From Typhoon to Pandemic

by Gethin Thomas September. 02, 2020 291 views

In 2014 I was looking forward to a holiday of a lifetime. A cruise from Tokyo to Singapore via Taiwan, Vietnam and Hong Kong. The day before we flew from London we had an innocuous looking email telling us about Super Typhoon Vongfong.

The day we arrived in Tokyo, instead of being transferred straight to our ship, The Diamond Princess (Yes that unlucky ship). we were taken instead to a hotel for the night as the ship had been delayed by the typhoon. It was to sail the next day instead. Our disappointment was soon turned to pleasure when we arrived at the amazing New Otani Hotel.

Construction of the hotel was requested by the Japanese government in the early 1960s, in order to fill a perceived shortage of hotel space for foreign visitors to the upcoming 1964 Summer Olympics. Yonetaro Otani, a former sumo wrestler who founded and ran a small steel company, agreed to build the hotel on a site he owned. It had formerly been the site of the Fushimi-no-miya family residence in the Kioicho district of Tokyo (and before that, the residence of samurai lord Katō Kiyomasa).

The 400-year-old garden on the site was retained as part of the hotel. Which was why our disappointment turned to pleasure.

We were experiencing the tail end of the typhoon but later in the day there was a brief window during which were able to enjoy the garden.

In addition I got to enjoy the architecture of this historic hotel. The New Otani was the tallest building in Tokyo from 1964 until 1968, when the Kasumigaseki Building was completed. It took on an iconic status during this period, particularly for its unique revolving restaurant on the highest floor.

During this time, the building was a filming location for the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, where it appeared as the headquarters of Osato Chemical & Engineering Co Ltd, the Japanese front for Ernst Stavro Blofeld's SPECTRE organization.

The New Otani was greatly expanded in 1974, when the 40-storey Garden Tower opened. A third building, the 30-storey Garden Court office tower, opened in 1991. The original 1964 building, today referred to as "The Main", was extensively renovated and remodelled in 2007, when it was given a modern glass facade.

As an added bonus, the next morning the skies cleared a little and for about two minutes Mount Fuji appeared. Just long enough to take a snatched photo through the window of the hotel.

It took most of that day to transfer and get aboard the ship at Yokohama, where we sailed that evening.

Here the ship is in dock at Okinawa. This year, 2020, the ship became infamous as the quarantine ship of the pandemic. She was quarantined for nearly a month with her passengers on board at Yokohama harbour, and her passengers and crew were subject to further quarantine after disembarking. At least 712 out of the 3,711 passengers and crew were infected, and fourteen tragically died.

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Camellia Staab 3 months ago

Interesting read and some very cool perspective captures. I especially like # different architecture than that glowing sun, just beautiful!

3 months ago Edited