Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2020
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Aman Tokyo; The Peninsula Tokyo; JTB Business Travel Solutions
- Kanagawa, Japan
- International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan
- Japanese, English
Whether she’s arranging a Bushido class with a bona-fide Samurai descendant or recommending her favourite hole-in-the-wall ramen shop, Chief Concierge Sanae Abe’s goal is to share “the real Tokyo” with her guests. “I don’t just give people what they ask for,” she explains. “I also give them the keys to unlocking experiences they may not know about or expect.”
Having spent thirteen years mapping the city’s best-kept secrets, Sanae’s expertise offers travellers an increasingly valued gift: the ability to open doors to hidden facets of local life and culture. “Experiencing a new place isn’t just about ticking items off a list. It’s about the connections you make with local people and the stories you take back home,” she says, eyes sparkling with enthusiasm.
Japanese customs can be difficult for foreigners to access and understand, which is where Sanae’s global exposure comes in handy. Originally from Kanagawa prefecture, her family moved around a lot because of her father’s work in the travel industry, giving her an early love of exploration. Six years living in the US proved to be eye-opening: when Sanae first arrived in New York, she didn’t speak a word of English, not to mention the Pacific-wide cultural gap! The most important lesson she learned while globetrotting was “to keep an open mind and be willing to see things from the other side”.
Today, with her unique insider-outsider perspective, Sanae is able to effortlessly translate local norms for guests and provide insights to deepen their understanding of the destination. “I love questions,” she laughs. “When a guest approaches me with a difficult query or an unusual request, it makes my day.”
After completing her degree in Liberal Arts, Sanae cut her teeth as a business travel consultant before discovering her calling as a concierge. From 2007 to 2020, she worked with two of Tokyo’s top luxury hotels, mastering the art of creating extraordinary guest experiences. This included cultivating relationships with the best restaurants, local guides and craftspeople in Tokyo, a vibrant network she now brings to Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi. Excellence and passion are prerequisites for a spot on Sanae’s list: “I only work with people who go above and beyond.”
With her personable style and attention to detail, Sanae elevates the function of the Concierge Desk from simply giving information to a two-way process of interaction. Under her able guidance, the Four Seasons team hones in on each guest’s preferences: Architecture, cuisine or shopping? Exclusive and intimate, or rubbing shoulders with locals? Quiet and meditative, or in the heart of the action? Based on these factors, Sanae recommends handpicked experiences in and around Tokyo. “I think of us as ambassadors of Japan,” she remarks. “Our role is to facilitate discovery, exploration and connection. My favourite part of the job is seeing guests fall in love with my country.”