Old Photo of the Imperial Hotel

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Russ McClay
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Old Photo of the Imperial Hotel

Post by Russ McClay »

Happened upon this image going through a collection of
old Japanese photos on Flickr.

Thought it might be of interest to the community here:


It high resolution, hope that's OK (newbie).


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Post by JimM »

I wonder if the roof was actually blue (doubtful) as in this tinted (I assume) photo.

Olga's inspiration for Marin? :lol:

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Post by BBuck »

No doubt a black & white photos with some (not very good) hand-tinting in Photoshop.


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Post by Wrighter »

Welcome, Russ--and thanks for posting the photo.

Russ McClay
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Post by Russ McClay »

The photo is part of an authentic Japanese antique photo collector's
collection and was hand-tinted around the time it was taken.
Photoshop wasn't an option then. =)


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Post by SDR »

Sweet. I like seeing it big. While the brick seems about the right color, not all of it has been tinted -- there's a band running through the center that's
still monochromatic gray. And perhaps the oya stone needs a bit more tint ? But what a nice image !


Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

What a grand image! Postcards carry that additional cultural context that so enhances the information. Hand-tinting was often an editorial process completed by an artisan who had never experienced the real object and was working to boost public relations or achieve commercial sales rather than authetic documentation. That visual "untruth" often sparks the nostalgia of imagination more.

The postcard thread could be full of these images. I wonder if Russ McClay could double post this on that thread. Without a more sensitive search engine this "seminar" resource is becoming burdensome.

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Post by BBuck »

I've done a little research and believe the photo was taken by a Mr. T. Enami. Quite an image maker. I found some very interesting info and some marvelous photos (many of them hand-tinted). Some shot in stereo for the 3-D effect and some done for lantern slides.


Brought back fond memories of living in Japan and seeing my very first Wright building.

From the website text (photo is not there):

September 1st, 1923. Noon. The Great Kanto Plains Earthquake was one of the largest recorded quakes in the history of Japan. Books were written about it then, and are still being written now. In Yokohama and Tokyo, 140,000 to 160,000 souls were either crushed to death, burned beyond recognition, or had the air sucked from their lungs, suffocating them in the whirlwind firestorm that followed in the hours after the initial quake brought everything down.
Although T. Enami and his entire family escaped in the confusing mass exodus that ensued immediately following the collapse of the buildings, in the fire that followed hours later, his Studio of over twenty one years was wiped off the map. In England, Walter Weston would soon bring attention to Enami’s talent, as well as his plight. Writing in the introduction to his book Japan (London: A&C Black, 1926) Weston would state, “The handsomely reproduced illustrations (with the exceptions of those otherwise indicated) are from beautifully coloured lantern-slides produced by my old and valued helper, T. Enami, of Yokohama, in the studio that subsequently vanished in the fire following the earthquake of 1923.�

Ca.1925-29. Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel, Tokyo. From a Lantern-slide. Opened the same day the earthquake destroyed Enami's studio, it survived with only minor damage. Enami took this photograph of the hotel before he died in 1929. When the structure was razed to make way for a new incarnation, this entryway was saved. It may now be seen at Meiji Mura Architectural Park outside of Nagoya.

Was Enami or his staff able to grab any boxes of contact prints or proof sheets from what might have been only a partially damaged building? The immense stores of glass negatives, even if not broken, must have been too heavy to carry away to safety in the mad rush of people fleeing the distant walls of approaching flames. The image that comes to mind is a sea of molten glass on the floor of his ruined studio, melted by the fires that raged after the Earthquake. No one knows the particulars, but the property at No.9 Benten Street was gone forever. However, Enami refused to let his name and Studio die.

Neat stuff!

Jeff Myers
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Post by Jeff Myers »

I found that the Imperial hotel is mentioned in Pencil Points. I think it was in the 1923 or maybe the 1924 Edition. It had 2 Plans in the August Edition and 2 photo in the June Edition.

Does anyone know about that or have Pencil Points?
Jeff T

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60 Minutes and 6 degrees of...

Post by BBuck »

Watching Andy Rooney tonight on 60 Minutes, he told a story of his father (Walter Scott Rooney 1888–1959) being in the Tokyo hotel the very day the earthquake took place. A short but interesting story as only Andy can do. He stated his father, having a cup of "tea", knew something was up when the ripples began in that same cup. He survived as did the hotel he was in, but some of his photos that he took were perhaps burned by his mother.

I'm a fan of Mr. Rooney, from his reporting days in WWII in the USAF, a member of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, to his current rants about almost anything. (my father was a commander and and a co-pilot in the same outfit). Dad survived 32 missions. I'm proud to be a honorary member of the 92nd Heavy Bomber Group.

Mr. Rooney is also a good carpenter. His Nakashima-style desk he sits at is from his own hands.

I thought this to be another interesting connection to Wright. Minus the war stuff of course.

More about Andy:


Rant over and out...


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Post by Reidy »

Noel Coward is another with connections to the hotel. It was one of his favorites anywhere, in part because large hotels allowed him to get down to work incognito, whereas at a small one fans would inevitably recognize him and want to take him out for a meal.

He was staying there when he got the idea for Private Lives, and in Future Indefinite, his autobiography of the war years, he mentions his disappointment at not being able, because of pre-war tensions, to go ashore and drive up to Tokyo for a drink there.

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Post by RonMcCrea »

My mom had her Canadian Academy senior prom, or "tea dance," there in 1926, which might be about the vintage of this postcard.

Roderick Grant
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Joan Fontaine lived at the Imperial Hotel

Post by Roderick Grant »

After the de Havillands divorced in the 20s, Mr. d continued to live in Japan, while Mrs. took daughters Olivia and Joan back to California. For a brief time as a teen, Joan returned to Japan for a short time in the early 30s. Her father was living at the Imperial, which Joan (de Havilland) Fontaine wrote about many years later in her autobiography, "No Bed Of Roses." She didn't like the place at all, said it was dark and dank. Overall, she comes across as a bit of a crank. Richard Avedon, who photographed her for the "What Becomes A Legend Most" Blackglama Mink campaign, said she was short-tempered and churlish.

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Post by Tom »

Saw this shot on FLICKR.
Some of the lava block detail reminds me of the house now being built at Florida Southern. It surprised me but I should've known better.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/amunizdelg ... /contacts/

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Post by peterm »

The roof was copper, so the teal color tinted in the photo is probably very close to the correct color after a few years of oxidation.


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