“It’s hard to tell the difference between sea and sky, between voyager and sea. Between reality and the workings of the heart.”
— Haruki Murakami
Here’s what I know about Japan: karaoke, cherry blossoms, sumo wrestling, anime, tea ceremonies, bullet trains, and amazing automobiles.
Oh, and business cards. Lots and lots of business cards.
There’s a lot of attention to detail and courtesy, and as Lost in Translation will teach you, ample opportunity for jet lag and culture shock to turn your reality on end. Silent wandering through brilliant gardens and bustling intersections which trigger visions of Times Square and Vegas, only with more vibrancy.
Fortunately, the time-consuming and expensive journey can happen on any Friday night as you point your car in the direction of Torrance, where the certified green Miyako Hybrid Hotel will put your mind in Tokyo, if not exactly your body. And luckily, they’re located in the same time zone.
We sat down with Cherie Davis, the General Manager, who gave us all the details.
“Although we are in the opening months many people have discovered the hotel for leisure. The name is maybe a little bit intimidating for the less experienced traveler, but when we say hybrid it really has three meanings. Hybrid means first and foremost that we are using alternative sources of energy. We have a hundred solar panels on the roof, tankless water heaters, controlled ventilation, and there are floor-to-ceiling windows in every room that reduce stress and enhance the mood. There is water purification system underneath the building, and even the Aveda shampoos and conditioners that are in your hotel room are not plastic bottles.”
Far away from both Los Angeles and Tokyo, you’ll find the Playa of Burning Man. And one of the important elements that resonates with the people there is eco-consciousness. It sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of daily life, racing down the freeway at terrifying speeds just to finish the day’s assignments. But this planet is what we’ve got, and with our state’s current budget crisis, we need to save every last bit of everything we can.
“The second meeting of hybrid is East meets West,” continued Davis. “You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner with Eastern as well as Western items. In your room there is a coffee machine and a tea-maker. You can get USA Today or a Japanese paper. There are deluxe bathrooms with both Western and the more Japanese items like rain shower heads and deep soaking bathtubs.”
And this is where the escape begins. Soak in an oversized tub after your shower, drink tea in your robe as you slip inside your incredible Four Diamond bedding, and experience an otherworldly treatment at Spa Relaken, and you’ll find yourself feeling far from life beyond the hotel doors.
“The spa has only been open six to eight weeks. It is the first US launch of a ganban-yoku spa so we wanted to make sure it was really authentic even in the tiniest detail. We even had to fly in staff.”
Spas and bathing are very important in the Japanese culture. This might be why they live so long.
Ganban-yoku is a process involving warmed stones and a heated room. You go in for a few minutes and then step out. See how long you can stand it, and feel the cleansing sweat leave your body. It becomes transcendental after a while, a relaxing assault on your internal heating and cooling mechanisms. You’ll be changed, for sure.
Beyond that, a wide array of unique therapies, including an aromatherapy massage. Choose from the scents which take your synapses to new places. I found myself drifting in and out of consciousness while taking in pine and lavender smells.
“And lastly,” said Davis, “hybrid means business hotel meets boutique hotel. When you come in you feel like you are away from everything else. It is another world. It is very silent. We are very cognizant of noise pollution so make sure the rooms are very quiet, the restaurant is more upbeat and the spa is very subdued.”
The restaurant itself, Gonpachi, is one of my favorites in all of Los Angeles. It has locations across Japan, and was the basis for a memorable scene in Kill Bill. This particular version doesn’t feature any fighting, but it does have some incredible knife work. From sea urchin that melts in your mouth to salmon that is topped off with a blowtorch, you’re sure to find a new experience here. The restaurant also provides all of the room service, so they provided us with a pot of tea to take back up to the room for the night.
We have green tea everywhere – tea, cookies, and even inside cards in our gift shop.
“Once you walk inside the hotel you are in Japan, but it is Westernized. You can have sushi or a Kobe burger. You can have noodles or sirloin steak. The restaurant gets a lot of locals. And we have salad and soup bars which are Eastern and Western,” said Davis.
The hotel is surrounded by Japanese car manufacturers, including Toyota and Honda, which brings a lot of corporate business to the hotel.
However, it’s also an easy escape from the city for a quick getaway. With the beach only a handful of miles and the fifth-largest shopping center in the country nearby, along with a large Asian market (to pick up some authentic Japanese tea, of course), there’s plenty of draw for locals and tourists both.
The service is impeccable, with an attention to detail that is signature to a boutique hotel. Names and preferences are remembered, and the staff will go out of their way to make sure that you’re overly satisfied.
“I think you can see the high level of service and the gentle nature that is typical of Japan in our staff. We also speak seventeen languages here. We want everyone to feel welcome,” said Davis.
Though the only sumo wrestling you’ll find here is on one of the many Japanese stations on your television, you’re sure to escape California for the East if you find yourself at the Miyako Hybrid Hotel.
Reality shifts away quickly here, so be ready for the adventure.