TOKYO: Tokyo’s most distinguished hotel is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and a ceremony was held recently to mark the occasion. The Imperial Hotel opened in 1923 and was regarded as a masterpiece of design by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Imperial Hotel, Ltd., and the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust celebrated with a private dedication of cherry trees planted in the courtyard of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Chicago.
Celeste Adams, the Trust’s President, noted that Wright’s lifelong fascination with Japanese art and culture began in Chicago after encountering Japanese architecture at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition – also known as the first World’s Fair – in Jackson Park, a short distance from the site of the Robie House.
The Japan pavilion at the World’s Columbian Exposition was inspired by the Phoenix Hall of Byodo-in, a Buddhist temple in Uji near Kyoto. In 1905, Wright traveled outside the U.S. for the first time, spending three months in Japan.
Wright lived in Japan intermittently during the design and construction of the Imperial Hotel, which opened on September 1, 1923, the day of the Great Kanto Earthquake. The Imperial Hotel survived and Wright considered it his masterpiece. After the Imperial Hotel project, Wright never again returned to Japan.
US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, who was formerly the Mayor of Chicago, sent a message to mark the anniversary: “One of Chicago’s chief cultural contributions worldwide is architecture. I was proud to support the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and Robie House as Chicago’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. Wright’s legacy is captured in the brilliance of what he built, but also in the ability to inspire ingenuity that transcended countries, namely the United States and Japan. Given Frank Lloyd Wright’s great gift to bridge two cultures, two nations, and two peoples, it’s fitting that the Imperial Hotel and Frank Lloyd Wright Trust celebrate the centennial of Wright’s Imperial at Robie House.”
The original Imperial Hotel opened in 1890, serving as Japan’s guesthouse. It was founded by Japanese aristocracy on the same site it occupies today and began as a venue to receive an increasing number of foreign dignitaries visiting Japan.