“This magnificent building situated in the central business quarter of the metropolis, is on of the foremost restaurants in Tokyo. It is noted for the excellence of its service and cuisine as well as for its rooms. Besides the magnificent dining hall there is a spacious de luxe Sukiyaki room on the 3rd floor. This room is big enough to hold the largest meeting.
“In the evening in summer the beautiful roof garden in the Japanese style, is a favourite dining place, with the myriad lights of the vast city forming a picture of irresistible attraction.”
– Glimpses of the East, Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), 1931
The earliest Meiji-era “social” hall was called the Rokumeikan [deer cry pavilion], designed by English architect Josiah Conder. It opened in 1883 for the purpose of entertaining foreign diplomats and dignitaries, and was one of the earliest architectural symbols of Japan’s Westernization.
In 1921 a grander hall, Tokyo Kaikan [meeting hall], was completed. It was designed by Taniguchi Yoshiro (who also designed the Imperial Theatre and, after the Pacific War, the Okura Hotel). The opulent building faced the Imperial Palace and quickly became the favorite of the city’s corporate elite, with conferences, banquets and large-scale presentations. Inside were elegant banquet facilities and a wedding hall, and several of Tokyo’s first posh Western- and Japanese-style restaurants that were open to the general public.
The building was one of many in the Marunouchi district to survive war-time firebombings. During the Occupation, the Tokyo Kaikan premises served as both a US military officer’s club and as the location of the Tokyo American Club for expatriate businessmen.