National

Renovated Okura Tokyo unveiled to the press ahead of public opening

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

Renowned for melding East and West, old and new with its architecture and design, The Okura Tokyo opened its doors to the press for the first time Friday after three years of renovations, ahead of its public opening on Sept. 12.

“We hope that we can become a hotel that will be cherished by people from all over the world, as a revamped The Okura Tokyo that still carries on the legacy of traditional beauty and the Japanese spirit,” said general manager Shinji Umehara in a statement.

The cost of the renovation is estimated at a total of ¥110 billion.

The hotel, located in Minato Ward, chose to keep much of the design that had cemented its place among examples of modernist Japanese architecture. It was sometimes likened to a museum for the meticulous artistry and handicrafts that adorned its interiors. It also retained much of the design of its famous lobby, which was so popular with fans that a petition was launched in an effort to keep it intact.

“I was slightly worried about how the lobby would look, but upon seeing it I was relieved to find that it was exactly as it had been before,” said a staff member of the hotel who asked not to be named.

The hotel, which once hosted famed guests such as Princess Diana and Harrison Ford, was conscious of carrying on its legacy as a mainstay of Japan’s cultural scene, while bringing in new touches.

Yoshio Taniguchi, the son of architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, who designed the original Hotel Okura Tokyo, was asked to redesign the main lobby as well as several of the restaurants within the hotel.

“In designing this hotel, I challenged myself to make the lobby my father had designed even better, instead of simply copying his designs,” he said.

Indeed, chairs reminiscent of the petals of a plum flower, the pentagonal “Okura Lanterns” that drip from the ceiling of the lobby and the windows layered with washi (Japanese paper) that gently diffuse the harsh sunlight, have all retained the charm of the original lobby.

Yet the lobby itself has been redesigned to occupy a larger space, introducing slight changes into the world-renowned interior.

The previous Hotel Okura opened its doors in 1962, ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. It became one of the most prestigious, high-end hotels in Tokyo and made its mark as an architectural landmark fusing Japanese tradition and Western styles.

In recent years, however, it had faced tough competition from foreign operators of luxury hotels, before closing its doors to renew its facilities.

The revamped part of the hotel consists of two buildings. The Okura Prestige Tower consists of 41 floors and has rooms available from ¥70,000 a night. Rates can reach up to ¥700,000 a night for its suites, and a stay in its most luxurious Imperial Suite will also cost hundreds of thousands of yen a night.

The Okura Heritage Wing, which has been designed with a traditional Japanese guest house in mind, will have rooms available from ¥100,000 a night.

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