During his lifetime, Frank Lloyd Wright built 532 homes, museums and office buildings in the United States, Canada and England. But did you know that he also designed a building in Japan?
During the Meiji Restoration of 1868, there was an influx of western concepts in Japan on almost all aspects of life including architecture. The legacies left behind from this era can still be found in a handful of port cities that were opened to international trade early on, such as Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki and Hakodate.
However, since most buildings were destroyed during the war or fell into disrepair, a must see destination for those interested in Meiji period architecture, is Meiji Mura, an open air museum in Inuyama near Nagoya that displays over 60 buildings from the Meiji period. Among the buildings displayed at Meiji Mura is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel, whose iconic central lobby wing and the reflecting pool were disassembled and reassembled at the museum in 1985, seventeen years after the hotel’s demolition.
The original Imperial Hotel in Tokyo was designed and completed by Yuzuru Watanabe in 1890. The construction was in response to the request of Japanese aristocracy who wanted to cater to the increasing number of western visitors to Japan at that time. Unfortunately, Watanabe’s building was completely destroyed by fire in 1917. Construction of the second Imperial Hotel took place from 1919-1923 and the structure was one of the best known Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Japan.
The architectural design used was called Maya Revival Style, incorporating copies of Mayan motifs in the building’s decorations. The main building materials consisted of poured concrete, concrete block and carved oya stone. Oya stone is created from lava and ash and can only be found in the town of Oya in Tochigi Prefecture.
Regrettably, this beautiful building fell into decay and was officially closed on November 15, 1967 with demolition starting shortly thereafter. A third Imperial Hotel or Teikoku Hotel, was constructed on the same location, across from Hibiya Park and minutes from the Imperial Palace in 1970 and is still in operation.
Today, visitors to Meiji Mura can once again experience the opulence of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creation. The park is situated in a wooded area next to Iruka Pond and can easily be reached from the Nagoya Station via the Meitetsu Inuyama Line to Inuyama Station (30 minutes). Visitors will then need to transfer to the Meitetsu bus to Meiji Mura which takes another 20 minutes.
On a side note, in the new hotel’s mezzanine-level you can find the Old Imperial Bar. It is decorated in the Art Deco style and toward the rear of the bar is a portion of one of Wright’s original walls from the second Imperial Hotel.
Imperial Hotel at Meiji Mura
Current Imperial Hotel
Hotel web page: http://www.imperialhotel.co.jp/e/tokyo/index.html
Address: 1-1, UCHISAIWAI-CHO 1-CHOME, CHIYODA-KU, TOKYO 1008558, JAPAN
Museum web page: http://www.meijimura.com/english/index.html
Address: 1,Uchiyama, Inuyama city, Aichi, 484-0000 Japan