Hotel Okura

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A recent article in Town and Country brought Hotel Okura to my attention. Apparently the potential remodel plans of the Minato, Tokyo hotel have upset many fans of mid-century design, rightly so. I have to say I have notced that here in Japan things are either new and modern or old and traditional - there's no in-between. I have to agree that preservation of something representative of Japanese design in the 1960's is worth saving. Especially considering that the head architect was Yoshiro Taniguchi.


The hotel opened in 1962. It is famous for appearing in Cary Grant's final movie,"Walk Don't Run" and a Sean Connery Bond film, "You Only Live Twice". This lobby looks so serene but very stylized for the era. The lanterns are traditional okura-style which is made in a 'kiriko tamagata' (faceted gem shape). The founder of the hotel was so inspired by these lanterns that they are the namesake.




I love the details in the tilework. This natural Tago sandstone accent wall has such a beautiful texture.



Of course there are economic pressures. This is a low-rise building in a very high-rent area. A high-rise would be substantially more profitable. But one can't ignore the magnificent design and details that would be lost. For example, the South Wing was added in the 1973 with this remarkable mosaic painting by Yoshiro Taniguchi based on the print "Saginawate-no-Saku" by Shimo Munakata.



Some more details, I love the textures!




In the Town and Country article they point to the paradox of Japan's lack of architectural conservation unless something is really, very old and survived quite by accident. I see it in talking to friends here. They would not live in a "used" house more than 20-30 years old. My friend Keiko says that, "bad energy from previous owners" would keep her from moving into an older home. Will Hotel Okura go the way of Kenzo Tange's Akasaka Prince Hotel and Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel?



Sources: Monocle, Town & Country and Hotel Okura

Hemingway's Key West Estate in Domino

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Somehow while living in Florida for five years, I never made it to Key West. Life just gets busy! But I have wanted to go mostly to take a tour of Ernest Hemingway's house. I was really excited to see these beautiful photos of the place in a tour on Domino's website.







Spring Refresh

Sapporo Snow Festival Part III

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Finally, my last group of photos from the Sapporo Snow Festival. I wanted to include some things I'll never forget, like this amazing demo area for Japanese snowboarders and skiers.


There was some true talent but I'll never forget this lady, a girl who grew up in Hokkaido. She was amazing!



Sculptures of just about everything...







Including Disney's Frozen, obviously. There were about half a dozen Olafs.



These American Sailors with the US Navy who sculpted the USS Constitution.





Huddling around the heaters for warmth in the standing-room-only dining tents. Oh and speaking of survival - if you go, bring your own paper and hand towels for the loos. Public places, especially parks, don't provide. Yes, I just went there.


Milk Land! Hey, when in Hokkaido... (this is where most Japanese milk comes from, it is not unlike visiting Wisconsin if you're American)


How it inspires everyone - these were our Aussie neighbors and their masterpieces in Niseko




And this guy, who pretty much summarizes how I feel whenever I'm behind the wheel... just kidding.



Hope you enjoyed the little tour of the Sapporo Snow Festival!




Sapporo Snow Festival Part II

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hello again! Some more photos from the 66th Annual Sapporo Snow Festival. I love the realism in snow. They had snow artists from all over the world come and participate. Here are some more amazing sculptures. The scale is so hard to convey on this one, but it is about three stories tall



Rice harvest, one of my favorites





This is the snowy version of this Cathedral of Manila. source


The realism is shocking.



And then there are my favorite things I'll always remember, like this guy. I think he was representing wildlife preservation interest group, but I'm not sure since my language skills are not so refined.  He was a pretty great sport about posing for me!


And there's ice slides for the kids


The ice slides are sponsored by Cup Noodles



And this guy, I mean this in all seriousness, he is very dapper. I believe he is Sapporo's very own Ron Burgundy.