Tokyo’s famed Okura hotel gets Olympic makeover
Tokyo’s famous Okura Hotel, which has hosted US presidents, British royalty and even fictional superspy James Bond, offered a peek at its rebuilt interior Friday as it prepares for its grand re-opening.
The beloved hotel was torn down in 2015 despite a passionate campaign to preserve it and is poised to open again next week after an extensive modernisation and renovation just in time for the 2020 Olympics.
Located on a hill in central Tokyo just across from the US embassy, the hotel has welcomed American leaders Richard Nixon and Barack Obama, as well as Britain’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
It was the obvious choice of lodgings for 007 while in Japan, as proved by Ian Fleming’s novel “You Only Live Twice.”
Reporters were offered a sneak preview ahead of the September 12 re-opening, revealing nods to the past in the lobby that will delight nostalgics in terms of the general style and parts of the furniture such as the famous hotel lanterns.
But the rest has been revamped in a sober but modern fashion dominated by wood, aiming at foreigners who lap up the minimalist Japanese style.
The new Okura Hotel is housed in two towers (75 metres and 188 metres tall) and will consist of 508 luxury rooms, banquet halls, conference rooms, shops, restaurants, luxury bars, as well as a spa and fitness club.
It will also host the Okura Art Museum, founded in 1917 as Japan’s first private art museum.
The original Hotel Okura was opened in 1962, two years before the first Tokyo Olympics, and was a symbol of the affluent country’s post-war coming-out party.
Its demolition sparked a flurry of petitions from at home and abroad from those arguing it represented a priceless part of Japan’s culture.
However, its owners believed that the 60s-era modernist masterpiece, which had delighted high-rollers for decades, no longer catered for discerning guests used to modern five-star hospitality.
When it closed, the hotel auctioned off memorabilia and furniture, with the proceeds going to a charity promoting music and art in areas of northeastern Japan hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.