News From Tuesday Made Irrelevant Friday: A Famous Hotel in Sendai Which Once Hosted the Emperor Suddenly Closes

Man-made disasters take years. Natural disasters take hours. All this, which I translated a couple days ago, and the tsunami likely destroyed the building anyway.

I’m spending the week visiting my old friends and students in western Japan. I’m not sure what kind of writing schedule I’ll have there.

A Famous Hotel in Sendai Which Once Hosted the Emperor Suddenly Closes
Yomiuri Shimbun: 天皇陛下もご宿泊…仙台の名門ホテル突然閉館へ
Staff Report, March 8, 2011

Sendai Plaza Hotel President Aogi
Hotel President Aogi announces the closing of the hotel at a press conference.

Sendai Plaza Hotel
123-year old Hotel Sendai Plaza will close on the 25th. (Sendai City, Aoba-ku, Motomachi)

One of Sendai’s core hotels, Hotel Sendai Plaza in Aoba-ku, Motomachi, announced on the 7th that it will close its doors on the 25th.

The official explanation is that trouble with the landlord has left the hotel without operating capital, but the changing face of the hotel business in Sendai is in the background. Since the 123 year-old inn has about 400 standing reservations, the announcement that it will close just half a month from now makes for a most unusual curtain fall.

At the press conference, Company President Masatoshi Aogi (64) said that the entire staff of about 200, which includes part time workers, will be laid off. There are about 400 reservations for the reception hall, some made as much as two years in advance. He has been explaining circumstances to customers, but those who have already send invitation cards are reportedly enraged.

President Aogi said that in March 2007, the hotel sold its land and building to the insurance giant Tokyo Marine Holdings, Inc.’s Special Purpose Company (SPC) and signed a rental agreement. The hotel and Tokyo Marine Holdings had agreed to replace the aged building, but after suffering from the financial crisis, Tokyo Marine Holdings scrapped the plan in November 2008. Since the hotel had already closed its reception hall and other facilities in preparation for the rebuilding, it lost 240 million yen in potential revenue on the year.

After that, the hotel stopped paying its rent on account of these losses, but the SPC resisted attempts to terminate the contract. At the beginning of this month, the SPC froze the hotel’s bank account, forcing it out of business.

In recent years, the replacement of old hotels with new ones has accelerated in Sendai. In the five years since 2004, the number of hotels in the city has risen 17% to 89. In 2010, the foreign franchise Westin Hotels opened an affiliate in the city, and the rush of new entries is advancing. Two years ago, the increase in supply drove the long-established Sendai Excel Hotel Tokyu out of business. The Plaza has been in the red since 2009. Its annual revenue had fallen from a peak of 3.3 billion yen in 1993 to just 1.5 billion yen last year.

President Aogi said, “I sincerely apologize to our customers. The contract we signed with Tokyo Marine Holdings was a failure.” Tokyo Marine Holdings said it has not yet decided what to do with the land and building.

The Sendai Plaza Hotel opened in 1888 (Meiji 21) as the Michi-no-oku Hotel. The Imperial Family and many other great names have stayed there. There are 16 stories, two basement levels, and 177 rooms. The reception hall can hold 2000 people.













(2011年3月8日10時38分 読売新聞)

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