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Life

Inside the painstaking recreation of Hotel Okura's famous lobby

Tokyo's toppled modernist masterpiece gets a second life with the help of traditional craftsmanship

Entrance to the 41-story Prestige Tower.

When the main wing of the Hotel Okura in Tokyo was demolished in 2015 there was a lingering sense of loss at the disappearance of an irreplaceable slice of Japanese modernism. Created in 1962 by the architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, with the help of an exceptional group of artists and craftsmen, the Okura's peerless sense of time and place peaked with the famous lobby, a space so atmospheric that its power remained undimmed 50 years on. To idle in the airy lobby or sip a martini in the smoky Orchid Bar was to wallow in a Tokyo that is fast disappearing.

Because of all this, walking into the lobby of the new Heritage wing of the Okura is disconcerting. For here, inside a gleaming new skyscraper, the much-loved lobby has been perfectly, confoundingly, recreated. The familiar lounge chairs, lacquer tables, pendant lights and woven hangings are all there. The vintage world wall clock is in place; even the bamboo shadows still peep through the paper screens just as they did in the old lobby.

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