The Okura Hotel has been a symbol for Tokyo, now it is in full transformation, to become a hotel that blends the past and the future of Japanese philosophy.
When Ian Fleming wrote the novel ‘You Only Live Twice’ in which James Bond avoided nothing more and nothing less than a nuclear war between the United States and Russia, he decided that the character should stay at the Hotel Okura, the fantastic hotel that was conquering Japan and its most illustrious visitors. A pity that they resolved to shoot the images of the feature film at the Hotel New Otani, in short, things from the cinema.
In the movie titled ‘You only live twice’ in our country, Sean Connery drinks with the character Dikko Herdenson in the Bamboo bar, which does not exist in the original hotel, although it must be admitted that the name is a success. In fact, the iconic building partially disappeared last year 2015 to make way for a new and renovated complex of buildings, specifically two towers of 75 and 188 meters high still under construction, which will open their doors in September 2019 just before of the 2020 Olympics.
The former Hotel Okura was opened in 1962, before the 1964 Olympics, as a first-class hotel, a Japanese modernist building with a design based on the country’s traditional beauty, which boasted the best accommodation, the best cuisine and exquisite service. The interior design, with hexagonal lamps hanging from the ceiling of the lobby, tables and chairs arranged in the shape of plum blossoms, a world map, and a clock with different time zones around the globe, tricked visitors for generations.
Such was the media attention it reached, that the announcement of the demolition of the hotel raised much criticism, even reacted to a part of Japanese society that tried to change the mind of the business owners. They could not. Although the owners have promised that they will respect the traditional aesthetics in the new property, fusing it with the new needs of today, in other words, the new complex is born from the combination of traditional luxury ’and contemporary luxury’.
The two new buildings will offer a total of 508 pure luxury rooms with a large area for gardens and green areas, as required by the most sustainable fees. The smallest building, which is 75 meters and 17 floors high, has been called The Okura Heritage Wing, it will be independent from the largest and will have green areas adjoining three of its facades. There will be space for the most demanding palates with the Yamazato restaurant, with traditional Japanese food, or the famous traditional Chosho-an tea ceremony room.
The jackpot will be the tallest tower, at 188 meters, with 41 floors, to the so-called Okura Prestige Tower. The skyscraper will have unparalleled views over the city of Tokyo, in all its rooms, since these will start on the 28th floor. The rest of the floors will be used for offices (about 18), a church, games room, fitness and spa , a commercial gallery and a wine academy. Of course, they will have a heated pool.
As a modern hotel they have spared nothing and are going to offer their clients a 2,000-square-meter ballroom, one of the largest dance halls in Tokyo, and where prestigious international conferences can be held. Surely the American embassy, almost next to the towers, the Spanish or the Swedish, also very close, will take it into account for their future commitments.
The president of the Okura Hotel, Don Toshihiro Ogita, has communicated that the philosophy of simplicity and elegance has been very present in the new design, adding that “it was sad to leave aside our much-loved Okura Tokyo Hotel, but I am sure that The Okura Tokyo to be equally appreciated by our guests and visitors from around the world. We will offer unrivaled Japanese-style hospitality and other attributes that set our original hotel apart, which we will combine with the highest standards of contemporary luxury to ensure guests enjoy memorable and highly comfortable stays”, it is said.
About 835 million euros, about $ 980 will be invested in the construction of the complex. One of the responsible architects, Yoshio Taniguchi, is the son of the designer of the lobby of the original building, of the same name as his descendant, so when speaking of tradition, one speaks knowingly (as the poet would say). In the main tower lobby, the iconic original hotel lobby has been reproduced, adapting furnishings and décor, the ceiling and the mezzanine to remember as much as possible the success of his father, script demands.
So even though the T-shaped building no longer exists, new and old visitors, like American Presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, will be able to discover the hexagonal lanterns and the world map that gave so much to talk about, tables and chairs with the design of the last century, arranged like the plum blossom petals, the silk tapestries of the famous Japanese ceramist Kenkichi Tomimoto, faithfully reproduced and of course, the shoji paper windows, with their shaped lattices Asanoha-mon leaf.
Adapting to the future sometimes means letting go of the past, even if it is remnants, successes do not have to be repeated, but the needs change and the places where we build are unique. Can we afford to maintain all of our structures forever? Which buildings should we safeguard and which not? Decisions of this type are not always easy, there are those who could argue that the Okura could have been built elsewhere. In any case, the owners understood that no and only time will give or take away their reason.