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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Former Nintendo HQ opens as Marufukuro hotel (and beforemario is present, in book form)

A few months ago, on April 1st 2022 to be exact, the former headquarters of Nintendo at Shomen-Dori in Kyoto opened as the Marufukuro Hotel, after extensive restoration and remodelling.

Recently, there was a nice surprise for me personally, which I will keep for the end of this post.

This building has played an important part in Nintendo's history. Although it wasn't the first building occupied by Nintendo, it is located on the spot where the company started, and served as headquarters for around a quarter of a century; from the moment it was erected in 1933 to the late 1950s. It also was the home for the Yamauchi family during this period.

The building was modern for its time, well designed and crafty built, with many nice details; signalling a company on the rise. It was commissioned by Sekiryo Yamauchi, Nintendo's second president. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Sekiryo's very successful successor and third president, also conduced his business from here during the first ten years of his reign.

The Marufukuro Hotel in 2022

After Nintendo's center of power moved to newer offices in other areas of Kyoto, and the building was no longer used in any form in the company's daily operation, it was kept more or less in the state from its period of prominence.

During the last twenty years or so, it become a spot to visit, a place of pilgrimage of sorts, for Nintendo enthusiasts from across the world.

Back in 2015 I took a picture there with my just released Before Mario book, in front of the door that remained largely closed for decades. [More on that visit here.]

At the former Nintendo HQ in 2015

When comparing the current 2022 version of the building with its former state, a few things stand out.

Two large circular 'Marufuku' logos have been placed on the top of the front and side facade. Although they look like they have been there from the start, they are new additions. A clock was added above the front door, and sun screens above the windows.

At the former Nintendo HQ in 2015

The middle section has been build more high up. Originally this only contained some smaller, single-story rooms and a court yard.

At the former Nintendo HQ in 2015

Most prominently, a whole section was added to the left of the building. Originally housing a wooden structure from the early days of the company, this had remained a vacant lot since that structure was torn down around 2004.

At the former Nintendo HQ in 2015, the missing original building

Fast forward to 2022, where we find the building looking splendid. The old exterior has been cleaned and the building is extended with tastefully designed additions.

The biggest change, of course, is that the front door is now open. At least, open to all who book a room for the night.

When you step into the entry hall of what is now called the 'existing building' (as opposed to the extensions, called the 'new building'), it is as if you step back in time. The original floor and wall tiling is still present, and shows what a luxurious building this must have been when it was newly built.

The primary function these days is a hotel, not a museum. However, throughout the building, original objects from Nintendo's early era's are placed, adding to the nostalgic atmosphere. 

Like this bucket that contains the Yamauchi family name.

At the end of the entry hall, we find stairs that take us up to the second floor.

Also still present is the original "punch clock", used to keep track of the employees' working hours.

Selections of vintage Nintendo products are on display, including these hanafuda and western style trump card sets.

The original electric elevator is also still present, though not in operation anymore.

Hotel rooms have been created throughout the "existing" and "new" building.

The rooms in the existing building are styled in line with the building's 1930s design and detailing.

Only the flatscreen televisions give away that these are modern day hotel rooms.

The rooms in the new building are designed in a contemporary style, although they retain the colour schema from the traditional rooms.

Twelve different types of rooms and suites are available across the existing and new building, with varying sizes. And varying rates, of course. The Japanese Suite is the most special, with an outside bath, and the Marufukuro Suite is the largest. For more details on the rooms, options, rates and details on how to book, see the official Marufukuro site.

The hotel features a number of rooms for general use by the hotel guests, including a lounge.

Four padded leather chairs in this lounge look familiar, as they appeared in a Nintendo Company Overview from 1970, in a so-called 'products demonstration hall', situated at the new headquarters of Nintendo at the time. That makes them over fifty years old, but they certainly do not look their age.

Nintendo Company Overview from 1970

Another interesting object sits on a desk in the corner of this lounge.

It is a scale model of the current the building, including modern extensions, made from LEGO bricks. 

Some people have suggested that it would have been even nicer if this model was built with Nintendo's own vintage N&B Blocks. However, that would have been near impossible, given the limited shapes and colours available in those sets.

The most interesting part of the building is the library.

According to the official site: 

"The “DNA” library, brought to you by Nintendo’s founding Yamauchi family, allows visitors to experience for themselves the history and culture of the Nintendo brand.​ Filled with playful and original items to stimulate the creative spirit, this space both values the past and provides inspiration for the future."

"Broaden your understanding of the identity of the Nintendo brand via a wide variety of media, including carefully-selected books, an interactive art installation [...] and art works [...]." 

One of the items on display is Famicom model made from paper, a truly amazing feat of paper-craft.

The shelf below shows some official documents, dated 1952, directed at Hiroshi Yamauchi.

A next shelf holds one of the more left-field products developed by Nintendo's Gunpei Yokoi: the Light Telephone.

Small paintings show an interesting mix of hanafuda and the Nintendo Love Tester.

And another painting depicts the Nintendo My Car Race play set.

And this is just a small selection of the many items in the library.

The website also mentioned "carefully-selected books". When the hotel opened, the library indeed included a nice selection of books, almost exclusively in the Japanese language, that describe various aspects of Nintendo's history. This selection included two books by fellow collector and journalist Isao Yamazaki.

To my surprise and pleasure, last week I received a message that a couple of books were recently added to the Library selection, including L' Histoire de Nintendo by Florent Gorges and Before Mario by yours truly!

As you can image, this was a proud moment for me. Eleven years ago, when I started this blog, I could not have imagined that this would lead to a book, that now is included in the display in this special place!

In this post I shared some of the things that I found interesting about the hotel, based on reports and pictures by others. This is not a full tour, which I may do at a later stage, once I have had a chance to stay overnight myself. I want to extend a thank you to all who took the photos used in this post.

[UPDATE 2024] I visited the hotel Marufukuro in November 2023!

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