IMPERIAL HOTEL

TOKYO THE FLAVOR OF HIBIYA

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If you're reading this in the Imperial Hotel, you're in Hibiya, an
historic district which at the end of the Edo Period was perhaps Tokyo's
most captivating and active international neighborhood - where
everything was state of the art and utterly exotic.

Once an exclusive neighborhood of tile-topped,
patrician mansions with walled, leafy gardens, by the 1880s it had
emerged as an extraordinarily popular gathering place for foreign
traders, ambitious local aristocrats and the diplomatic corps.

It was home to the fabled Rokumeikan, an elegant wooden
Victorian style mansion and international social center patronized by
Japan's richest families and the tiny but growing international community,
and the location of the Imperial Hotel, the biggest, newest, most luxurious
hotel in the Far East at the time, and so exotic a sight that native
Tokyoites are said to have pressed their noses against the glass windows
where inside at tables hefty, hirsute foreigners in bizarre attire dined on
beef and pork, four legged animals that until recently had been forbidden for
consumption by Buddhist precepts. Above is a cityscape of contemporary
Hibiya, from the park across the avenue.

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The brick-faced Hibiya Public Hall opened at the beginning of
the Showa Era, and remains to this day situated at one side of
what was the very first western style public park in Tokyo,
Hibiya Park, across the street from the Imperial Hotel.

The Hall became a symbol of recovery after vast sections
of the capital were razed or burned down after the catastrophic Great
Kanto Earthquake in September of 1923, which occurred the very day our
daringly eye-catching and intensely elaborate Frank Lloyd Wright
Imperial opened to the public. The Hibiya Public Hall remains in use
today and has served as the stage for countless musical and dramatic
performances by the likes of Fyodor Ivanovich Chaliapin (who left us the
Chaliapin Steak we still offer here today), Charlie Chaplin and Herbert
von Karajan, among many, many others.

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Above is an artfully mounted water tap from the park's very
earliest days. It provided drinking water not only for visitors in
the park but to the countless horses and cows used for
transportation and labor around the city at the time.

Hibiya Park also houses a huge, authentic stone coin from Yap,
a former Japanese colony in the Western Carolines, a huge
reproduction of the Liberty Bell, presented to Japan by
General Douglas MacArthur, and some of the city's
oldest wooden western style dining facilities.

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Courtesy: Takarazuka Revue Company

The Tokyo Takarazuka Theater and the Hibiya Movie Theatre opened in
1934, followed by the Yuraku-za Theatre in 1935. Takarazuka revue
performers are exclusively female, the opposite of Kabuki drama where
all the actors are male.

The Takarazuka Theater was an inspiration for the setting of
Marlon Brando's hit Hollywood film, "Sayonara," based on
the novel by James Mitchener. The Takarazuka Theatre remains in
operation across the street from the Imperial Hotel. Its fascinating
performances include musicals such as "Oklahoma!",
"The Rose of Versailles", "Gone with the Wind" and
others such as that featured in the photo above.

onward