繁岡 ケンイチ IMPERIAL HOTEL (Frank Lloyd Wright's Architectural Design Office)
Kenichi Shigeoka
KenichI Shigeoka Top Page>IMPERIAL HOTEL
Through the introduction of Haibara, a Japanese paper specialist who had commissioned Kenichi
some work for the Imperial Hotel while he was still studying at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts
(currently known as Tokyo University of the Arts),he met Frank Lloyd Wright for the first time and
undertook the production of a coloured mural in the Banquet Hall called ´Peacock Room'.
The follwing is the excerpts from the articles titled ´Work at a Hotel Production of Mural' for the
Hotel Review, the official publication of Japan Hotel Association issued between February to
August 1954
Haibara Meeting
Aisaku Hayashi
Antonin Raymond Meeting Frank Lloyd Wright Selecting materials
Working on site Delay Resuming work.
Banquet Hall 1 Banquet Hall 2
Banquet Hall
Height of the dome
Paul Mueller,the site foreman Banquet hall
Frank Lloyd Wright
returning to the States
Entertainment hall
Promenade Parlour
Tribute to
Frank Lloyd Wright.
Statue of goddess on the Banquet Hall
IMPERIAL HOTEL Bird's-eye view Commemorative photo
.Sketching tour for the murals in dining room
Hotel Brochure Postcards.
Group photograph    Restoration Record of the Imperial Hotel Main Entrance(Book)
The 90th Anniversary
The Peacock Room(Banquet Hall )
Enlarged brochure photo
孔雀の間 孔雀の間

Production process of coloured murals in the Peacock Room
※kenichi's notes on his sketch.

The ‘Peacock mural’ in the banquet room: Collaboration between woodworkers, carpenters and coppersmiths. I could hardly stand up with fear when I got onto the scaffolding. It was a mammoth paint work using natural mineral pigments and pure gold leaf. This caused a shortage of natural mineral pigments in every paint supplier in Tokyo at one point.  It’s a true story.  Indirect lighting through these colour glasses highlighted the peacocks. (Note on the right)

Detail 1.
Job at the Japanese paper specialist ‘Haibara’ (As told by Kenichi)
Kinta Shigeoka, Kenichi’s father was also a Japanese-style painter. Kenichi, the eldest of the 5 sons, helped his father, who had a lame leg, to support the family by taking up a part-time job at Haibara while studying at the Tokyo University of Arts.  He organised the display cabinet in the shop, paint pictures or murals on customers’ requests. .

Detail 2
Meeting Aisaku Hayashi, the General Manager of the Imperial Hotel. 
(Excerpt from his article titled ‘Work at a Hotel: Production of Murals’)

In 1915 or 16, when he was still studying at the University, Kenichi met Mr Aisaku Hayashi, the General Manager of the Imperial Hotel, for the first time, through the introduction of Habra which was one of the Hotel’s purveyors.  Kenichi was commissioned to paint a mural on the balustrade in the Hotel’s new dining room (approx. 3.3 ft x 150 ft), on the theme of the modern version of the ‘Fifty-three Stages of Tokaido’.  Kenichi went on a sketching tour along the Tokaido for the production.  After this, he was commissioned other jobs including the mural for the child’s room in Mr Hayashi’s private home, decoration of the entrance to the Banquet Hall of the Imperial Hotel and the painting of the panoramic view at the Komazawa Golf Course. 

Link to: Sketching Tour for the Fifty-three Stages of Tokaido
Mural for the Imperial Hotel

Mural for the annex ball room in the Imperial Hotel requested by Antonin Raymond
(Excerpt from his article titled ‘Work at a Hotel: Production of Murals’)

Prior to the construction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel, a ball room was built as part of the construction of the annex on the east side of the original hotel.  The annex ball room was designed by Antonin Raymond, who had come to Japan as Lloyd’s assistant.  Raymond requested the decorative pieces depicting peacocks with their wings spread, to be hung in the four corners of the ball room.  These pieces were produced using paints, aluminium powder and natural mineral pigments. 

