Photo/IllutrationOkura Lanterns, as well as tables and chairs designed in the image of blooming ume flowers, adorn the main lobby of Hotel Okura’s old main building. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

The main lobby of Hotel Okura Tokyo’s much-loved old main building, lauded as “the masterpiece of Japanese modernist architecture,” is to be reproduced in its replacement facility due to open in 2019.

The main building opened in 1962, two years before the first Tokyo Olympics, and welcomed VIPs in Japan and from abroad until it was closed in 2015.

Writers Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972) and Ryotaro Shiba (1923-1996) frequented the hotel, and visiting U.S. presidents, Britain’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Michael Jackson and John Lennon also stayed there.

When the plan was announced to replace the aged main building, many admirers of the main lobby’s original interior and fittings did not want to see it go.

A petition collected 6,000 signatures from around the world to oppose the plan and was submitted under the name of the “Save the Okura” project.

“Partly because we received requests from across the globe, we reached the conclusion that Japan’s traditional beauty embodied at the Okura should be passed on,” said Shinji Umehara, an executive director of Hotel Okura.

The new hotel, which will go by the name of The Okura Tokyo, will open on the site of the old main building in September 2019, in time for the Games’ return to Tokyo in 2020.

It will comprise a 41-story Okura Prestige Tower and 17-story Okura Heritage Wing. The former main lobby will be reproduced inside the Okura Prestige Tower.

Distinctive hanging lights known as Okura Lanterns, as well as tables and chairs designed in the image of blooming ume flowers, will be recreated in the new lobby.

A huge wall clock showing the time at major cities on the six continents of the world that featured in the former main lobby will also be reintroduced.

The new lobby has been designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, the eldest son of architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, who led the design committee for the old main building.

With a total of 508 guest rooms and 20 large and small banquet halls, the new hotel will be one of Tokyo’s largest accommodation facilities.