Since opening its shores to the outside world in the late nineteenth century, Japan has sustained an active relationship of cultural exchange with the West. Japan's grand resort hotels, built during the era between the Restoration of the Meiji Emperor in 1868 until the onset of war in the late 1930s, are some of the most engaging and enduring examples of this cross-fertilization. Eager to champion both its national identity and its status as a modern nation, Japanese hoteliers looked to adapt Western hotel standards to the aesthetic and cultural demands of the Japanese archipelago. With their buildings they provided glamorous settings in which worldly Japanese and curious Westerners could mingle. The grand hotels are romantic hybrids of Beaux Arts grandeur and Japanese temple and shrine motifs, and offer the pleasures of both architectural traditions. They straddle two worlds, being both familiar and exotic to visitors and locals alike.
Welcoming the West focuses on the history and design of six of these grand resort hotels: the Nara, the Fujiya, the Nikko Kanaya, the Fuji View, the Biwako, and the Gamagori. Built at a pivotal moment when Japan’s architectural traditions were latent with change and possibility, they are a manifestation of an unprecedented exchange of ideas wrought in timber, stone, and concrete.