@Meeting Frank Lloyd Wright

One day in June1921, Haibara called me up and asked me to produce a mural on a newly constructed building.  I went over to the shop immediately with no particular apprehension, only to be told to go to Frank Lloyd Wright’s . At that time, they had an office in a barrack located right on the corner of Hibiya.  The lower board of its colonial siding exterior was decorated in Frank Lloyd Wright style in red and black, which looked quite original. 
Even their sign, ‘Wright Architectural Design Office managed by the Imperial Hotel’ in Japanese were painted in an unmistakable Lloyd Wright-style font.  I was introduced to Frank Lloyd Wright as soon as I arrived at their office upstairs.  He offered me a hand, and I took in that he had a kindly face with slightly long hair streaked with grey, wearing khaki work clothes with a stand-up collar. 

ASelecting materials.
 We soon started discussing the job, and he gave me a sketch-style drawing in a 1/10 scale.  I had a look but it was drawn with coloured pencils and didn’t make much sense to me.  I started to understand his intentions only when we visited the site and Mr Arata Endo, his assistant gave me some explanations.  The wall space in question was above the mantlepiece of the Promenade Parlour.  I would be responsible for the bare shell surrounded by Oya tuff stones and bricks.
The materials I chose were natural mineral pigment and gold dust, in order to keep in harmony with the strong and heavy surroundings.  My choice was also supported by my understanding that Frank Lloyd Wright had been well-acquainted with Japanese art for a long time.  I took these materials and visited him again a few days later.
He gave me an approval immediately and this was how I got my very first formal job, working for a world famous architect in his decoration department. Naturally, I started the job on the site full of enthusiasm. 
BWorking on site
 The design was composed of complex lines and forms intertwining with each other, and I was initially at a loss what to do.  With a struggle, I located the necessary lines on the original drawing one by one, drawing them on the wall and then applying natural mineral pigment and gold dust using glue and varnish, to finally complete one side of the wall.  During that time, Frank Lloyd Wright used to visit the site and watch me working from the opposite end of the room, without saying anything.  He visited the site from time to time and gave me instructions as if he found work a pleasure, and gradually we became closer.  Eventually he suggested to me that I join his architectural design office, and asked me if I would like a formal contract for the job. 
I was happy of course but they had to think about my remuneration, first.  I without embarrassment asked for the amount equivalent to the daily rate of 5 yen, which was the rate I was paid for my stage setting jobs around that time.  They looked a little taken aback, and it was not surprising as I simply multiplied the part-time commission rate to come to the monthly salary.  I got the contract based on this amount of salary, and being such a naive young man I was, continued the job on the site having no idea how salaried employment worked.  When I realised later on what a big mistake I made, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.


 The work on the site started to get behind the schedule, and I ended up having nothing to do.  The Entertainment Hall was not completed, not to mention the Banquet Hall above it and it was impossible for me to work.  I was unable to do any of the many jobs I was in charge of in the Banquet Hall, Entertainment Hall and grill dining room, and was just hanging around in the office.
There were many people working at the office back then, including Messres. Endo, Nanshin, Tsuchiura, Tagami, Takahashi and Yamamura, and we were having fun day after day, exchanging jokes and singing, etc., but eventually it all became too boring.  And towards the end of July, summer heat became relentless.  I was not short of money thanks to the salary,

DResuming work
In early autumn, the ceiling of the Entertainment Hall was finally completed which allowed us to start working on the scaffolding at long last.  My job, once started, became a real on site production work. The previous work was on the upright wall but this one was on the ceiling and it meant I had to work keeping my head and arms turned fully upwards, which was not an easy posture.  Diluted natural mineral pigment dribbled down the handle of the brush onto my hand and the particles coming off the shell dropped onto my upward face, while the base of my neck started to hurt and get stiff.  I put on a pair of dust goggles for the first time.  Despite this, the sections on the four corners of the ceiling were completed somehow and I moved onto the next job which was the biggest and most important mural in the Banquet Hall.
EBanquet hall 1

