OKURA TOKYO

The Okura Tokyo reopens after three-year renovations with its iconic modernist lobby restored

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When it was opened in 1962, just in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Hotel Okura was not just the most luxurious hotel in the city of the time. It was a proud announcement of the nation's rebirth after the war and that it was ready to welcome the world – in other words, a symbol of modern Japan.

It was – and still is – a landmark of historical importance as well as an architectural icon. Designed by industry luminaries Yoshiro Taniguchi and Hideo Kosaka, the hotel was a fine example of the integration of Japanese style with modernist aesthetics. The lobby in particular was a beloved feature, with its distinctive geometric ‘dripping’ lamps, patterned lattice-work windows and clusters of table and chairs arranged to look like plum blossoms. It was ‘Mad Men’ meets Japanism.

However, when it was announced in early 2015 that the hotel would be demolished and rebuilt, there was a huge outcry. Several online campaigns and petitions ensued, in efforts to try and save this architectural gem.

Fast forward to mid-September 2019, the Hotel Okura has reopened after an extensive three-year renovation project – again, for it current reincarnation, also in time for next year’s summer Olympics in Tokyo. While it’s now known as The Okura Tokyo, the overall spirit, heritage and the design of the renewed hotel has been meticulously preserved and restored.

Perhaps as a nod to the hotel’s legacy, the aforementioned lobby is redesigned by architect Yoshio Taniguchi, the son of Yoshiro Taniguchi, the mastermind of the original Hotel Okura. Much of the original designs are preserved but now subtly imbued with a modern twist, such as the now-digitised massive world clock at the reception.

Japanese motifs and traditions are present throughout the premises, especially in the 17-storey Heritage Wing. This part of the hotel is also home to a Japanese garden and a traditional Japanese restaurant, Yamazato.

 Yamazato is Taniguchi’s maiden foray into restaurant design and is characterised by the liberal use of natural sceneries, with elements of mountains, rivers, rocks and the seas featured across different rooms.

Standing beside the Heritage Wing is the more contemporary 42-storey Prestige Tower. While the 8th to 25th floors are occupied by offices, the tower also houses guestrooms, multiple restaurants and bars, a gym and a full-sized swimming pool, all affording an expansive view of central Tokyo and its immediate surroundings, the Toranomon neighbourhood.

Particularly notable are the Bar & Lounge Starlight and the Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka, both located on the top floor of the Prestige Tower, and as such opens out to a breathtaking view of the main Olympic stadium. The Toh-Ka-Lin Chinese restaurant on the sixth floor, however, features private rooms designed after Chinese family homes and overlooks the peach blossoms outside.

All in all, The Okura Tokyo, with its 508 rooms, five restaurants, three bars and 20 event halls spread across the Heritage Wing and the Prestige Tower, is bound to cement its role as a Tokyo landmark.

The Prestige Tower rooms start from ¥70,000 a night while the Heritage Wing rooms are available from ¥100,000. For more information, check the hotel’s official website. Looking for more accommodation options in Tokyo, check out lists for the best ryokan, capsule hotels and library-hotels in Tokyo.

Based on the original reporting by Mari Hiratsuka

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