Akasaka Prince Hotel, Tokyo, c. 1960.
Chinzan-so Gardens and Hotel, c. 1962.
“In 1946, as a program of the Occupation’s post-war purges, a new asset tax system was introduced in Japan. Members of the former peerage and the imperial family were forced to bear an enormous tax burden based on the size of their landholdings. With the promulgation of a new Constitution in 1947, the peerage was abolished; 11 families left the Imperial family, and many other distinguished families were forced to sell assets.
“The name ‘Prince Hotel’ originated in 1947, when the Imperial family’s Asaka-no-miya summer villa, located in the mountain resort town of Karuizawa, was sold to Tsutusmi Yasujiro, controlling shareholder of the Seibu Railway and its real estate subsidiary Kokudo Corporation, who remodeled and opened the property as the Prince Hotel.
“Having purchased the Asaka-no-miya villa, Tsutsumi was approached by other families who had lost imperial titles or who had otherwise lost peerage about land transactions in Akasaka, Takanawa (Shinagawa), Yokohama and elsewhere. Tsutsumi arranged to buy several of these families’ properties at a discount and used his new land holdings to develop more hotels.
“The first of these, in Tokyo, was the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, opened in 1953 on the site of the former Takeda-no-miya residence. (This was followed by the opening of the second of Tsutsumi’s Tokyo hotels, the Akasaka Prince Hotel on the grounds of the former Prince Yi Un estate, in 1955.) The 32-room Azabu Prince Hotel was opened in 1956 was on the grounds of the former Baron Fujita estate but which was first operated under different management in 1953 as the Hotel Fuji.
“Two decades later, Kokudo exchanged the Azabu site for one in Roppongi long occupied by the Finnish embassy [and] built the architecturally undistinguished Roppongi Prince, opened in 1984, whereas the Finns turned the Azabu property into a stunning new embassy complex.”
“Then a Japanese, the chauffeur, took my luggage; and there I was, being driven to my hotel in a sumptuous American limousine sent by the network … The Azabu Prince Hotel is surrounded by pleasant gardens, but the quarter is due for transformation. In front of and behind the hotel, some buildings of three and four stories will replace the open green spaces.”
– The Japanese: Everyday Life in the Land of the Rising Sun, by Jean Claude Courdy, 1984