Tuesday, September 1, 2015

End of an Era - Farewell to the Okura

The Orchid Bar - smoking section
Today is the start of a new era. For the first time in fifty two years it's not possible to book a room at Tokyo's iconic Okura Hotel, or even order a beer in the legendary Orchid Bar. President's have stayed there and so did Bond in the film 'You Only Live Twice', though how he managed the 600km journey to Himeji Castle so quickly was never clearly explained. It's also in a scene from the surreal Haruki Murakami book IQ84 (Q being the pronunciation of the number nine in Japanese if you were wondering) as a body is smuggled out of the back. 

Soon to be no more - The Okura Hotel Tokyo
Built for the '64 Olympics, it's descendant will open in time for the 2020 events. There has been much criticism and lamenting of the decision to raze the building to the ground being considered one of the finest remaining examples of 1960's Japanese architecture it certainly boasts a remarkable lobby. But outside some excellent food and outstanding customer service, that's actually about it. The rooms show their age and the Orchid Bar still banishes non-smokers to a pokey little side room more suitable for rabbits. It is time to go. 
The spa was never really like this

The replacement soaring structure, designed by the son to the original's architect, will be a pair of glass towers, forty-one stories high. Being atop the bluff of the yamanote (foothills) of Tokyo, the view of the bay area will be spectacular and, a hundred meters from the American Embassy, it is bound to host Presidents into the future. Whether Bond will ever leap from it's towers is an unknown but with the well hidden and tight access roads he's going to be better served with a motorcycle than a limousine. And maybe in the new Hotel Okura's resurrected Orchid Bar, it'll be the smokers who are banished to the rabbit hutch. Let's wait and see.

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