TOKYO -- The decorative artwork along the "Hyakudan Kaidan" stairway at Hotel Gajoen Tokyo is a sight of a breathtaking beauty.
The long stairway consisting of 99 steps was built in 1935 when the hotel was called Meguro Gajoen, and is the only wooden structure existing within the facility. Planks made of Japanese zelkova with a thickness of some 5 centimeters are used for the steps, which connect seven traditional rooms up to the "Chojo-no-ma," or "The Summit Room" situated at the top floor. The staircase was designated as a tangible cultural property of Tokyo in 2009.
The rooms had been used in the past to host banquets and parties. Elaborately designed paintings and engravings in vivid colors can be seen on the ceilings, transom panels above sliding doors, and other places. In "The Jippo Room" -- the first room that visitors encounter on their way up the stairway -- 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 realms contain the wish that visitors will enjoy even the time spent waiting for their meals to come out.
The staircase is said to be loosely curved, instead of forming a straight line, so that tipsy guests will not get dizzy as they descend the steps. Though the name "Hyakudan Kaidan" means "100 step stairs," the stairway actually only has 99. While there are multiple theories behind this number, it is believed that by subtracting one from the round number 100, the stairway was deliberately left "incomplete" to leave room for its everlasting development.
(Japanese original by Akihiro Ogomori, Photo and Video Center)
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The Japanese version of this article was originally published on Jan. 31, 2021.
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This series explores Japan's architectural wonders and secrets of yesteryear. Read more Retro Japan articles here.