Blending Cultures
Logo Okura 50 years

Past, present, and futureThe art of Blending Cultures

We are proud and happy to reflect on Hotel Okura Amsterdam’s fiftieth birthday. It was an anniversary year full of special activities. These ranged from culinary specials to sustainable gifts and from a festive birthday anniversary cocktail to an event for all local residents. Twelve adventurous stories took guests on a journey through the past, the present, and the future of Hotel Okura Amsterdam.

50-year anniversary

On 24 September 2021, Hotel Okura Amsterdam marked its 50-year anniversary and launched a celebratory anniversary year. This was a beautiful moment to tell new and returning guests about The Art of Okura; the traditional Japanese service in which hospitality is elevated to a form of art. To offer everyone the opportunity to enjoy these special stories, a metal work of art in the form of a Gingko tree — the symbol of a long life — was erected. Guests enjoyed a serene and mystical experience while they made contact with the tree and listened to inspirational narrations.

Ginko Tree in the Okura Hotel

As an example, a story featured was the story of Baron Okura — the ‘builder or bridges between the East and the West’ who through the first Okura hotel in Tokyo made his dream come true at the age of 80 following a full and rich life. The tumultuous history on the establishment of the second Okura Hotel — in Amsterdam — could have been plucked from an adventure story. Changes to the intended use of the area, local protests, and a fickle municipal council made for a difficult start. However, during the special ground breaking ceremony for a moment there was complete harmony. Amsterdam breathlessly watched how a Shinto priest blessed the building plot with holy water from Mount Fuji during a traditional Japanese ritual.

People were taken aback over the story about the culture shock that the first cohort of Japanese staff experienced when arriving in the turbulent Amsterdam of the seventies. Thankfully, Ms Ishiwata-Hoogland — who was fluent in Japanese — stood ready to welcome every one of them and to take them on a tour of the bizarre Dutch capital by public transport. On the other hand, Dutch people were exposed to traditional Japanese culture for the first time through the Hotel Okura Amsterdam. Guests and the press could not stop talking about the building’s exotic interior, the hostesses in authentic kimonos, and the unfamiliar Japanese dishes made in the Kaiseki kitchen of the Yamazato restaurant — the restaurant that would grow to become the first Michelin starred Japanese restaurant outside of Japan.

Through people listening to all these special stories, the eventful history of Hotel Okura Amsterdam was brought to life. They demonstrated where we come from, where we currently stand, and how we can still grow as in our striving for perfection. After all, no matter how much the stories differed, they always featured the recognisable common thread. That everything at Hotel Okura Amsterdam represents omotenashi, the traditional Japanese art of ultimate hospitality. We hope to be able to create new stories together with you for our next anniversary so that we can then once more say: this is what The Art of Okura means to us.