The 20th floor of the InterContinental Osaka is where the buzz takes place. There are constant comings and goings in the airy space of this stunning modern luxury hotel. Full-height windows wrap around it. Emerge from elevators from the ground floor and ahead is reception. Turn to your left and you see an all-day bar that becomes, at times, an installation art location (what will the next cultural offering be here, pop-up theatre or another make-a-wood-tree or what?). Turn left again to the all day dining. Back to reception, turn right and you have the main bar, Adee, separated off by a wall of solid stone blocks, deliberately left with ‘windows’ between, covered with last year’s Advent Calendar art works.
There is more stone in the 200 bedrooms. Yes really. Each has a four-foot-high ‘stone block’ that holds lacquer-fronted doors for supplies. On top sit the tray, pot and cups for your Japanese tea. Make it when you want. Your bathroom, by contrast, is marbled, with a wet area with the bathtub and two-heads shower complex. The sound-proofing, by the way, is so good that all is completely silent here in your temporary room. Head out into the corridor, as I did to go to the 24/7 gym, and there is soft music playing, such a soothing touch – why don’t all hotels have music in their corridors, you may ask? They cannot, because older hotels not only have poor sound-proofing but they deliberately left gaps under doors to allow newspapers to be pushed under, so corridor music is a no-no.
There are so many unique things about this hotel. It is integral with the most amazing activities, as opposed to retail, mall. Yes, you can buy things, like have Asics running shoes specially designed following an intensive medical analysis of your feet. But you can also drop in, to interactive kids’ theme parks here, to an art gallery there (is that a Tim Burton display on now?) and so on. What also attracted me was an inspiration lab, The Hub. There are about 2,000 members, who do pay heavily but they can come in, anytime, to work at long shared desks, or at private chill-out-booths, or in glass-front conference rooms. There are suits and ties holding board meetings a few yards from stubble and open neck incubators, all working towards taking Japan’s, or at least Osaka’s, economy forward.
On my way out of this exciting environment I passed a Subway sandwich station. Now for the uninitiated, Subway is the chain that invented taking a basic, tasteless, single-portion white baguette and making V-shaped cuts along its top. Take off the resulting ‘lid’, fill with filling and put lid back on. This Subway is different. It grows its salad ingredients, for the fillings, right there. Thought. How many luxury hotels grow salad ingredients right IN the hotel rather than on top of them, as at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, or around them, as at Royal Sonesta in Houston?