Today Mrs. Adamu and I went jogging around the Imperial Palace moat, an activity that is apparently all the rage these days. Mrs. Adamu is training for a half marathon, but I do one slow lap myself just to burn some calories. It is easy to see why the palace area has become a popular place to exercise – it is an unimpeded, smoothly paved path, the view is gorgeous, and it’s easily accessible from Otemachi or other surrounding stations. The downside, of course, is that the jogging traffic has begun to resemble a busy freeway, forcing slowpokes like me to constantly watch my back so as to not get in the way of the more serious athletes. Normal tourists visiting the grounds are also quite visibly inconvenienced by bespandexed Tokyoites rushing by.
But all in all it’s a great experience. Today was particularly eventful:
- Happy Takeshima Day! The holiday set up by the Shimane Prefectural government in 2005 to remind their fellow citizens that the disputed rocks belong to Japan, not Korea. This is apparently a big deal to right wing groups (see Roy’s earlier post on this), so to commemorate, one decided to use its megaphones outside the Social Democratic Party headquarters to loudly berate them with accusations of treason for close ties to North Korea. BTW, these guys might think their country has a valid claim to the Takeshima rocks, but stamp expert/blogger Yosuke Naito shows us some fairly convincing Korean stamps that say otherwise.
- Workers were emptying the shuttered Palace Hotel of furniture and other items. The hotel was set up in 1961, just before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, on the site of what was once part of the Imperial Household Ministry and then a GHQ-run hotel “for the exclusive use of buying agents from abroad.” While it must have looked quite modern in 1961, more than 40 years later the design resembles a Holiday Inn and noticeably clashes with the more refined palace across the street. The current building will be torn down, with a renewed Palace Hotel will set to open on the site in 2012. We started jogging the imperial grounds in mid-January, just weeks before the Palace Hotel shut down. We thankfully at least got to take a peek at the lobby before it was relegated to the history books. The inside looked much grander than the exterior, with obsequious front desk staff, expensive-looking lounges, and old-school carpeting and wood-panel walls. By far the neatest item in the lobby, however, was a wood-carved clock, shaped like a world map with digital displays showing the time in major cities. It was considered cutting-edge at the time it was unveiled at the time of the hotel’s opening. The thing just oozes 1960s modernity – I could picture this on the wall of an enormous workroom full of office ladies working on typewriters (click for full size. Thanks Yomiuri!):
Amazingly, no one knows who designed or manufactured the clock despite its iconic status, but one thing is for certain – it will live on. Though originally set to be destroyed after the hotel closed, at the last minute a German patent office decided to take it (for no charge except shipping costs) out of the management’s nostalgia for frequent stays at the hotel during business trips to Tokyo.