Time Machine: Imperial Hotel in 1963
TOKYO — A pet hangout of mine was the Imperial Hotel, the three-story architectural gem across the street from Hibiya Park. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Imperial had long served as a home away from home to diplomats, international movie stars and, during the Occupation, top GHQ officers. The Viscountess Tsuru Torio, secret lover of Colonel Charles Kades, the Roosevelt New Dealer who had overseen the making of Japan's postwar Constitution, had lived there as a schoolgirl.
It was the only structure in Tokyo to survive the devastating 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Now, however, it had sadly fallen into disrepair. Its Aztec façade was starting to crumble. The hallways were mildewed and rusting. Some of the people sitting in the big easy chairs in the lobby looked as though they had been there since the fall of Tenochtitlan.
Even so, the Oak Bar still had a certain cachet. On a Friday night it was always packed with interesting people — visiting dignitaries, corporate CEO’s, professional sports stars. I would go there, order the one drink I could afford and nurse it for an hour or more and listen to the conversations.