Cornell Real Estate Club’s Tokyo Trek: Company Visits, Receptions, and Alumni Connections Office Hospitality in Every Part of the World

I have a huge addiction to traveling. I believe place is more significant than time, and I have found that to be true in my travels to 40-plus countries on six continents.

In each place, I see people molded by their physical environment, their attitudes shaped not only by the topography but also by the character of the landscape.

As a simple example, take, as I have found, attitudes related to water. In the desert countries I have visited, water is an extremely valuable commodity, cherished and protected by the indigenous people. In highly humid climates, such as that of New Orleans, a different feeling flows from the superabundance of water.

Place is more than physical resources and surroundings, of course. It shapes a people’s economy, their society, and even their religious or non-religious beliefs. Once shaped, these non-scientific entities become a fabric of the place that engendered them.

And thus, excited to continue broadening my horizon through travel—to experience a new culture in combination with my passion for commercial real estate—I was extremely excited to hear about the opportunity to join my peers on a second international trek to Tokyo, Japan. Furthermore, after having an incredible experience with the Cornell Real Estate Club (CREC) last spring break on its first international trek to London, UK, I knew Tokyo would be a huge success.

Arrival in Tokyo.

Over spring break, I had the pleasure of joining 10 of my friends from the Cornell Real Estate Club and the Baker Program in Real Estate graduate program in experiencing the vast number of development projects throughout the city of Tokyo. My trip commenced with a smooth flight from Syracuse, NY, with a short layover in Minneapolis, MN, and then I continued onward to Tokyo-Haneda International Airport. (I highly recommend flying out of Syracuse—every flight out of the Ithaca airport has been a minor “disaster” for me.)

When I landed in Tokyo, my chest was filled with butterflies! I have always wanted to be in Japan during its cherry blossom season, and, well, here I was about to witness it firsthand. I could not contain my excitement. My schedule allowed me to go to Tokyo a few days before the trek with CREC actually started. Two of my family members were able to meet me in Japan, and we had was an absolute blast! We had a busy first day of sightseeing that included bucket-list locations Miji Shrine, Sensoki Temple, Imperial Palace, and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (where seeing the cherry blossoms almost put me in tears because they were so stunning). It was great exploring Tokyo with my family, but I was eager to be with my Cornell family and learn about development in Tokyo from Cornell alumni.

Daisuke Kitta, Sr. ’02, managing director of real estate for Blackstone in Tokyo, so graciously coordinated our itinerary of two jam-packed days, including exposure to a wide variety of subjects, such as development projects of large-upscale mixed-use ventures, hotel development, real estate investment, and asset management.

Trek Day One

Group eats lunch in Tokyo

The first day of the trek lasted from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Although that may sound exhausting, the warm hospitality you are about to hear about was well worth the long day.

First, we went to the Blackstone Tokyo office, where Mr. Kitta gave the group an outstanding overview of BX Tokyo, talked about his day-to-day responsibilities, offered his view of the Tokyo real estate market, and discussed several recent investments.

We continued our trek onward to the CBRE Japan office, where we received a synopsis of how the largest commercial-real-estate-services-and-investment firm in the world views the Tokyo market, through a detailed timeline of how we got to where we are today and how the economics of Tokyo’s market compare to decades prior. (They also served us a great lunch.)

We finished our first day with a delightful Cornell Hotel Society reception at Boomin Vinum, where we were warmly greeted by about 25 alumni! Although everyone was aware of the power of Cornell’s alumni network, this event reaffirmed how incredible the network is—every person I met was very interested in my experience at Cornell and my professional development, and provided me with outstanding advice. It is very special that in every part of the world, no matter how far from Ithaca, there are people who shared your exact experience, so SHA [Nolan School] halls seem to be right there, guiding you. Every individual we interacted with treated us like royalty, and it made all of us feel honored to represent Cornell University.

Trek Day Two

Group of students observing a model of a building

Our second day was filled with a bit more adventure and hands-on learning opportunities, as we had the pleasure of not only visiting Ginza Six, but also meeting with the head developer of the site. He showed us incredible architectural models of what is in the pipeline for development. After our session with the developer and touring the mall, we had a mouthwatering seven- or eight-course (all I remember is that it was too much food) meal that Mr. Kitta treated us to. The food in itself was reason enough to love the trip—words cannot describe how delicious it was.

Our day continued onward to Hoshino Resort Tokyo, where we toured the posh economy hotel that was 30 days from opening. It was exciting to see the rooms near completion yet with so many details left to be fleshed out before opening. This was one of my favorite site visits, as the rooms were like Yotel’s design, but they were done in an elegant way, utilizing what appeared to be bamboo wood in the majority of the guestrooms. It is a fascinating design that I predict will be quite successful.

Our journey continued to the office of Yoshiharu Hoshino, MPS ’86, CEO of Hoshino Resorts, where he stressed the importance of making a guest feel wonderful and how this can be accomplished in many ways, but also that particularly the design of a hotel has a huge influence on guests’ experiences at a property.

Group of students poses for a picture

Although the trip may sound tiring because of its whirlwind of events, the unbelievable amount of hospitality, culture, education, connections, and advice we received outweighed the long days.

It was the perfect time of year to travel to Japan, as it was cherry blossom season, and the temperatures were ideal.

I could not be more in favor of joining any trek that SHA [Nolan School] (especially with CREC) offers, because participants not only receive a hands-on education in the field they have enthusiastically chosen, they also get to explore a new part of the world with some of their best friends and like-minded new acquaintances!

Even travelers who do not know anyone in the group before the trek will, by the end of the trip, acquire a new cadre of close friends who can share a set of wonderful memories.

About the Author

Taylor Hardy

Taylor Hardy ’19 is​ a rising junior in the School of Hotel Administration [Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration]. In May 2019, she will graduate with her bachelor’s, a minor in real estate​, and a concentration in development.

Hardy is a student ​researcher at the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship​ ​and a teaching assistant for four classes. Involved at SHA [Nolan School] outside of the classroom, Taylor serves on the Real Estate Club executive board and as president​ of the Cornell Spa ​and Wellness ​Association.

​In summer ​2017, Hardy interned at a Blackstone subsidiary, ​​where she ​worked ​closely with ​business analysts, resident-relations personnel, and apartment-takeover managers. ​In summer 2018, she will be interning as a real estate and investment ​analyst at Hardy World.