Via Curtis M., Tokyo’s Hotel Okura is slated for demolition.
Five decades ago it was a gem of architecture, combining Japanese aesthetic and modernism.
It’s across from the US Embassy, so has been a watering hole for ex-pats, State Department employees, and people who merely list their official employer as the State Department.
Presidents from Nixon to Obama visited the hotel. So did Harrison Ford, Madonna, and Michael Jackson. And James Bond, in the novel You Only Live Twice.
‘Taking you to your hotel first – the Okura, latest of the Western ones. American tourist got murdered at the Royal Oriental the other day and we don’t want to lose you all that soon. Then we’ll do a bit of serious drinking. Had some dinner?’
The hotel, a Leading Hotels of the World property, will see its Main Wing close for demolition in August (its South Tower will continue to function). Re-opening is slated for 2019 and construction will cost about US$1 billion.
I really like the mid-century modernist motif, made popular again by Mad Men. It’s how I remember my grandparents’ home growing up.
But I wouldn’t choose to stay there, and contra the Washington Post‘s piece on the demolition the decision isn’t driven by “Japan’s tear-down culture” but rather economics.
A 50-year old hotel that has seen little renovation since no longer commands the room rates which provide the return on Tokyo’s expensive land. Earthquake standards have improved. Rooms at luxury hotels are far larger than they used to be in Tokyo. The hotel scene there has seen the introduction of fabulous new properties over the past decade against which this one hasn’t competed well.
There’s a movement to preserve the hotel — a petition and a hash tag. The movement doesn’t include booking actual room nights, let alone at a rate high enough to preserve the hotel.
We may like the idea of the Okura. But will we stay there in its current form enough and at a price necessary to sustain it? The owners are betting not — and they’re placing a billion dollar bet.
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