History of Hotel Okura Amsterdam The dream of Baron Okura

It all started with a dream, back in the 1950s in Tokyo. Baron Kishichiro Okura wanted to create the ideal hotel for everyone coming to Japan. In 1958 the Tasei Kanko Co., Ltd. (currently Hotel Okura Co., Ltd.) was set up by the Baron and Iwajiro Noda, then President, assisted by Torao Aoki, then Vice President. Plans were laid for a hotel that would retain the essence of indigenous design and courtesy, while incorporating internationally understood procedures. Western and Eastern influences were perfectly blended to make international guests feel at home at Hotel Okura Tokyo, that was opened in 1962.

The stated objective of Hotel Okura Tokyo at the time of its opening was to become the best hotel in the world. The specific means to achieve this objective would be the Best ACS: Best Accommodation, Best Cuisine and Best Service. The first of these, best accommodation refer to the facilities of the hotel. Aoki’s contribution here was the idea of building facilities that 'age gracefully'. This makes maintenance and care in day-to-day use all the more important, but also the need to quickly adopt the latest equipment and systems. Best cuisine means absolutely maintain cuisine of the very highest quality. Third, best service, the best facilities and the best cuisine come into their own only with the very best service. The job of a hotel is to satisfy its guests and this can only be with the very best service. This was the basis philosophy of the chain Okura Hotels & Resorts.

Iwajiro Noda had numerous plans for expansion beyond Japan's borders. He was born in Nagasaki, home to Holland Village, where people are familiar with the ancient trade relations between Japan and Holland. The special relationship between Holland and Japan dates back to 1639, when only Dutch Traders were permitted to continue their trading affairs in Japan, on the island of Deshima. Therefore, Noda was convinced that Amsterdam had to be the location of the first Okura hotel of the European expansion.

On 24 September 1971 His Royal Highness Prince Claus of the Netherlands officially opened Hotel Okura Amsterdam. The growth of the hotel group continued with the opening of the Guam Hotel Okura in 1972 and the extension of Hotel Okura Tokyo with the South Wing, creating a total of 888 rooms. The Okura chain was founded. Even though Okura Hotels & Resorts has many hotels nowadays, its Amsterdam establishment is the only hotel in Europe, giving it a unique position within the chain.

A unique location Why you will find the hotel in a residential area

In 1971 a remarkable tower arose in the south of Amsterdam. How did this 23-storey building end up in the middle of a residential area? Let us take you on a trip down memory lane… To the delight of the Dutch government, contracts of a major construction project were signed in 1969. The prestigious Japanese hotel chain Okura choose Amsterdam as the first location abroad of their international expansion. Close to the old RAI conference building, a site was available where an opera building and metro station would be realized; a very promising outlook. A hotel with international allure would complete this new cultural site in Amsterdam. Four architects were chosen, two Japanese and two Dutch, to get the best of both cultures.

A beautiful complex
Plans were drawn up for a beautiful complex consisting of two separate buildings. A tunnel in between would connect the opera and hotel with each other. Because of the technical and acoustic requirements of the opera, the opera building had to be very colossal and many valuable adjustments were made to the blueprints. An underground parking garage had to be realized and the hotel building was forced to go up in the sky. Because Hotel Okura Amsterdam had to be a tower, a remarkable landmark arose in the Amsterdam skyline

What happened?
Nowadays, the location looks totally different than planned back in 1969. It soon turned out that there was a difference in the financing of both buildings. The budget of the opera became a much debated subject in the following years. Therefore the opera could not directly be materialized. The construction of the Okura on the other hand, started immediately. In the end, the opera was never build; the development plan of the once ‘cultural area to be’ changed. Instead the hotel was surrounded by a retirement home, a petting zoo, a youth centre and a sport centre, none of them higher than the adjacent buildings. This way the tower of Okura is an unexpected contrast in the neighborhood. A great side effect is the breathtaking panorama over the city. From Ciel Bleu Restaurant, the Twenty Third Bar and The Suite as well as most rooms, spectacular sights of Amsterdam can be admired without any other tall buildings obstructing the beautiful view. The LED lights on the roof of the hotel - embodying a barometer - grant the tower an even more prominent place in the skyline of Amsterdam.