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food / travel

The Landmark Tokyo Station Hotel Marks Its Centennial

One of Tokyo's cultural treasures celebrates 100 years of hosting renowned writers and other celebrity guests.

Happy 100th!
Happy 100th!

TOKYO — In the 100 years since it first opened, The Tokyo Station Hotel has been the site of memorable moments for countless guests and has watched over the capital city through changing times. Located inside Tokyo Station's Marunouchi Building, which is designated as a significant cultural landmark, it has attracted renowned writers among many other guests.

As the centennial is marked this month, staff members have renewed their determination to make The Tokyo Station Hotel a place that will be remembered for the next 100 years as well.

Akiyuki Takaishi, 34, works in the hotel lobby, welcoming guests. He recalled a conversation with an elderly woman who came to the hotel three years ago.

"I know there was a (station) waiting room around here about 50 years ago. I want to see it again so badly," she begged Takaishi.

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Photo: Wei-Te Wong

According to the woman, her father departed for the front from Tokyo Station during World War II. They spent time together in the waiting room for third-class train passengers before he left.

Helped by colleagues, Takaishi searched among old documents to track down the location of the waiting room. He discovered it was in the current hotel lounge.

"That window frame looks familiar to me," the woman said, looking deeply moved. Takaishi said he felt the weight of the hotel's history in that moment.

The European-style hotel opened in November 1915, a year after the opening of Tokyo Station. Parts of the current hotel were previously used as a waiting room for train passengers and an office for station employees.

The number of rooms has increased to 150 from 56 at the initial opening.

Many guests would stay at the hotel with special thoughts from their life events.

Staff member Saori Shinoda, 24, vividly remembers a married couple in their 50s who stayed in the hotel in December. When Shinoda asked whether they were on holiday, the couple said they had come to celebrate the husband's recovery from cancer.

They said they had been at the hotel before his treatment began and vowed in the lounge to fight the illness.

Later that day, which was also the husband's birthday, Shinoda invited the couple to the lounge, where she prepared a small gift for him — a glass of beer, which he had been unable to taste during his battle with cancer.

The couple left a letter in their room the following day saying, "We'll never forget your hospitality." Other guests have been seen silently crying over their untold history related to the station building.

"We'd like to carve each guest's thoughts in the history of the station building," Shinoda said.

Many famous writers have also stayed in the hotel. One was Seicho Matsumoto, who was a frequent guest around 1956.

From what was then room 209, Matsumoto saw every platform in Tokyo Station become empty of trains for a few minutes, which inspired a trick in one of his best-known novels, Ten to Sen ("Points and Lines").

Matsumoto reportedly said, "This hotel has no elevator, so it's easier to stay in a room that I can reach quickly by the stairs."

Yasunari Kawabata also stayed in the hotel for a month in 1956 to write Onna de Arukoto ("Being a Woman"), a serial novel for a newspaper. In the story, he wrote about a crowd of people coming and going through a ticket gate, a view he could see in front of the hotel from his window.

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Santiago Villa

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-OpEd-

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