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An Octogenerian's Blog | Lincoln Logs, Japan And Frank Lloyd Wright (Issue 68)

My 3-year-old grandson, Prince William, frequently motivates me to do and write about things I normally wouldn’t think about until he says or does something I think is a great idea.

We play a lot of games and recently I found a partial set of old lincoln logs. He has his own set at home and showed a very enthusiastic interest in building a log house. I checked the internet, discovered Wal-Mart sells them, and that there are several models available. I considered that playing with them can be very creative and decided I would look for a new, complete set. I began reading all the information available about them on the internet. I googled “lincoln logs” and all this information appeared. It was fascinating.
 
A very interesting bit of information I did not know is that they were invented by John Lloyd Wright in 1916, the son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. John was inspired to create lincoln logs as a result of watching his father build the famous Frank Lloyd Wright hotel, The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.
 
It seems as far back as I can remember that the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright has always fascinated me. Even today, if my son travels to Chicago for any reason, he will visit the Frank Lloyd Wright museum and bring me back a memento—a book, a calendar or just something from his museum.
 
Back in the fifties while living in Japan, I stayed in The Imperial Hotel many, many times. It was always a thrill to go there. Even when I lived in places like Kyoto and Nagoya, friends of mine and I would fly to Tokyo and stay at The Imperial. I was absolutely fascinated with everything about it. It was fun just to sit in the lobby and watch people from all over the world walk through. It seems everyone was beautifully dressed, many in his or her native country costumes.
 
My friends and I usually booked a suite and one of the first things we did was have a masseuse come and give us a massage, then we dressed for dinner in the beautiful dining room. The next day we went sightseeing and shopping. In the lower part of the hotel were dozens of small shops and I still have some of the items I purchased there, like the gorgeous beaded bags that are like artwork.
 
It was fun to walk through the hotel and in the formal gardens that surrounded it. We took many pictures and I still have a menu from the dining room with a rendering of the hotel on the front. Back in the fabulous fifties, one dressed to the hilt with a hat and gloves to dine, shop and sightsee. There was no going out in public in blue jeans and T-shirts back then.
 
After moving to Tokyo, my husband and I frequently went to the hotel for dinner. A modern dining room had been added and the food was always great, but the new addition did not have the charm of the original area of the hotel. I recall one evening while we were having dinner when the automatic firewall doors to the original part malfunctioned and closed. We were with friends but a momentary feeling of panic came over me, as I felt boxed in and did not know what was happening. After a time the doors were opened.
 
I think it was in 1921 when the giant earthquake hit Tokyo and leveled most of the city. Because of the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright, The Imperial Hotel was one of the few buildings left standing. He was aware of the frequent earthquakes in Japan and built the hotel on molten rock, erecting it in such a manner the hotel moved and swayed on the rock rather than crumbling. Therefore, the building swayed on the rock instead of falling. In the lower part where the shops were located, one could see places where the rock had buckled up.
 
When I arrived in Japan via ship at Yokohama, we were driven to The Imperial Hotel to spend the night before flying to Kyoto the next day. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. Then after receiving orders to return to the states in the early sixties, after our furniture was packed to ship, we booked The Imperial for our last night in Tokyo. Accordingly, The Imperial Hotel was the first and last place I stayed in Japan, with many visits there in between.
 
It has long since been dismantled and as I understand, was reassembled in another Japanese city. Nevertheless, I have so many fond memories of staying there, its beauty and genius construction, and being awed by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.
 
I’m no less impressed by the interesting circle of events.

As a result of my 3-year-old grandson’s interest in lincoln logs, I’ve discovered they are a creation of John Wright inspired from watching his father build and assemble The Imperial Hotel. When Prince William tore down his lincoln log creation only to reassemble it again, I watched him link the pieces together, constructing a building. The Imperial Hotel was a large sturdy structure but something in the construction was such that the parts were linked together with enough “breathing” room to move and sway and not crumble when the earth moved beneath.
 
I live in an area of North Georgia about 25 miles from another county where a town has sprung up in the last few years and several of the buildings are designed from Wright’s famous Prairie house design. Every time I go by one of those buildings, I’m reminded of the genius of the famous architect and the many pleasant times I spent in his famous Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.
 
Let Freedom Ring!

JUST ME,
AC

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