With its fascinating mix of centuries-old traditions and cutting-edge culture, Tokyo offers unforgettable group experiences like nowhere else.
The city’s ability to wow groups will be on full display during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which take place next summer. The 43 host venues are a sample of some of the destination’s most iconic meeting and event spaces, including the upgraded 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium and the more than 2.8-million-square-foot IBC/MPC Tokyo International Exhibition Centre. Regardless of the size or purpose of a meeting or incentive, however, professional planners will find countless ways to make a lasting impression.
In Tokyo, groups don’t just learn about Japanese culture and traditions; they actually experience them. During the recent Tokyo Unique Venues Showcase Event, for example, some attendees donned traditional kimonos for a private event set along picture-perfect Temple Street in the Shibamata neighborhood, complete with traditional street performances, old-fashioned games, delectable cuisine and lively music.
Additional must-see neighborhoods include Asakusa, where guided visits share the stories of historic Buddhist temples. And in Fukagawa, groups can stroll the pristine Kiyosumi Gardens and learn the age-old practice of “listening” to incense, while relaxing in a beautiful traditional structure that overlooks a peaceful pond where birds and turtles make their home.
In Tokyo’s attractive suburban areas, planners will find numerous opportunities to connect with traditional culture and history. At Ishikawa Brewery, which dates to 1863, visitors can join guided tours and enjoy tastings of the world-famous rice wine called Sake.
Another noteworthy destination is the nearby city of Hachioji, which is planning to debut an expansive new convention facility in 2022. The facility, the largest in the Tama region, has an exhibition hall, conference rooms, and multipurpose meeting rooms, making the venue an ideal setting for various types of activities.
For a lovely trip back in time, groups can take a leisurely hike up Hachioji’s picturesque Mount Takao to reach the Takao-san Yakuo-in temple, where an artfully presented vegetarian lunch is a wonderful way to begin a private temple tour led by a monk. Lucky groups may also be able to witness a traditional fire ceremony.
While Tokyo is known for its history and age-old traditions, it’s also an exciting place to enjoy contemporary culture and design. Just steps from the traditional beauty of the Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine, for example, planners will find a modern new event space that opened in 2018: Forest Terrace Meiji Jingu, which has three meeting rooms, all with soothing nature views. The facility also organizes events at Torinso, a traditional structure originally built for the second son of Emperor Meiji, which accommodates 48 people for meals.
In the upscale neighborhood called Roppongi, groups can check into luxury properties such as Grand Hyatt Tokyo and The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo and enjoy spectacular views while meeting in venues such as the Mori Art Museum, which hosts contemporary art exhibitions, Tokyo City View, an indoor/outdoor observation deck and Roppongi Hills Club, which is home to multiple restaurants located on the 51st floor of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower.
Another hotspot for events with a view is Odaiba, a decidedly modern neighborhood with a variety of well-equipped venues. Top choices include Tokyo Big Sight, which is billed as Japan’s largest multipurpose exhibition center, and the 21st-floor Telecom Center Observatory, which offers an event space with stunning views of Tokyo Bay, Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba’s giant Ferris wheel.
Seeing Tokyo’s shimmering skyline from the water is another popular option. Planners can treat groups to a futuristic Tokyo Bay and river cruise aboard the Emeraldas, a river vessel fantastically designed by anime master Leiji Matsumoto. With its otherworldly curves, oddly shaped windows and rooftop observation deck, it’s ideal for both tours and cocktail receptions.
Another interesting way to tap into the excitement of 21st-century Tokyo is with a guided walk down Takeshita Street in Harajuku, with its array of quirky shops, photo booths that can turn anyone into a pop star and legendary pet cafes where patrons sip beverages accompanied by resident cats, dogs, owls and hedgehogs. Nearby, groups can savor an especially festive meal at Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku, which mixes imaginatively presented cuisine with colorful live entertainment and cartoonish decor. To work off the calories, consider a Japanese drumming class, demonstration and private performance at Taiko-Lab, which is home to a talented troupe that has performed more than 150 concerts around the globe.
Tokyo’s hotels are also adept at providing unique venues and experiences. The Okura Tokyo, a hotel brand that dates to 1962, recently debuted two magnificent new buildings—The Okura Prestige Tower and The Okura Heritage Wing. Both offer a sumptuous blend of modern luxury and design with traditional decor and attentive service. In addition to some 32,921 sq. ft. of handsomely appointed meeting and event space, The Okura offers outstanding group experiences, including private Japanese tea ceremony demonstrations.
Planners can easily explore the city’s diverse array of meeting and event options through the Tokyo Unique Venues website, which is operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. In this exciting city, groups will never get bored.