Retro Japan: Breathtaking artwork covers rooms along historic Tokyo hotel staircase

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TOKYO – The decorative artwork along the “Hyakudan Kaidan” Staircase at Gajoen Tokyo Hotel is breathtakingly beautiful.

The long staircase consisting of 99 steps was built in 1935 when the hotel was called Meguro Gajoen, and is the only wooden structure existing in the establishment. Japanese zelkova planks about 5 centimeters thick are used for the steps, which connect seven traditional rooms up to “Chojo-no-ma” or “The Summit Room” on the top floor. The staircase was designated a Tokyo Tangible Cultural Property in 2009.

The ceiling of “The Jippo Room”, adorned with traditional Japanese paintings by the “nihonga” artist Araki Jippo (1872-1944), which depict flowers and birds in the four seasons, is visible in this photo taken in l Gajoen Tokyo hotel in the capital Meguro Ward on January 6, 2021. (Mainichi / Akihiro Ogomori) = Click / tap the photo for more images.

The halls had been used in the past to host banquets and parties. Painstakingly crafted paintings and prints in vivid colors can be seen on the ceilings, transom panels above sliding doors and in other places. In “The Jippo Room” – the first room visitors encounter on the way up the staircase – the ceiling is adorned with traditional Japanese paintings of flowers and birds in the four seasons by “nihonga” artist Araki Jippo (1872 -1944). Beautiful Kingdoms contain the wish that visitors even enjoy the time spent waiting for their meals to come out.

The staircase is said to be slightly curved, instead of forming a straight line, so that drunk guests will not feel dizzy going down the steps. Although the name “Hyakudan Kaidan” means “100 stairs”, the staircase actually only has 99. Although there are several theories behind this number, it is believed that by subtracting one from the round number 100, the staircase was deliberately left “incomplete”. “to make room for its eternal development.

(Japanese original by Akihiro Ogomori, Photo and Video Center)



Fan-shaped plaques, believed to bring good luck, are attached to the corners of the window frame grilles to fortify them at the Gajoen Tokyo Hotel in the capital’s Meguro district on January 6, 2021. (Mainichi / Akihiro Ogomori) = Click / tap photo for more images.

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The Japanese version of this article was originally published on January 31, 2021.

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This series explores the architectural wonders and secrets of ancient Japan. Read more articles on retro Japan here.

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