Designed by Architect Tatsuno Kingo
Nara Hotel opened in 1909 in Nara City’s Takabatake-cho district. It’s located close to popular sightseeing spots like Kofukuji, Kasuga Taisha Shrine and Nara Park. The hotel consists of the old two-story, tile-roofed building made of cypress in the typical Momoyama-period style, and a new four-story concrete building that opened in 1984. The designer was architect Tatsuno Kingo, best known for the Tokyo Station building.
In spring, a beautiful weeping cherry tree blossoms pink in front of the entrance, and its fresh colors make a nice contrast with the wooden building. Plenty of trees and flowers grow in the garden all year around, creating a characteristic scene of Japanese beauty that attracts many foreign visitors.
Chandelier Beloved by Audrey Hepburn
There's a big fireplace in the main building, an old steam food warmer machine from the Taisho Period (1912-1926) and a giant Japanese-style chandelier with hanging lanterns. Everything reminds you of the elegance of the old days.
In the photo above you can see the giant chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It’s really elegant and stylish, and also known for being highly praised by Audrey Hepburn. The hotel staff explain that Hepburn stayed here for three nights at the end of March 1983. While she couldn’t stop praising the hotel for being “beautiful and wonderful,” she found the chandelier particularly remarkable.
Piano Played by Albert Einstein
The fireplace in the lounge is originally German, but with added decorations that resemble Japanese shrine gates, a unique design that blends Western and Japanese sensibilities. As you can see on the photo above, there’s a piano next to the fireplace.
Albert Einstein once played on this piano! He stayed in Nara Hotel for two nights in December 1922 and walked around Nara Park. During his stay he liked to play on this piano.
After World War II, the piano disappeared without a trace. However, it was found in 1992 when the old building of the former Osaka Railways Administration Bureau was demolished, and was moved to the Modern Transportation Museum. In 2008, Nara Hotel obtained a rare photo of Einstein playing on this piano, and managed to claim the piano itself back for the 100th anniversary of the hotel in 2009.
Spacious Tea Lounge
It's possible to simply relax in the tea lounge without staying overnight. The tea lounge is spacious, with a high ceiling and big windows that provide a fantastic view of the blossoming cherry trees outside in the spring. And the best way to enjoy the view is with a Ronnefeldt tea.
Ronnefeldt is a high-class teashop that opened in Frankfurt, Germany in 1823. Here in Nara Hotel they make the tea in the exact same way as in Germany, paying attention to the water quality and the temperature to produce a top-quality tea for your relaxation.
Enjoy Your Tea with a Special Cake
Try the cake set for ¥1,501 (US$14.12) in the tea lounge (you can see it in the photo). The high-quality sweetness of the cake melts in your mouth. Alternatively, you can get the Darjeeling Earl Gray set for ¥1,732 (US$16.30).
The tea in the cake set is served in a cup, but if you get the straight tea set you’re served a teapot with actual tea leaves inside. The teapot itself is an original Ronnefeldt. Created 100 years ago, the design almost looks like a cute snowman, and can even be laid on its side! When set on its side the tea leaves soak in the hot water, which means you can decide the strength of your tea based on how you position the pot. Ronnefeldt holds the international patent for this ingenuous teapot.
Many other famous people such as Helen Keller, Charlie Chaplin, Queen Margaret, the Pope and others have stayed in Nara Hotel. It’s a great place to relax while drinking aromatic tea and watching the seasonal flowers from the lounge after you walk around Nara’s many temples.
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