The new Hotel Okura in Tokyo

In August 2015, the old Hotel Okura, a design icon from the 1960s, closed its doors. Before demolition work began on the 12-story cult hotel, against which signatures were collected worldwide from loyal guests and design experts, there was a week in which interiors steeped in history were removed and put into storage. A measure to manage the balancing act between renewal and preservation without unnecessary strain. Only those who knew the old house can really judge whether it has succeeded.

Die Sitzgruppen sind in der Form von Pflaumenblüten arrangiert. Die Möbel sind zwar Repliken, aber die Anordnung rund um die Lacktischchen und auf dem Schachbrettmuster des Teppichs entspricht dem Designentwurf von 1962. Aus Prinzip wird den Gästen auch heute noch in diesem Bereich nichts serviert / © Foto: Georg Berg
The seating groups are arranged in the shape of plum blossoms. The furniture is replica, but the arrangement around the lacquer tables and on the checkerboard pattern of the carpet corresponds to the 1962 design. As a matter of principle, guests are still not served anything in this area / © Photo: Georg Berg

Okura Prestige and Okura Heritage – reminiscence of days gone by

Is it now a great success or a desperate attempt to do justice to two worlds?
The symbol of Japanese post-war architecture has been replaced by a sleek 41-story glass building ahead of the Olympics. The reopening took place in mid-September 2019. In the week following the re-opening, we had the opportunity to stay at the 5-star Okura Prestige Hotel. During the tour of the new flagship property of the Okura Hotel Group, we see the first guest reactions to the two hotel buildings. The Okura Heritage has 6 stars and is 75 meters high. The Okura Prestige has 5 stars, is 188 meters high and only has rooms for hotel guests from floor 28.

Der legendäre Wartebereich der Lobby. Das Herzstück ist eine fast perfekte Replik des Originals. Dem Vernehmen nach hätten Gäste beim ersten Anblick der Lobby geweint. So sehr erinnert die Neuauflage an das Original von 1962 / © Foto: Georg Berg
The legendary lobby waiting area. The centerpiece is an almost perfect replica of the original. By all accounts, guests would have cried at first sight of the lobby. That’s how reminiscent the new edition is of the original from 1962 / © Photo: Georg Berg

“Sorry sir” – even Cary Grant didn’t get a room.

There are some parallels between the old cult hotel and the earthquake-proof new building. Both hotels were completed with the Olympic Games in mind. As in 1964, Tokyo will again host the Summer Games in 2020. Already, the hotel is fully booked for the duration of the competitions. The Hollywood movie “Walk, don’t Run” begins at the Hotel Okura. Cary Grant tries in vain to get a room. “Sorry sir, Olympic you know”.

Der Eingangsbereich des Okura Prestige in Tokio. Das Schachbrettmuster der Auffahrt findet sich auch in der Lobby wieder / © Foto: Georg Berg
The entrance area of the Okura Prestige in Tokyo. The checkerboard pattern of the driveway is also found in the lobby / © Photo: Georg Berg

The old Okura Hotel was a showcase of fine Japanese craftsmanship paired with modern and light architecture. In order to save the ambience of the old Okura into the modern glass cuboid, they commissioned the son of the star architect of the time. Yoshio Taniguchi also designed the new building of MOMA – Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the new Okura building, he remained true to the designs of his father, Yoshiro Taniguchi. All key elements can be found again. Particularly striking are the famous light fixtures and the airy seating arrangements in the shape of a plum blossom in the right part of the spacious lobby.

Aus dem alten Okura Hotel erhalten geblieben: Die fünfeckige Bespannung der berühmten Leuchten / © Foto: Georg Berg
Preserved from the old Okura Hotel: The pentagonal covering of the famous light fixtures / © Photo: Georg Berg.
Aus dem 41. Stockwerk kann man sogar die Berge am Horizont der Skyline sehen. An klaren Tagen reicht der Blick aus der Glasfront der Bar bis Mount Fuji in der Präfektur Shizuoka / © Foto: Georg Berg
From the 41st floor, you can even see the mountains on the skyline horizon. On a clear day, the view from the bar’s glass front reaches as far as Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture / © Photo: Georg Berg
Direkt neben der Bar liegt das wieder auferstandene Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka. Besonders beliebt bei den Gästen aufgrund der sensationellen Aussicht / © Foto: Georg Berg
Right next to the bar is the resurrected teppanyaki restaurant Sazanka. Especially popular with guests because of the sensational view / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Okura – Japanese hospitality and modern luxury

Tokyo is a mega-city, building land rare and expensive. Renovation was out of the question for both economic and structural reasons. To make the hotel competitive again, the rooms had to be enlarged. This could not be reconciled with earthquake-proof construction and became the death knell for the design icon that was so popular all over the world.

