Hilltop Hotel in Tokyo beloved by renowned writers temporarily closes

Hilltop Hotel, an old-fashioned establishment in Tokyo that served as the regular lodgings for many renowned figures in Japanese literature, closed Monday for an undetermined period due to the run-down condition of its 87-year-old building.

Yasunari Kawabata, who in 1968 became the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and novelist Yukio Mishima were among the frequent users of the hotel, which opened in 1954 on a hilltop near Tokyo's Jimbocho areas, home to many publishing companies and bookstores.

The art deco-style building was constructed in 1937 and designed by American-born architect William M. Vories, who was known for his works that incorporated features of both Japanese and Western architecture.

The building was first used by the Japan lifestyle association but was confiscated by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. Following Japan's defeat in the war, it was taken over by the U.S. military, which used it as a dormitory for the Women's Army Corps before deciding to return it to the association.

On Tuesday, people visited the wood-paneled lobby with its writing desk and bookshelf of dictionaries as well as its restaurants to bid farewell.

Among them, a 77-year-old man from Tokyo said, "Perhaps the writers' talents bloomed in the hotel's atmosphere and hospitality that allowed them to escape their busy everyday life."

Hikaru Inazu, a 24-year-old university student said, "The hotel has become the face of this town with its sophisticated design. I hope this style will not be changed."

The hotel only has 35 rooms, and those that featured wooden furniture and tatami mats were especially popular with novelists who wanted to concentrate on their work, the hotel said.

The lobby was often crowded with publishers and their staff as they waited for authors to produce their drafts, at a time when there were no fax machines or emails, it added.

The hotel said in October it would suspend operations for the time being to consider ways to address the aging building.

© Kyodo News