Wandering the Hotel Okura


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I set out from Kamiyacho Station surrounded by ultra-clean streets swept clean of the last traces of dirt. The evening was quiet, as if all the people of the city were playing hide-and-seek in the dark. Only the slow blinking of red aerial lights on the top of the monoliths gave life to the empty city.

I had visited the Hotel Okura only once, some years before, but I did not stay. I remembered the dimly lit reception and the ground-floor restaurants but as I climbed the small hill leading up to the hotel I found that the main building was already gone. I searched my memories to see if I could remember what it looked like before, but all that I could find was a void. In its place stood a steel and concrete skeleton sheathed under scaffolding. I began to doubt if I had actually been there or not.


Across the road the smaller South Wing of the original hotel still stood. A few lights shone dimly and the distinctive pattern of its front face was illuminated in emerald.   

The Hotel Okura,  built in 1962, defined the Tokyo Moment that I had always been looking for. Modern chic and Tokyo nights, the Orchid Bar and forgotten memories, celluloid heroes and hushed cigarette-talk – Evenings at the Okura on the hill. Maybe I had walked its hallways, or maybe I had just read about them – either way it was not the same anymore.


I stood there with my camera in the a chill of a November evening. The lights of the hotel entrance glowed in the yellow incandescence of faded memories. The Okura was over.

I could only turn my back on what was left of the hotel and walk towards Roppongi and the six Zelkova trees of Runaway Horses. Outside the Audi Concept Store I met another wanderer, a visitor from New York, who was photographing the city too. We shot for a little while, drifting towards the orange glow of Tokyo Tower and trading short stories from our lives underneath the fine evening sky.

We parted ways at Roppongi Station, but maybe we will meet in New York again some day...