Ochanomizu, the Tokyo neighborhood stretching from Yushima, Bunkyo Ward, to Kanda, Chiyoda Ward, gives good vibes. Jazz, rock and reggae spill from music stores and guitar shops lining Meiji-dori as it drops south toward Yasukuni-dori. Mid-slope is Meiji University's Liberty Tower, where one drizzly afternoon recently Co-Op Labor Union members were exercising their right to protest, megaphones in hand, blood-red banner unfurled.

I climbed the adjacent slope to the top of Surugadai Hill. Cicadas were shrilling in patches of greenery at the summit, where there rose a building that looked like it came from the set of a future city in a Buck Rogers flick, what with the strips of masonry down the facade and the narrow setbacks of the terraced crown.

The Art Deco building, designed by William Merrell Vories (1880-1964), opened in 1937 as an institute for enlightening women in the Western lifestyle. Its founder, Keitaro Sato, chose an inauspicious time to create a paean to the West. The building was confiscated by the Imperial Navy. Next it was requisitioned by Occupation Forces to billet the Women's Army Corps. The WACs dubbed their digs the "Hilltop Hotel." Toshio Yoshida, a manager at Asahi Glass Co., kept the name when he leased the building in 1954.