Blick aus dem 17-stöckigen Heritage-Gebäude auf das Okura Museum. Rund ein Drittel der Grundfläche sind Grünflächen – für Tokio ein ungewöhnlich luxuriöser Umgang mit dem Platz / © Foto: Georg Berg
View of the Okura Museum from the 17-story Heritage Building. Around one third of the floor area is green space – an unusually luxurious use of space for Tokyo / © Photo: Georg Berg

The new building has now also made better use of valuable airspace. Standing in the bar on the 41st floor and looking into the immediate neighborhood, it quickly becomes clear that demolition and new construction are currently being practiced intensively. The south wing of the Hotel Okura, a building from the 1970s on the opposite side of the street, is also to make way for a new building after the Olympic Games. The average size of the rooms has grown to around 48 square meters. In return, the number of rooms has shrunk from around 800 to 508 compared with the old Hotel Okura.

Zimmer mit Aussicht. Im Stil traditioneller japanischer Wohnräume. Luftig und leicht. Die Fensterfront zieht sich über die komplette Länge des Wohnraums / © Foto: Georg Berg
Rooms with a view. In the style of traditional Japanese living rooms. Airy and light. The window front runs the entire length of the living room / © Photo: Georg Berg
Bad in der Menge - Badezimmer mit Blick auf die Mega-City Tokio / © Foto: Georg Berg
Bathroom in the crowd – bathroom with a view of the mega-city Tokyo / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Okura – more than a hotel

Money is made at the new Hotel Okura with an expanded business model.
The hotel has reduced the number of rooms, but increased the room rates. Internally, the lobby is called Lobby Prestige Tower on the 5th floor, but it is actually at ground level. This is because the hotel has been built not only in height, but also in depth. The Heian Room, a banquet hall designed for receptions and events for up to 2,000 guests, is the largest in Tokyo and is located on the ground floor. So are 18 other function rooms for conferences and wedding ceremonies.

Hüterin der Aufzüge – ein Service im Kimono, den es schon seit den 1960er Jahren gibt. Aus der Lobby geht es in die Höhe. Ab Stockwerk 28 beginnen im Okura Prestige Tower die Gästezimmer / © Foto: Georg Berg
Guardian of the elevators – a service in kimono that has been around since the 1960s. From the lobby, the elevators rise. From floor 28, the guest rooms begin in the Okura Prestige Tower / © Photo: Georg Berg

For hotel guests, the floors starting on floor 26 are interesting. There, global travelers will find their usual luxury in the form of a swimming pool, spa and fitness rooms with views of the city. From floor 28, the guest rooms begin. Here, too, guests can look out over the skyline across the entire width of a room. The world below is all work. That’s because the owner rents out almost half of the Okura Prestige Tower as office space.

Riesige Ornamente aus japanischen Papier - der Wandschmuck aus dem alten Ballsaal Heiannoma, wurde gereinigt und am neuen Standort recycelt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Huge ornaments made of Japanese paper – the wall decoration from the old ballroom Heiannoma, was cleaned and recycled at the new location / © Photo: Georg Berg
Die Geschenkbox für Traditionalisten. Im Heritage-Flügel, mit 108 Zimmern wird neben kleinen Geschenken auch ein Butler-Service angeboten / © Foto: Georg Berg
The gift box for traditionalists. In the Heritage wing, with 108 rooms, a butler service is offered in addition to small gifts / © Photo: Georg Berg
Suite im 15. Stock des Heritage-Flügels. Alle Räume der 120 qm großen Suite sind in hellen Holz- und Stofftönen gehalten. Klare Linien und ein Hauch des 60er Jahre Chics dominieren die Ausstattung / © Foto: Georg Berg
Suite on the 15th floor of the Heritage wing. All rooms in the 120-square-foot suite are decorated in light wood and fabric tones. Clean lines and a touch of ’60s chic dominate the decor / © Photo: Georg Berg

The lobby is alive – old atmosphere behind a new facade?

The balancing act seems to have succeeded. In the lobby, one feels transported to the 60s. But we also experience the new and old heart of the hotel in these first days after the opening as a bit of a museum. Guests inspect woodwork, wall surfaces and huge flower arrangements in whispers. Things get a little livelier at an evening concert, for which the plum blossom arrangements are pushed to one side. One would wish for a little impulse of life from the lively and constantly roaring mega-city of Tokyo for this place.

Leicht veränderter Name: Aus Hotel Okura wurde The Okura – ein anderes gibt es nicht an diesem Ort der Welt. Nicht mehr. Zur Okura Nikko Hotel Management Gruppe gehören insgesamt 72 Hotels, davon 47 in Japan und 25 im Ausland mit einer Gesamtkapazität von derzeit 22.600 Gästezimmern weltweit / © Foto: Georg Berg
Slightly changed name: Hotel Okura became The Okura – there is no other in this part of the world. Not anymore. The Okura Nikko Hotel Management Group owns a total of 72 hotels, 47 of which are in Japan and 25 abroad, with a current total capacity of 22,600 guest rooms worldwide / © Photo: Georg Berg
Der Knopfdruck zeigt: Tokio ist Deutschland um sieben Stunden voraus. Auch diese interaktive Weltuhr wurde restauriert und schmückt nun auch die neue Lobby im The Okura / © Foto: Georg Berg
The push of a button shows: Tokyo is seven hours ahead of Germany. This interactive world clock was also restored and now also adorns the new lobby at The Okura / © Photo: Georg Berg

The cost of half board was not charged by the hotel

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