At the work site, I found numerous workmen including electricians, coppersmiths and carpenters working, surrounded by Oya tuff stone cubes lying around on the bare concrete floor and in the noisy and dusty environment.    And there I was, expected to go up on the quite tall scaffolding in the room in such a state.One day in the Banquet Hall, the then hotel president, Baron Okura, addressed me directly and challenged me to complete all my work in the Banquet Hall within a month.  Being a green and softy, I replied to him ‘OK, I will do my best and make your wish come true.’
I begged 7 or 8 young colleagues of mine to help me and worked as much overtime as I was able to do.  I was on site by 7 in the morning and worked until 6 in the evening, but others were not so compliant.  I felt alone with no one to share my worries, a lot of time.

FBanquet Hall 2

Having accepted the challenge, I pushed myself to complete the job by the deadline.  On one occasion, I took a step back on the narrow scaffolding board in order to see the general effect of the mural, and found no board to step on. With my left hand I managed to grab the beam of scaffolding, just in the nick of time and had a narrow escape.  But I would have lost my life if I hadn’t, as the Oya tuff stones were lying around on the floor underneath where I would have landed.  There on the floor, I was able to see my palette I had been holding, scattered in pieces, as if it was a sacrifice.  

I worked hard and completed the job in one month just as I promised Baron Okura, feeling the self satisfaction that I acted like a man, but the crucial feedback from Baron Okura was not nor has been given to me.  This is something I still think as a shame.

GBanquet Hall Height of the domeis 1 foot lower

I started to calculate the measurement on the site, based on the 1/10 scale design drawing Frank Lloyd Wright had handed me, but no matter how I tried, it didn’t fit on the wall area.  So, with Mr Endo, who was my senior, standing by me, we measured the wall height and were surprised to find that it was about a foot (30.48cm) short. The site foreman was summoned and even the office staff were involved.  It became a big issue but was irreversible.
The imposing dome was in fact 1 foot lower than intended and so everything that is attached to it was made short in height.  Gradually the enormity of the problem became clearer and in the end the site foreman had to resign. 
I realised that the measurement of the wall area I was responsible for started this muddle, and felt responsible in a way.  So I did my best to come up with solutions to reconcile the design and measurement in order to somehow complete my job.
The mural, which made the most of the coppersmiths, woodworkers and carpenters and finished with natural mineral pigments and genuine gold dust, and illuminated to emphasise their 3D effect, was sadly lost in a fire during the war.  The existing one is hardly the same design and painted on a smaller scale and there is nothing left of the original visual impression of the dome, etc.

HPaul Mueller (the site foreman):Pioneer of the concrete building

I would like to note here that Mr Paul Mueller, who worked as the site foreman for Mr Frank Lloyd Wright, and was a pioneer of the concrete architecture in Japan and taught us many lessons, deserves special recognition. The building was built maximising the brilliance of concrete architecture, but the Building Section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department at the time inspected the eave of the grill dining room entrance (existing) and ordered the modification. It turned out that no damage was found after the Great Kanto earthquake, however, and it worked as the silent proof of the safety, which naturally resolved the needs for modification. 
The construction was commissioned to a civil engineering company initially but when they started the work, the concrete mixing process was not according to the precise specifications Mr Mueller had given and they withdrew from the job.  This is how, the hotel began managing the architectural construction work themselves, the very first example of architectural construction directly managed by the client organisation in Japan.

IBanquet Hall completed

Now, the completion of the Banquet Hall meant the closure of the Architectural Design Office managed by the Imperial Hotel.  In the hindsight, the design created by Mr Frank Lloyd Wright with the support of Mr Mueller wouldn't have come to fruition without the great efforts made by the management team including Japanese engineers - Messres. Endo, Nanshin, Tsuchiura -  as well as Japanese stone masons, coppersmiths and plasterers, who struggled with the challenge (back then) of construction of a concrete building.  I fully appreciated Mr Endo’s  extraordinary support and efforts, too.
On the day the hotel was completed with the Banquet Hall’s floor polished and finished off, Mr Endo lied spread-eagled on the floor in the middle of the hall for a while, with his eyes closed.  With the knowledge that he had been engaged in this grand construction project supporting Mr Frank Lloyd Wright for nearly 6 years to get to this point, it made perfect sense to me and I can still remember the scene as if it were yesterday. 
Incidentally, the cost of natural mineral pigments used for this mural amounted to about 4,500 yen (roughly \18M in the current value), and for a while there was a pigments shortage across Tokyo’s art material stores. 

