The Miyako Hybrid Hotel is one of only 10 hotels in California to receive LEED certification. // © Miyako Hybrid Hotel 2010
When people ask me where I’m from, I usually tell them that I’m from Los Angeles. But the truth is that I’m a native resident of Torrance, Calif., a city located about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles and only 12 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). As the heart of the South Bay, Torrance is central to almost every conceivable SoCal attraction, from Malibu to Disneyland, and now, it is home to one of only a handful of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified hotels in the U.S., the brand-new Miyako Hybrid Hotel.
The Miyako Hybrid Hotel, as its name suggests, is a hybrid of traditional Japanese influences and modern sustainable design. The 208-room property, which first opened in December 2009, recently received Silver LEED new construction certification, making it the 10th certified hotel/resort and only the second Silver category travel property within the state of California.
LEED certification, while notoriously difficult to attain, was always something that the hotel’s owners, Japan-based Kintetsu Hotel Systems Co./Miyako Hotels & Resorts, wanted to achieve from inception. The hotel, which sits on the site of a former steel plant, involved a 10-year building process that was exceedingly mindful of every possible eco-friendly measure. Nearly 75 percent of the waste produced during the building’s construction was recycled, for example. The Miyako Hybrid Hotel also has its own solar-powered electrical system, an energy-efficient tankless water heating system and low-flow water fixtures. Compared to a baseline building, it is 18.4 percent more energy-efficient. Annually, the hotel is estimated to save on 72 tons of carbon dioxide, $3,282 in energy costs and 588,382 gallons of water. Indeed, no detail has been overlooked; even the hotel employees’ chic uniforms are made of recycled fabrics and visitors who drive up in hybrid vehicles receive VIP parking status.
What guests see when they enter the hotel, however, is not at all industrial or haphazardly assembled with recycled snippets. Quite the contrary, the Miyako Hybrid Hotel is both warm and inviting and its eco-friendly features blend seamlessly into its contemporary, Asian-influenced design.
Guestrooms, outfitted in warm walnut and rich chocolate tones, evoke a calm and soothing ambience — ideal for business or leisure clients longing for a relaxing retreat. What’s also particularly unique about the Miyako Hybrid Hotel is its emphasis on Japanese hospitality. For that reason, each room comes with a separate coffee maker and electric hot water kettle (complimentary green tea included), and you’ll find numerous Japanese-language channels on the television menu, as well as Japanese specialties on the room service menu. However, the guestroom bathroom is where those influences are most prominent: Every room has its own Japanese-style toilet — complete with heated seat and bidet. Each toilet, according to general manager Cherie Davis, cost the hotel a steep $600 each. But, best of all, each guestroom has a uniquely Japanese ofuro-style bathing area, with a deep soaking tub and adjacent shower — the perfect curtain to any day.
Room categories include a 420-square-foot Standard room and a 420-square-foot Executive room with additional amenities. There are also 12 suites that typically measure 584 square feet. All rooms, with the exception of those on the second floor, have private balconies. Standard room amenities include complimentary Internet access, an iHome docking station, a minibar, your choice of down or foam pillows, a DVD player (movie rentals are available from the hotel gift shop) and a 46-inch flat-screen television. Standard bath products also come in biodegradable packaging. Executive rooms and suites feature additional amenities, including bathrobes and slippers, a 52-inch flat-screen television with Blu-ray DVD player, Aveda bath products and a rainshower. Some suites also feature kitchenettes for extended stays.
While the ofuro deep soaking tub isn’t the Miyako’s most eco-friendly feature, the hotel otherwise excels at its commitment to sustainable operations. Recycling bins have been placed in each guestroom, recycled paper employed wherever possible and nontoxic, nonphosphate biodegradable cleaning products are used throughout the property.
And while Torrance might seem like an unlikely candidate for a new boutique-style business hotel, let alone one with so many Japanese influences, it really isn’t in actuality. The U.S. headquarters for Honda Motor Company and Toyota Motor Corporation are both located in Torrance, as are a number of other Japan-based companies. While the hotel primarily caters to business travelers, it also offers a number of services geared toward leisure travelers. They include complimentary shuttle service to and from LAX, as well as tours that can be arranged to nearby attractions such as Disneyland.
Torrance is also home to an active and vibrant Japanese American community, and some of the best Japanese cuisine outside of Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. The Miyako upholds that reputation with Gonpachi, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests and locals alike. It is owned by the same company that operates the original Gonpachi in Tokyo, which served as the inspiration for the famous battle scene in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1.” Like its Tokyo sister property, the Torrance location is just as atmospheric, with indoor and outdoor seating for up to 260, an expansive sushi bar and a lively bar area. Its food is top-notch, featuring high-quality seafood flown in directly from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market, handmade soba (buckwheat) noodles and delectable desserts, including pumpkin zenzai — all of which are reasonably priced.
And if clients are hungering for even more Japanese delicacies during their stay, they need only walk to the sizeable Mitsuwa Marketplace next door. Here, they can load up on freshly made mochi (pounded rice cake), matcha green tea and steaming bowls of ramen noodle soup, as well as purchase Japanese kitchen wares, clothing and books.
To burn off all those extra calories, guests can work up a sweat in the second-floor, 24-hour fitness center. It offers two treadmills, an elliptical machine and a stationary bicycle, along with weight machines and two Nintendo Wii gaming systems, each hooked up to its own 50-inch flat-screen television.
Later this year, the hotel will also welcome a spa, spaRelaken. The spa will be the first of its kind in the U.S. to offer a ganban-yoku (bedrock bath) therapy. This involves lying on a large, heated stone made up of ore that is mined from the mountains of Kyushu, Japan; the stones are believed to emit infrared rays and negative ions that are thought to have healing effects, improving both circulation and metabolism. Currently, the spa is scheduled to open in the spring.
I, for one, as a local resident, can’t wait, and I’m sure your clients will feel the same way. For a relaxing SoCal stay away from the hustle and bustle of L.A. — not to mention one that’s eco-friendly — the Miyako Hybrid Hotel simply can’t be beat.
Miyako Hybrid Hotel
21381 South Western Avenue
Torrance, Calif., 90501
Commission: 10 percent
Room rates range from $129 to $159 per night, with weekend rates as low as $99 per night. Through March 31, the hotel is offering an Experience Japan Package that includes a one-night stay, a three-course chef’s choice dinner and sake tasting at Gonpachi and a breakfast buffet for $149 per person.