The gingko grows tall and lives long. Its green leaves of spring turn to glorious yellow in fall. The grounds of Hotel Okura Tokyo are full of gingko trees. We have used the gingko leaf pattern generously throughout the hotel because the gingko is a good omen.
The “diamond” in this case refers naturally to the shape, not the gem. Had we better say “rhomb?” At any rate, the patterns occupied an important place among the several patterns used at the Imperial Court during the Heian period. Since then, a number of variations and adaptations of the Diamond Pattern has developed. After the Kamakura period, it assumed further importance as a family emblem, and following the Momoyama period, there were many derivations of the original family emblem.
One of the many variations of Hishi-mon is Matsukawabishi. This is what we may call the “Triple Diamond Pattern.” It came into vogue during the Momoyama and the Edo periods when it was used on clothes and craft articles.
Lighting-shaped lines (a section of the layered diamonds) divide the design surface, break the diamonds apart and create a picturesque pattern, sometimes creating a bold pattern. Tsujigahana kimono is a good example of this.
“The Okura Lantern”, now familiar to all international travelers, in the lobby, owes their unique shape to the hexahedral gems found in the early dawn of our country, the third to the sixth century. Together with crescent jades and beads, they were used on necklaces.
Kirikodama in Japanese are made of crystal, glass or emerald. At Okura, five are strung together.
In the center wall of the South Wing lobby, there is a mural of heron in flight―made of black and white tile―created originally by the famous wood-block print artist, Shikoh Munakata, but modified and recreated in the form of a folding screen by Mr. Yoshiro Taniguchi.
The tile-works was conducted by Mr. Yasutsugu Kobayashi.
This work of art merges well with the Okura’s distinctive atmosphere as well as with the suspended lanterns.
It would have been strange if the geometrically perfect hexagon of the tortoise shell pattern had escaped designers’ notice.
In the Orient, the tortoise, together with the crane, symbolizes longevity.
Thus the tortoise-shell pattern is believed to stand for long life auspiciousness, and perfection.
Among the many geometrical patterns, the checkers are the simplest and the most stable-appearing. We call this pattern Ishidatami-mon, because the checker board looks like a stone pavement (Ishidatami).
During the Edo period, Ichimatsu Sanokawa, a Kabuki actor, wore a checkered Hakama (Japanese skirt), and the pattern became popular overnight. In fact, the other name of Ishidatami-mon is Ichimatsu-mon. In old times, the checker pattern was also called Arare, or hailstones, and during the Heian period, a more elaborate pattern was created by superimposing the shape of a cut-away section of the melon upon the checkerboard.
An aggregate triangular pattern appears like fish scales. In Japan, this pattern was used on clothes as early as the Haniwa period , and since then has remained popular among the common people. In the twelfth century, the warrior class adopted it for use on weapons and armors, because the simplicity and neatness of the Uroko-mon appealed to the Samurai.
The noble orchid is a universal favorite. We have named the main bar “The Orchid,” and decorated its rosewood walls with several orchid-shaped frosted lights.
The exterior walls of the Okura have attracted much attention because they are peculiarly Japanese in their dignified and graceful way. This type of wall plaster is called Namakokabe.
These walls are made by arranging flat tiles in a checkerboard pattern. Thick strips of plaster are then applied into the gaps between the tiles and moulded into a semicircular shape, creating a look reminiscent of sea cucumbers, hence the name Namakokabe-sea cucumber wall. The walls of the Okura heve been constructed in a way that causes the walls to change color as the sun travels across the sky.
Do you know that there is a shortcut overshadowed by bamboo wood leading to the South Wing lobby from Kamiyacho subway station?
Although it takes less than one minute when you walk fast, the path has an atmosphere of an ancient city corner with the bamboo trees rusting in the wind on a quiet morning.
It is the old-fashioned patching, but actually it represents a faithful reproduction of a hundred different brocades, some of which are thirteen century-old native fabrics; others are silk and gold brocades and silk damasks imported between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Painstaking efforts have gone into making the wall finish in order to bring about a harmony between the materials and the colors chosen.