Contrary to popular belief, ceremony halls aren\u2019t a creation of bubble-era Japan, and Meguro Gajoen is proof of that. Built in the early days of the turbulent 30s, when Tokyo was vying against Shanghai for the \u201cParis of the East\u201d title, Meguro Gajoen was transformed from a restaurant to a banquet, wedding, and general ceremony hall\u2014in effect becoming Japan\u2019s first wedding complex. At that time, when Tokyo had just recovered from a major earthquake, this extravagant venue was regarded as a fairytale kingdom, an inaccessible dreamland for most people\u2014hence its nickname as the Palace of the Dragon God. Despite the advent of much bigger (and much, much tackier\u2014Japan, right?) venues, it remains a very popular (but, unsurprisingly, pricey) choice for all kinds of social functions. But given its history, Meguro Gajoen is more than just a fancy, classy hotel and wedding venue\u2014if you\u2019re into art and architecture, it can also be a tourist spot in itself. Inside the Palace of the Dragon God The old Gajoen has been almost completely reformed\u2014the Japanese use this phrase for all kinds of reconstruction work, but in this case, it\u2019s literal. Parts of it still remain, though, and they\u2019re real works of art. Walking down the hallway, you\u2019ll see detailed panels vividly depicting life in Edo-era Japan. These panels were displayed during Gajoen\u2019s opening. Be sure to also check out the ceiling for more art. Walk further and you\u2019ll reach the Invitation Gate, a remnant from the old Gajoen. Surrounding it are a small pond and art installations that vary depending on the season. Go past the gate and take a toilet break to remember, as Meguro Gajoen is home to the Million-Dollar Toilet, so called because it supposedly cost US$850 million to build. Sure, spending the night or celebrating your wedding at Gajoen may cost you an arm and a leg (maybe a meal won\u2019t cost that much, but it\u2019s still not going to be that cheap!), but the toilets are free for you to use! In case you ever needed a reminder of how opulent this hotel was (and still is), this is it. (A tacky show of wealth of Showa-era rich folks, a beautiful and artistic legacy, or both? You decide.) With bridges, flowing water, and gold paintings on the ceiling, you\u2019d be forgiven for thinking that you\u2019re anywhere else but in a toilet. In what may be an anti-climactic twist, there\u2019s nothing special\u2014no gold toilet bowls or anything\u2014inside the cubicles, though. But the real star of Gajoen is the Hyakudan Kaidan, the staircase of a hundred wooden steps, which connects seven rooms filled to the brim with art from the pre-war period. Fun fact: in reality, there are only 99 steps, which has some symbolic value in that having a hundred steps would mean the end, whereas having 99 means that the steps can remain a work in progress for eternity. It\u2019s a Registered Tangible Cultural Asset of Japan. Fun with Lights at Wa no Akari Exhibition The Hyakudan Kaidan and its banquet halls are only accessible to the public during guided tours, which are usually held in Japanese, or when exhibits are held there from time to time. However, even so, photos may not be allowed. But there\u2019s one annual summer exhibition that allows photos: Wa no Akari, which which could mean \u201clight of Japan\u201d or \u201clight of harmony\u201d (the Japanese love puns). While Hyakudan Kaidan's banquet halls are already ornate to begin with, Wa No Akari makes them even more spectacular through the addition of art installations. all exploring various aspects of the concept of light, as well as combinations of light and trademark Japanese objects. Visitors can climb the titular staircase (it isn\u2019t that bad as it sounds\u2014it\u2019s broken down to 10-15 stair segments) and check out the rooms to see the various stages of the exhibition. Paper plays a big role in the Wa no Akari project: in the form of heroic figures from the Aomori Nebuta Festival, of Hokusai ukiyo-e prints or of sculptures and various textures, it is present in almost all rooms and makes the light virtually tangible. Works by contemporary artists alternate with classics from the early Showa period, the time the Gajoen was built. But even though some installations might seem too modern for such a classic setting, the overall result is truly amazing and certainly worth the price tag of 1,500 yen. That price is comparable to a museum ticket, and the Gajoen is considerably smaller than many\u2014but not all\u2014museums in Tokyo. Nevertheless, it makes for a moving experience, perhaps even more than what you might get in many other museums. (The installations make for lovely photos, too, as they\u2019re extremely picturesque.) