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    Empty Garden

    I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Man, what Tokyo could use more of is underpopulated hotels. And you are in luck. The latest wonder of pointless hypertrophied hostelry opened for business during this morning’s rain:

    Seibu Rail Group opened its new Tokyo Prince Hotel Park Tower (Minato Ward) on 11 April; the conglomerate has invested about 30 billion yen in the project. This is the 53rd Prince Hotel. The structure consists of 33 floors above ground, two floors below ground, and a total of 673 guest rooms.

    The hotel is supposed to be a symbol of the rebirth of the Seibu Group, which has suffered an extraordinary number of scandals lately even for a Japanese conglomerate.

    BTW, that little sentence about this being the 53rd Prince Hotel? Ha. That doesn’t tell you the half of it. Here in Tokyo, there’s a complex called Shinjuku Park Tower, home of the famous Park Hyatt Hotel. Of the Prince Hotels, possibly the best-known is the Shinagawa Prince Hotel, though there’s also a Shinjuku Prince Hotel. Neither of these is to be confused with the grandiloquent Park Hotel Tokyo, which has towered over Shinbashi for the last several years. And don’t forget the Hotel Century Southern Tower, officially in Shibuya Ward but considered part of the Shinjuku orbit. One begins to feel something like affection for the old Hotel Okura for at least having a name that you’ve got a fighting chance of remembering. The Seibu Group’s strategy of simply stringing all the common words together into one super-nomen might prove to be pretty clever.

    Actually, come to think of it, the same sort of rules govern the naming of apartment buildings here. I live in a building in the Park House chain; you commonly see things like Sun House, Sun Heights, Garden Heim…stuff like that. The strategy seems to be kind of like what happens in suburban housing developments in the States, where, after the meadow is ploughed under and paved over to build the neighborhood, the new street is un-ironically called Meadowview Terrace. All the Garden/Park/Sun buildings just serve as a constant, vicious reminder of how decidedly un-green and sun-deprived Tokyo actually is.

    Then again, it’s hard to imagine how the nomenclature could be made more honest without chasing people away. Who wants to live in a place called Rebar Villas or stay at the Hotel Phallic Boondoggle?

    3 Responses to “Empty Garden”

    1. John says:

      Well, originally the “Prince” hotels were built on land fomerly owned by Hirohito’s brothers. When the royals became taxable citizens after WWII, the Seibu clan bought their houses and land, payinf the taxes for the royals, who then kept all of their former playgrounds. As the royals needed money, they sold off bits and Seibu made depaatos and “Prince Hotels”. I don’t know if the moniker was mandated by law back then, but I guess it added a certain cache of luxury. These new Prince Hotels are probably named that out of habit.

    2. John says:

      By the way, is your house OK? A magnitude 6 is nothing to sneer at.

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      Yeah, thanks. I think it was only a 6 in darkest Chiba and Ibaraki near the epicenter–we felt it at 3 or so here. Enough to wake you up, but not enough to damage anything.

      I know the hotel names have a history–you can’t really fault chains for branding themselves consistently, especially if they have that lofty-sounding association with royalty going for them. It’s just that all the hotels have names that sound the same; the Prince part is actually one of the more distinct parts.

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