Nikkatsu International Building & Nikkatsu Hotel, c. 1960.

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Nikkatsu Hotel, Tokyo, c. 1965.

Nikkatsu Hotel, Tokyo, c. 1965. The first modern office building built in Tokyo after World War II, the Nikkatsu International Building was completed in 1952 just as the Occupation of Japan was ending. Occupying the four top floors of the building was the 133-room Nikkatsu Hotel, at that time the only serious rival to the Imperial Hotel in terms of luxurious accommodations and convenience. The buildings International Arcade included airline ticketing offices (including both Pan American Airways and Northwest Orient Airlines), a host of duty-free shops selling cameras and electronics, and the American Pharmacy.

Map: Location of the Nikkatsu Hotel, Tokyo, c. 1952. relative to the Imperial Hotel and Tokyo Central Station.

“On April 3 1955 [Joseph] Campbell flew to Tokyo and was whisked efficiently to the expensive Nikkatsu Hotel. ‘But hurray for Tokyo and the Japanese,’ he wrote. ‘This tops Hong Kong and scores supreme for the cities of Asia visited so far.

‘My hotel is an absolutely modern, absolutely clean, perfectly efficient, fine affair, with intelligent, trim hallboys and good service. The hot water is hot; the fixtures work; the room is attractive: and – the Japanese touch – when I entered I found the matchbox placed in a studied and pretty way against the ashtray: the desk blotter aptly placed on the desk, and the bureau drawers partly out, in an orderly way.’

Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind: The Authorized Biography, by Stephen Larsen, Ph.D. & Robin Larsen, 2002

Aerial view of the Yurakucho district, c. 1960. The Nikkatsu Hotel is seen at center. Upper-left of center is the Dai-ichi Seimei Sogo building; at upper-right of center is the Nichigeki Theater.

Nikkatsu Hotel suite, c. 1960. (Colorized) The trapezoidal shape of the building resulted in some rather unusual room layouts on the north end.

“Having retreated from the production scene a dozen years earlier, all but forced out of the business by the wartime formation of Daiei, [Nikkatsu] continued as a theater-holding company after the war, making its money by showing American films.

“… The profits from exhibitions allowed Kyusaku Hori, head of Nikkatsu, to build the big Nikkatsu International Building not only to house Nikkatsu’s home offices but also to provide ‘class’ rental office space, luxury shops [including the American Pharmarcy, well-known to the expat community], and for the first time a modern hotel to rival the old and more famous Imperial Hotel.

“The Nikkatsu Hotel, opened in 1952, was the first modern hotel built in Tokyo after WWII.”

The Japanese Film: Art and Industry, by Joseph L. Anderson, 1982

The south face of the Nikkatsu Building and Hotel, Tokyo, c. 1965, with the grounds of the Imperial Palace in the distance. Back-caption: “One of the most modern and magnificent hotels in the Orient, located near the picturesque Imperial Palace. 133 air-conditioned rooms with bath, restaurants, banquet rooms, cozy cocktail lounge and coffee shop.” One of the more prominent and popular stores in the Nikkatsu Arcade was the American Pharmacy, a Western-style apothecary frequented by Tokyo’s growing expatriate population. Its signage can been seen above the sidewalk at the right corner of the building (below the SwissAir logo in the third-floor window).

“Although we were prepared on our visit in 1952 to discover that Japan was a country of ‘contradictions,’ to use a familiar cliché of those who deliver travelogues, it did not take us long to find out that the cliché was true.

“In 1952 any Westerner would discover this when he came to that intersection in downtown Tokyo where upon turning left he would see the then modern Nikkatsu Hotel with its bars, drugstores, doormen, flower shops, and liquor stores; and upon turning right he would see the Emperor’s Palace, complete with moats and drawbridges.”

Journeys to the Japanese, 1952-1979, by Lucia White & Morton White, 2011

Another, earlier view of the south face of the Nikkatsu Building at night, Tokyo, c. 1955. Back-caption: “In the heart of nation’s capital facing Imperial palace ground [sic], convenient to the business offices, government buildings and smart shops.”

Nikkatsu Arcade newspaper advertisement, Tokyo, 1960.

“In a city like Tokyo, there are a number of stores which specialize exclusively in foreign products.

“Pharmacies can be found in all localities and are well supplied with all kinds of medicines, cosmetics, and toilet articles. The question of special medicines may present problems to a foreigner and the language barrier may further compound the difficulty.

“To help remedy this situation, Tokyo and Kobe have the American Pharmacy where various kinds of imported medicines and other medical needs can be obtained and where there is a registered pharmacist on duty.”

“Living in Japan: A Brief Guide for Foreigners”, Japan Information Service (Consulate General of Japan), 1968

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