Imperial Hotel Diamond Robbery - Part 2
Second in a four-part series
TOKYO — The Imperial Hotel was the crown jewel of Tokyo. Designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, it had opened in 1923, the year of the great Kanto earthquake, a calamity it had survived intact when every building around it collapsed into rubble. Hailed as a miracle of architecture, it was a wide, low-slung, red brick and oya stone edifice that “floated” on pilings and boasted a lotus pond in front of the main entrance.
From the outside, it looked more like an Aztec temple than a Japanese hotel (in fact, Wright had originally intended the design for a Latin American site). During the GHQ years, high-ranking military officers had stayed there, and by the mid-1950s it was generally acknowledged as the greatest hotel in Asia. Anybody who was anyone stayed there, from U.S. senators to Hollywood movie stars. Its musty, mausoleum-like lobby was the most popular meeting place in town.