Japan tops the list of many people’s favorite travel destinations. It offers beautiful sceneries, an abundance of gastronomic delights, amazing street fashion, contemporary art, and an exciting city life. It’s also one of the safest, cleanest countries in the world.
But if traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun has to wait for now, there’s a place that could easily transport you there—the Hotel Okura Manila in New World Resorts, Pasay City. It’s the lone Japanese hospitality brand at the Resorts World complex built by the prestigious Okura Hotels & Resorts which runs 81 hotels worldwide.
ANC’s Executive Class paid it a visit recently and host David Celdran put the spotlight on the hotel’s impressive modern Japanese aesthetic, thanks to the design collaboration among Singapore-based Filipino architect Joseph Cruz of Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), the Okura head office, and the hotel’s local owners.
Hotel Okura Manila’s elegant lobby features a glass pagoda reception area highlighted by a stunning chandelier which, according to Ayako Ninomiya—the hotel’s assistant F&B Operations manager—is a poetic interpretation of sparkling raindrops and the moonlight shining through it. Another showstopping element at the lobby are the life-sized sculptures of Japanese pine trees, or matsu, which symbolize longevity and eternity.
There are more Japan-inspired elements all over the property, if one would pay close attention. For instance, the screens that envelope the glass-paneled atrium at the lobby, and the pocket rock gardens that are raked in the same manner as the Zen gardens in the temples of Kyoto. There’s also the use of rough stones and natural wood on most of the surfaces, which reflects the Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy or “the beauty found in the imperfections and impermanence of nature.”
At the top of the hotel is a distinctly Japanese garden bedecked with bonsai plants which, says Celdran, reminds him of the Imperial Palace and castles in Japan.
The Japanese touches goes all the way to the rooms, particularly the Hinoki-yu room, which features a custom-made aromatic Japanese cypress (hinoki) tub, offering an authentic Japanese relaxing retreat. The room is also decorated with origami crane sculpture and the tsubo-niwa, a traditional Japanese pocket garden.
Jan William Marshall, the hotel’s general manager, says it took them almost four years to finish the property. “We've looked at every nook and cranny, every little detail to make sure that it follows the Okura brand, but is also unique to the Philippines.”
According to Marshall, what sets Hotel Okura Manila’s service from other local hotels is that it combines the Japanese omotenashi (meaning, “to wholeheartedly look after guests”) and Filipino warmth. What could beat that?
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