21017 Imperial Hotel

  • Product no longer in production


  • Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Materials: Reinforced concrete and brick
  • Type: Hotel: 250 rooms, 5 ballrooms, 10 banquet rooms
  • Size: 34,765m2 (114,058 square feet)
  • Original cost: 6 million yen
  • Year: 1916-23


The original Imperial Hotel was a three-story, wooden Victorian-style structure built across the avenue from the Emperor’s palace. It opened in 1890 and was the only European-style hotel in the country at that time. By 1915 the hotel was no longer able to accommodate the growing numbers of visitors and it was decided to replace the out-dated building with a new modern hotel.

Looking for a western architect who could bridge the cultural divide between East and West, the hotel’s owners commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design and build the new Imperial Hotel. The 250 room hotel was designed roughly in the shape of its own logo, with the guest room wings forming the letter “H”, while the public rooms were in a smaller but taller central wing shaped like the letter “I” that cut through the middle of the “H”.

The visual effect of the planned design would be both stunning and dramatic. The new Imperial Hotel opened on September 1st 1923. The same day a massive earthquake would rock Tokyo and the surrounding area. Wright was in Los Angeles at the time and it would be ten long days of conflicting reports before it was confirmed that hotel still stood. Indeed, thanks to Wright’s unique design features, it would be one of the few buildings to survive the quake.


Arguably America’s greatest architect and among the world’s most gifted, Frank Lloyd Wright was also a man of boundless energy. In a career that spanned over 74 years, he designed more than 900 works – including houses, offices, churches, schools, libraries, bridges, museums and many other building types. Of that total, over 500 resulted in completed works. Today, over 400 of these buildings still remain. 

Wright was born in 1867, in the rural farming town of Richland Center, Wisconsin, just two years after the American Civil War ended and passed away at the age of 91 in 1959. While there is evidence of Wright attending both high school and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there is no record of him graduating from either. In 1887 Wright moved to Chicago and by the early 1890s he was already head draftsman at the architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan. 

As an architect and artist Wright was both intrigued and inspired by the Far East, and especially Japan. He would eventually design and complete six buildings in the country, the most famous being the Imperial Hotel.