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Monday, April 1, 2024

My stay at Marufukuro, former Nintendo HQ

[Long post warning!]

Today marks the second anniversary of the opening of the Marufukuro hotel in Kyoto, on April 1st, 2022. It's a good moment to share my personal experience visiting this special place in Nintendo's history: the former headquarters of Nintendo, situated at the site where the company originated back in 1889.

Nintendo shop in Shōmen-dōri in Kyoto, early 20th century

In previous posts, I've shared the background of this building and it's neighborhood (check it out here), as well as some of its interior details.

Shōmen-dōri in 2023

Many years before the hotel's opening, when the building was no longer in active use and completely off-limits to outside visitors, I had already traveled to this location. At that time, I was content to view it from the outside, steal a small peek inside, and absorb the atmosphere of the neighborhood, which is the birthplace of Nintendo. The highlight of that trip was taking a picture with my recently released "Before Mario" book in front of the well-known old company signs.

My visit in 2015 (in front of a closed door)

At the time, I couldn't have imagined or even hoped for what would happen several years later: a full restoration of the building dating from 1933 and its conversion into a hotel, while preserving the original atmosphere and many original artifacts completely intact.

Hotel Marufukuro, Nintendo's former HQ, in 2023

As you can imagine, ever since the announcement of the hotel's opening, I've been eager to visit. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of Japan to foreign visitors, I had to wait until an opportunity arose last November.

The buildings extends deep from the street

I traveled to Japan together with my youngest daughter, and during this trip, we planned to stay one night at Marufukuro.

As we walked into the building, it immediately became clear that it was even more beautiful than I had imagined through the many pictures I had already seen. My eyes darted between all the interesting details and beautiful items.

The building is relatively small for a hotel, which gives it a homely, cozy atmosphere. The vintage decor further enhances the feeling of stepping back in time.

We were welcomed at the reception, offered a refreshing drink, and asked to register our stay using an iPad. Already in this first room, there was much to see: original chairs and an old desk with a LEGO model of the building.

A collection of original keys previously used in the building was nicely presented under a pair of glass bells.

After checking in, we were given a tour and handed the key to our room.

The hotel is a combination of the renovated old buildings (which consisted of offices, production areas, a warehouse, and the living quarters of the founding family) and a newly built part (called the 'annex'), which has been seamlessly integrated. There are eleven guest rooms in the old buildings and seven in the annex, making eighteen in total. Additionally, there is a reception area, guest lounge, dining lounge, restaurant, and library.

Elevator in the new Annex building

Access to the old parts are through this alleyway

When making reservations for our stay a few weeks prior to the trip, I discovered that it was almost fully booked. Luckily, the room that I had hoped to spend the night in was still available: the so-called Japanese Suite (room 102). It is located in part of the building that used to be the living quarters of the Yamauchi family. It is a beautiful room with a Japanese tatami area, an outdoor bath area, and a Western-style bedroom.

After settling in, and before dinner, we took a leisurely stroll through the hotel and spent some time at the library.

According to the official Marufukuro 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. The library area allows guests to experience the history and the origins of the Nintendo company. Broaden your understanding of the identity of the Nintendo brand via a wide variety of media including carefully-selected books.

When the hotel and library opened in 2022, I felt deeply honored when my Before Mario book was included in their collection. Seeing it in person here for the first time filled me with joy.

We had opted for the full-board stay, which included dinner, breakfast, and lunch. For dinner, my good friend and fellow Nintendo collector and historian, Isao Yamazaki, would be joining us. Before heading to our table, Isao-san and I had to take a picture together in the library. Two of Isao-san's books are also included here.

It had been eight years since our last meetup in Japan, and although we had stayed in close contact online, there was still much to catch up on during this long-overdue face-to-face gathering. We exchanged numerous stories and insights while enjoying a wonderful multi-course meal.

At the end of the delightful evening, after bidding farewell to Isao-san, and taking a hot bath in the open air, we indulged in one last round of the delicious complimentary drinks of the day, played some Beverbende, and then retired for the night.

The next day, after a good rest, there would be more pampering, starting with a tasty breakfast.

In between meals, I took another round of the hotel, photographing all the nice historic details, too many to showcase all here. Here's a taste.

Before our lunch, I purchased a souvenir from the collection of items available: a key holder with small replicas of the vintage Nintendo company signs mounted next to the entrance.

Other items for sale included a set of postcards with pictures of the building, Nintendo playing cards, and a gift voucher for a stay at the hotel.

We had a hard time saying goodbye to this special place but felt privileged to have spent almost a full day here. Thank you Marufukuro staff for a wonderful time!

The following day, we would be visiting Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. But that is a story for another time...

1 comment:

  1. Wow what a fun trip, I hope I can visit it someday. (Fun fact: did you know that the Super Mario Bros. Movie referenced the blue Nintendo plaque on the building? When Mario and Luigi go in the sewer they pass a Level 1-1 sign which is stylized similar to the plaque)