I don’t know how often I already heard about the beautiful summer exhibition at Hotel Gajoen in Tokyo, and never made it in time for a visit there. But this year, I finally took the chance and took a look around the Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan 2021, an event showing the lights of Japan at an historical place. And for sure, I don’t want to withhold these pieces of art from you!
Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan
The Wa no Akari (和のあかり; Japanese lights) event at Hotel Gajoen started in 2015 and became an annual event because of its popularity. After a break in 2020, the art illumination event is now back this year, bringing beautiful installations to show, which the visitors can enjoy with all of their senses.
It is held at Hyakudan Kaidan (百段階段), translated as “The Hundred Stairs”, which has been designated a Tangible Cultural Asset of Tokyo in 2009. The structure built in 1935 is one of the last remaining buildings of the original Gajoen Hotel and has beautiful designed rooms on the different levels. You can read about the single rooms on the hotel website. Usually this area is closed to the public and you can only enter here during special events such as the Wa no Akari or with an invitation.
In 2021 the sub-title of the Wa no Akari event is ニッポンのあかり、未来のひかり – Lights of Japan, Lights of the Future and it includes a variety of artworks by diverse artists from different genres all coming together by the common theme of light. So let’s take a closer look on the artworks in the rooms of Hyakudan Kaidan.
Forst Lights (森のあかり)
Starting in the first room, the topic is forest and you can find a light installation with coolish colors. It reminded me a bit of the “snow monsters” of Zao, the trees that get covered in snow and frost every winter. Because it was our first room to enter, I was also amazed by the style of the Japanese rooms of the Hyakudan Kaidan: tatami, wall and ceiling decorations and everything – these are a piece of art by itselves.
Festival Lights (まつりのあかり)
This is the room I was looking forward to the most, after seeing the first photos from the Wa no Akari exhibiton. It connects Japanese paper umbrellas, the light of the moon, a beautiful kimono, the popular tanabata festival and more togther in one frame. There are so many details, you can’t notice them all at the same time.
The way leading to the room is decorated with a wall of tanzaku, the colored paper slips you write your wish on for Tanabata. They are actually from visitors during the festival period
Wind Lights (風のあかり)
Walking on you get inside a room with bamboo and different kinds of wind chimes – either out of glass as we can see them often outside, or out of other materials like metal, soil or ceremics. With a slide wind from the air conditioners they make the typical sound of summer.
Glass Lights (ガラスのあかり)
At this room glass works from different parts of Japan are gathered together, showing the amazing handcrafts that are possible with glass. Illuminated and set together with the different colors, they look even more special and you get the wish to enjoy a drink out of them.
Paper Lights (紙のあかり)
I really love seeing the Japanese lamps made out of paper and there is a beautiful collection in the room of “Paper Lights”. They reminded me of the different seasons, with autumn leaves and lotus flower and hydrangea shapes. I would love to have one (or more) like this for our home.
Wood & Earth Lights (木のあかり | 土のあかり)
Another gorgeous collections of lamps you can find in the next room. These are made out of wood or soil. While the cat lamp got my attantion the most, I was amazed by the beautiful shadows the wooden lamps bring on the walls around them.
Goldfish & Future Lights (金魚のあかり | 未来のあかり)
Another room I was looking for was the last one, filled with paper lanterns in gold fish shape. A really nice photo spot, if you are good enough to find the right angle for the perfect photo. I stayed inside this room for a longer time, because it was quite popular for women in yukata taking photos as well. They also showed gold fishes made out of felt there.
If you are impressed by all the art works, some of these you can buy at the exhibition shop at the end of your visit. This includes small souvenirs, but also the goldfish lanterns, glasses and lamps. The prices are not the cheapest, so I had to resist to get one of the gold fish lanterns (about 2.000 yen for the middle size) or the cute cat lamp (about 15.000 yen). But maybe some day… They will stay on my wishlist!
Hotel Gajoen Tokyo
The Hotel Gajoen Tokyo (ホテル雅叙園東京) is located in Meguro and is one of the high end Japanese hotels of its kind. With 60 luxurious suite rooms in modern or Japanese style, it can be a real highlight for a stay in Tokyo – but for sure, it is not a cheap place to stay. The huge hallway is already gorgeous, leading to restaurants with cuisines from around the world. Furthermore it has several private meeting rooms, up to grand halls, for special events such as wedding parties.
Despite all these facilities are new, the original building of Gajoen was built in 1931. It was often described as the “Palace of the Dragon King of the Showa Era”, because of the beautiful artworks and grand decor inside the rooms. The founder wanted to great a “place like a fairyland” for his guests with all of these.
Unfortunately, in 1988 parts of the old Gajoen building had to go, because the government decided on constructions of widening Meguro river and the building was in the way… Most of the art works were reattached to the new building, however Hyakudan Kaidan and a few other rooms are the last structures that still exist from the old times.
Here I shortly want to sum up all important information for this event one more time for you.
Date: July 3 to September 26, 2021
Opening Hours: 11:30 – 18:00 (different on some days)
Place: Hotel Gajoen Tokyo → Google Maps
(〒 153-0064, Tokyo, Meguro Ward, Shimomeguro 1-8-1)
Closest Station: Meguro Station, around 5 minutes walk down a slope from there
Admission: ￥1.200 (*)
Website: Hotel Gajoen Tokyo
(*) Day tickets at the entrace are priced 1.200 yen. But there are also discounts for students, pair tickets and other tickets with a special souvenir for different prices available online. You also can book time-slot tickets beforehand to avoid waiting times. Check out the ticket website for more information.
I really enjoyed the visit of Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan 2021 and am sad I didn’t go earlier! All the beautiful art works, the atmosphere with the music around. And I took so many photos and video clips (there will be a video about this place coming on my Youtube channel). I will definetely go there again in the future and can highly recommend a visit if you are interested in this part of Japanese culture.