JFrank Lloyd Wright returning to the States
 I have to go back in time slightly to talk about Mr Frank Lloyd Wright going back to the US as I think it was before the completion of the Banquet Hall. He needed to leave in haste because another project was waiting in his home country.  Even in the morning of the day he was due to board the ship from Yokohama, he turned up at the office as normal and drew a scenographic sketch based on the design drawing of a hotel planned to be built in Odawara.  I watched him in amazement how he drew lines along a ruler in a delicate touch and created an outstanding sketch in no time at all.  A mediocre painter couldn’t have held a candle to him.  He continued his drawing until just before the noon, when his train was due to leave.  And then he casually dropped his pencil on the drawing before exchanging firm handshakes with each of us, and left the office in the usual khaki work clothes with a stand up collar.
At his farewell party which was held at Kikusui in Akasaka 4 or 5 days prior to this, Mr Hayashi, the hotel’s General Manager called me up and told me in front of Mr Frank Lloyd Wright that there was good news for you.  He said ‘Mr Lloyd Wright is kindly offering you to take you to his architectural design office. You should accept his offer and work at his office during the daytime and study stage design in the evening.’.  I was thrilled at the offer.  He then urged me to make the decision and come back to him as soon as possible.I have to confess that because of my indecisiveness, I let this golden opportunity slip through my fingers and it would never come back.
KEntertainment hall
 Meanwhile, once the hotel was completed, the business activities were accelerated.   Naturally the Entertainment Hall began to be used and I started working there as an assistant. 
There is something I think worth mentioning about the stage configuration.  It is the convex stage curtains which, wouldn’t be useful for every kind of performance but I imagine would be most effective on certain stage work such as Shakespeare plays.  The balconies made of Oya tuff stones and bricks on either side of the stage, and the semi-hexagonal stage ceiling that protrudes towards the auditorium from which hung the convex curtains made a very effective curtain configuration for such performances. 
On the nonflammable asbestos curtains, Frank Lloyd Wright style design motifs were painted with oil paint and genuine gold leaf so as to look like gold stitches.  Furthermore, in front of these curtains, lied the outer layer - amazing gold mesh curtains onto which metal pieces with Kiriko cut glass and curved wood pieces were stitched with gold thread, as if the curtains needed more decoration.
The two sets of rails for these two layers needed to not only support significant weight but also allow them to slide along the curved tracks.  It was extremely difficult to find the appropriate structure of these rails and in the end it never was found.  Owing also to the stage configuration that was not suitable for stage productions in general, the original stage was modified pretty soon to accommodate the arch with the split drop curtains - the same as the existing type. 
However, looking at the sketch I made from memory, I think it could create an interesting effect.  The sketch also brought back memories of the olden days and I cannot help feeling nostalgic, too.
The original entertainment hall
Kenichi’s notes on his sketch.
The Original Entertainment Hall stage designed by Mr Lloyd Wright. This would be modified later on.  This is drawn from memory and my apologies if there are any errors

LCurved marble cubes in the Promenade Parlour

Among the features that had fresh appeal, the subtle beauty of the way concrete was used was outstanding.  For example, the way copper work and Oya tuff stone are arranged under the eaves and a  large protrusion at the access for large props. The level of attention to detail of the architect was astonishing, such as the way how Oya tuff stones were prepared and arranged.  The Cubic Oya tuff stone sculptures placed in the corner of the Promenade parlour, for example, was designed so that the water poured out between them and then down to the area where flower arrangement can be placed and effectively illuminated by the light bulbs behind the square frosted glass slots.  

Kenichi’s notes on his sketch
Mr Lloyd Wright used to call cubic items ‘Otofu (beancurd)’ while adding instructions to drawings..

