiate Platform 9 from all those other fantastic bars.”

It’s a bar with a difference in other ways, too. The cocktail menu makes use of a number of traditional Japanese flavours, such as yuzu, umeboshi and even seaweed. These are combined with international liquors to create cocktails that are as memorable as they are innovative. It also keeps customers coming back thanks to the art installation on one of its walls, which is regularly replaced.

“We incorporate street art by up-and-coming new artists,” Morrish explains. “Once every four months, we bring in an artist and say, ‘There’s your canvas, do as you please’. Having street art on a wall in a five-star hotel is definitely something that is not the norm in Tokyo.”

While it may not be as large in size as other hotels in the capital, the Pullman Tokyo Tamachi is at the forefront of service, design and dining experiences that satisfy today’s travellers. It’s a good reminder that the best things do come in small packages. 

“Having street art on
a wall in a five-star hotel is definitely something that is not the norm
in Tokyo”

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