TOKYO – The decorative artwork along the “Hyakudan Kaidan” staircase at Hotel Gajoen Tokyo is breathtakingly beautiful.
The long staircase consisting of 99 steps was built in 1935 when the hotel was called Meguro Gajoen, and is the only wooden structure existing in the establishment. Japanese zelkova boards with a thickness of about 5 centimeters are used for the steps, which connect seven traditional rooms up to “Chojo-no-ma” or “The Summit Hall” located on the top floor. The staircase was designated Tokyo Tangible Cultural Property in 2009.
The halls had been used in the past to host banquets and parties. Elaborately designed paintings and etchings in bright colors can be seen on the ceilings, the transom panels above the sliding doors and other places. In “The Jippo Room” – the first room visitors encounter when ascending the staircase – the ceiling is adorned with traditional Japanese paintings of flowers and birds in the four seasons by “nihonga” artist Araki Jippo (1872 -1944). The beautiful kingdoms contain the wish that visitors even appreciate the time spent waiting for their meals to come out.
The staircase is said to be vaguely curved, instead of forming a straight line, so tipsy guests won’t get dizzy descending the steps. Although the name “Hyakudan Kaidan” means “staircase with 100 steps”, the staircase actually only has 99 steps. Although there are several theories behind this number, it is believed that by subtracting one from the round number 100 , the staircase was deliberately left “incomplete”. to make way for its eternal development.
(Japanese original by Akihiro Ogomori, Photo and Video Center)
* * *
The Japanese version of this article was originally published on January 31, 2021.
* * *
This series explores the architectural marvels and secrets of Japan’s past. Read more articles about retro Japan here.