繁岡ケンイチ 繁岡ケンイチ

MTrbute to Frank Lloyd Wright
 In addition to those, he also designed small items such as the tableware including the plates, cups, milk jugs, coffee cups, weaving pattern for napkins, radiator cover, letterhead to name a few.  This article was supposed to be about ‘Working at a Hotel’:Production of Murals’, but without intending to, it became a piece to praise Frank Lloyd Write. 
I couldn’t help it, for I was in awe of his strong character.  But I would also like to praise the Japanese people concerned who commissioned the work to this great architect and left the project in his hands.  More than a decade has passed since then, and there have been numerous great architects including those who made their name after the war, but none of them has managed to create the subtle and calm beauty of his class.  When it comes to grace, they are nowhere near his level.
There maybe some drawbacks such as dimness and the lack of user-friendliness, but I believe that the hotel’s general atmosphere will only improve over time. 

Statue of goddess on the Banquet Hall roof
Kenichi’s notes on his sketch
The original statue on top of the Banquet Hall was of the goddess with her winds spread out but I’m not sure what the current statue represents.  It’s not easy to get the proportion right for a figure if it is to be installed in a high up position. And Mr Endo looked into it again and again and viewed the statue on site and from various directions including from Hibiya and modified it, but it was never properly resolved

Bird's-eye view of the Imperial Hotel
It was approximately 6ft x 3ft and painted using the traditional Japanese painting materials on silk, but was destroyed by fire during the World War II.

Commemorative photos (Kenichi on the right)

Kenichi Shigeoka on the 7th on the second row.
IMPERIALHOTEL Photo Kenichi Shigeoka

The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time #1  - Cover page
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
The imperial Hotel brochure of the time #2  - Cover page
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka

The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Page 1

IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Page 2
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Page 3 centrefold
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Page 3 centrefold middle section enlarged
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Page 3
centrefold lefthand section
The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Page 3 centrefold righthand section
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Page 4
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Page 5
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - Back cover
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka

The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time #3
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka

The Imperial Hotel brochure of the time - #4  Cover page only
IMPERIALHOTEL Guide Kenichi Shigeoka

IMPERIALHOTEL picture postcard Kenichi shigeoka
IMPERIALHOTEL picture postcard Kenichi shigeoka

IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka
IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka
IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka
IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka
IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka IMPERIALHOTEL Match Kenichi shigeoka

Shigeoka Kenichi on the left on the second row.

Panoramic view of the Imperial Hotel
IMPERIALHOTEL Photo Kenichi shigeoka

Restoration Record of the Imperial Hotel Main Entrance(Book)
Restoration Record of the Imperial Hotel Main Entrance (Book)
Date of issue: 18 March 2010
Author:  Masatoshi Nishio, Building Department Director, The Museum Meijimura

I found this book at the shop of the Museum Meijimura only recently.  Discussion at the preparatory committee meeting prior to the relocation of the old Imperial Hotel building, which was held at the Palace Hotel on the 16 September 1970, was transcribed in the book and to my surprise, Kenichi appears in this section.  I read this in one sitting not only because of this but also the restoration record was really fascinating. I’d like to express utmost gratitude towards the author, Mr Nishio.

The 90th Anniverasary Exhibition

As part of the 90th Anniversary project of the construction of hotel building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, an exhibition was held at the front lobby of the Imperial Hotel Tokyo between 1 September 2013 and 31 March 2014. Kenichi’s work was shown, titled ‘Design of the Era’.

 Panels  Display Case
帝国ホテルライト館記念展示1  帝国ホテルライト館記念展示2 
Top Page Sketching Tour for the ‘Fifty-three Stages of Tokaido’ Mural for the
Imperial Hotel
Kawana Hotel
Complete list of work Goura Hotel Kawana Hotel Photos.
Hotel Okura Akakura Kanko Hotel Hotel Okura Nigata
Okura Museum of Art Stage Setting Design Work Tokyo University of Art)
Movei Files. Chronological Record  Setsu-tai Komura and Kenichi
Linds updating record Site map