Logo Okura 50 years

The zoning planThe art of Memories

The Art of Memories is how we cherish special moments and inspiring stories. We are proud to share them with our guests. In this story, you will hear all about the unique history of Hotel Okura Amsterdam’s location – where a change in the municipal zoning plan threw a spanner in the works.

At the end of the 1950s, when a Japanese family of entrepreneurs – the Okuras – heard that the municipality of Amsterdam was drawing up plans for an opera house with an adjoining hotel, they immediately expressed their interest. A location in Amsterdam would perfectly match their ambition to expand the Hotel Okura chain into Europe. Besides being the ideal base for art and culture lovers, it is also the perfect place for a hotel where guests can continue their evening in style with an exquisite culinary experience or a luxurious overnight stay.

A part of Japan in Amsterdam

Despite protests from opponents, who were calling for more housing to be built and for the local café to be preserved instead of constructing an opera house with a hotel, work continued on preparing the ground for development. The start of construction was marked by a traditional Japanese ceremony; an exotic ritual, in which a priest made offerings and the ground was sanctified with water from Mount Fuji. It was the very first traditional Japanese ground-breaking ceremony to take place in the Netherlands and, unsurprisingly, it attracted a great deal of interest. When the building was completed two years later, Prince Claus officially declared Hotel Okura Amsterdam open on 24 September 1971.

Demonstratie tegen Okura

The arrival of Hotel Okura Amsterdam introduced omotenashi – the Japanese art of hospitality – to the Dutch for the very first time. The hotel’s austere exterior reflected the plans for the opera house, while its interior, designed by Japanese architects, exuded a serene luxury that was unique at the time. The hotel rooms in the 23-storey building (without a 13th floor, of course) even had colour TV! Word was also starting to spread about the hotel's exotic ambience: visitors marvelled at the carpets adorned with Gingko leaves, the ceiling full of Japanese lanterns, the pond filled with koi carp and hostesses in traditional kimonos.

The Art of Memories

Around the time of the grand opening, plans for the construction of an opera house next to the hotel were still in full swing. There was an ambitious plan to connect the opera house to the hotel via two underground tunnels, so that opera guests could go for dinner or spend the night there. And Hotel Okura Amsterdam would provide the catering for opera performances and use the opera halls for conferences and events. But things didn’t turn out quite as planned. In 1979, the municipal council decided to combine the construction of the opera house with the building of the new town hall – the Stopera – at a completely different location in the heart of Amsterdam, and the go-ahead was given for social housing and a residential care facility to be built next to the hotel instead of an entertainment venue. Hotel Okura Amsterdam was not exactly pleased with the municipality’s decision; after all, in one fell swoop it would lose a proportion of potential customers.

Okura in aanbouw

The municipality understood Hotel Okura Amsterdam’s indignation and tried to compensate the damage by lowering the ground rent. After lengthy discussions, the two sides finally reached an agreement. Thankfully, the hatchet was buried a long time ago, and the hotel’s location on the outskirts of the De Pijp district of Amsterdam means that it is a perfect base for exploring Museumplein square and the rest of Amsterdam – and it has perfect transit connections the Zuidas district and Schiphol airport. The amended zoning plans have also created space around the hotel, which makes it much easier to organise security for VIPs, royals, and football clubs. And the local residents? Well, they, too, have fallen in love with soaring tower of Hotel Okura Amsterdam over the last 50 years. It is impossible to imagine this neighbourhood without this unique landmark of Japanese hospitality – with its serene atmosphere, refined cuisine, and eventful history. We call this The Art of Memories, The Art of Okura.

Okura in aanbouw Hotel Okura Amsterdam - Okura & Oude Rai Ferdinand Bolstraat Maquette Hotel Okura Amsterdam