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Historic former restaurant hosts night parade of 100 demons

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By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
The Gyosho Room is adorned with exhibits themed on “Dwelling of the Demons,” at an event titled, “Wa No Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan 2023: Goku Saishiki no Hyakki Yako (Night Parade of One Hundred Demons in Extreme Color),” at the Hotel Gajoen Tokyo in Meguro Ward, Tokyo. The room was originally decorated with gorgeous carvings on the floor pillars, transoms and ceilings when the hotel was a Japanese-style ryotei restaurant. During the event, a dynamic and contemporary display made from waste plastic bottles to resemble crystals has been added to the room.

A long wooden staircase and seven gorgeous adjoining rooms within the historic Hotel Gajoen Tokyo are the stage for the remarkable “Wa No Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan” exhibition that is bursting with color — and likely to send a chill down your spine.

The “Night Parade of One Hundred Demons in Extreme Color” is the theme for this eighth summer exhibition in a series that has been held at the hotel in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, since 2015. The staircase and spacious rooms have been designated as a tangible cultural property by the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The hotel, which was originally called Meguro Gajoen, dates back to 1931, when Rikizo Hosokawa (1889-1945), a businessman from Ishikawa Prefecture, started what he described as a “traditional Japanese upscale restaurant open to the public.” Many additions were built over the years, and by 1940 the facility had seven buildings and reportedly featured at least 300 banquet rooms. Inside the rooms, the doors, windows and screens are all ornately detailed down to each corner, and the buildings have been hailed as the “Dragon Palace of the Showa era (1926-1989).”

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
The Jippo Room is seen with an exhibit on the theme of “A Path Leading to the World of Yokai and Mononoke.” The room normally features seasonal flower and bird drawings by painter Jippo Araki on “go” ceilings, which are commonly used in halls at shrines, temples and castles. During the event, traditional Japanese ikebana flower arrangements, subtropical plants, torii gates and fantastical lights have been added to the room.

The staircase and the rooms that form the exhibition venue for this latest display are in the third building, which was built on a hill in 1935. All the rooms except for one were actually used for banquets until 1988. The stairs and adjoining rooms escaped the major renovations later and now comprise the only remaining wooden building section.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
The Seisui Room is decorated on the theme of “The World of the White Fox.” An exhibit using Japanese silver grass goes well with the plant originally painted in the transom of the room.

In the past, each room is said to have had its own artists, woodworkers and lacquerers, and they seemingly pitted their skills against each other to create interiors that were elegant in their own distinctive way. As well as giving all visitors a sense of what it was like to be magnificently wealthy, this apparently was a way to keep them from getting bored while waiting for a meal to be served.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
The Hyakudan Kaidan (100-step staircase) leads to seven rooms located along the stairs. Despite its name, the staircase has 99 steps. This is said to be for the sake of good luck.

This exhibition inside such a culturally impressive property uses fantastical and mysterious lighting in a Japanese style that takes visitors on a journey from the real world to the otherworld, and the folklore monsters and demons that appear send a pleasing chill down the spine. Each room has a different theme, and the 33 artists, groups and companies involved also include music and fragrance experts. Incidentally, the “night parade of 100 demons” is said to refer to a procession of a group of demons and folklore monsters that wander through the streets in the middle of the night in Japanese folktales. The combination of this historic building with dynamic yet subtle modern art entices visitors into a beautiful and bewitching world with every step they climb.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
An exhibit titled “The Real World on the Other Shore” is set in the Kiyokata Room, which is a tea ceremony-style room created by Kiyokata Kaburaki, a renowned painter of beautiful women.

The exhibition runs until Sept. 24. Admission is ¥1,500 for adults and ¥800 for students of all ages.