Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel to make way for $1.8bn renewal scheme

The Imperial Hotel Tokyo, a 120-year-old landmark alongside the Imperial Palace, is to be demolished and rebuilt at a cost of around $1.8bn, the Nikkei Asia news site reports.

The new hotel will be part of a major urban renewal project for the Uchisaiwaicho district led by real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan. This will cover around 65ha and involve the construction of several towers.

The hotel scheme is set to be announced formally later this month. Completion is pencilled in for 2036, although a high-rise annex may be open for business in 2030.

The Imperial was originally built in 1886 in the German renaissance style as a place for high-status Western visitors to stay. In 1922, this was replaced by a celebrated Frank Lloyd Wright design with a floorplan based on a monogrammed "IH".

The entrance courtyard of Wright’s Imperial Hotel, as recreated near Nagoya in the Meiji-Mura Museum (Fg2/Public Domain)

This hotel was damaged in the 1923 Tokyo earthquake and the 1945 firebombing before being almost entirely demolished in 1967 and replaced three years later with a 17-storey hotel tower with 772 guest rooms.

Before then, the hotel welcomed a string of notables, including Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio on their honeymoon. The post-1970 building was the venue for the 2005 marriage of Princess Sayako, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

This hotel is suffering the effects of age, and Mitsui Fudosan, which owns a 30% stake in Imperial Hotel Ltd, wants to raise its offering to international luxury standard.

The Nikkei reports that the pandemic has reduced present occupancy rates to 10%, prompting the operator to convert some of its rooms into full-service rental apartments.

Top image: The present Imperial Hotel, built in characteristic 1970s style (Uepon/CC BY-SA 3.0) 

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