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.