Safety, security and discretion - combined with five-star hospitality, friendliness and an intimate knowledge of Tokyo’s cityscape - make any trip with Hinomaru Limousine a memorable way to explore the Japanese capital on four wheels.
It’s a common scenario: sitting in the back of a car driving through Tokyo, something catches the eye - a skyscraper, a restaurant, a shrine - and you briefly wonder aloud what it is, before it disappears.
Unless you happen to be seated in a vehicle operated by Hinomaru Limousine, an upmarket Tokyo chauffeur company - in which case, the driver will probably answer your question with a smooth balance of knowledge and discretion.
Navigating the dynamic urban megalopolis that is Tokyo has never been easier with Hinomaru Limousine. Its first class fleet of around 400 vehicles offers an array of bespoke services, from airport transfers or hotel pick ups to personalized luxury excursions, complete with interpreters holding special licences in Tokyo tour guiding.
But it’s perhaps the company’s 400 or so drivers - known as “attendants” at Hinomaru - who steal the show: white-gloved, smartly dressed and unwaveringly hospitable, they are rigorously trained to combine safety and service with in-depth city knowledge.
Be it a query about the best restaurant, a good photo spot or the identity of a passing landmark, attendants will invariably know the answer. Their role taps into the company’s motto - “We drive with the heart” - reflecting the importance it places on Japanese hospitality.
“We call our staff ‘attendants’ because they are not just drivers, but also service personnel, who pay attention to customers and guide them,” explains Masatsugu Nihei, a longstanding attendant.
“Many times we have been praised by domestic and international VIPs for our ability to provide hospitality befitting a "first class" land transportation service. We also have the widest variety of vehicle types in the industry.”
The company is as happy driving tourists as it is ferrying ultra-VIPs. Attendants - many qualified with skills such as driving bullet-proof vehicles - often transport state-level visitors during official visits and political summits such as the G20.
A typical example was the company’s deployment of 50 cars a day during official visits by former US Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the President of Ghana shook hands with his Hinomaru attendant and personally thanked him in front of his private jet before leaving Tokyo.
The company’s polished service, security, discretion and safety are rooted in its rigorous three-month training programme undertaken by all new drivers, which also includes language studies, ensuring smooth communication with overseas visitors.
Not to forget its head-turning fleet of 16 types of vehicles, which spans the spectrum in style and capacity - from Mercedes-Benz S and the Alphard to Lexus and BMW.
Hinomaru Limousine was also the first - and only - company in the Japanese limousine industry to add electronic vehicles by Tesla to their fleet in 2014 (it aims to operate 100 by 2030). This is one of a number of eco-sensitive initiatives undertaken by Hinomaru, which is motivated by the long-term vision of contributing to the creation of a sustainable society.
Other measures include donations: every time a passenger rides in a Tesla, the company donates 500 yen to the Children’s Eco Club, an activity club for children run by the Japan Environmental Association, which aims to raise awareness and education of eco-issues.
Hinomaru is clearly also unafraid of innovation, as reflected by its quick response to the coronavirus pandemic: all of the company’s vehicles have been given a special photocatalyst coating which kills the virus after up to 15 minutes of light exposure.
In short? It’s the ultimate way to explore Tokyo on four wheels - and also find out what that skyscraper, restaurant or shrine might be, as it whizzes past the car window.
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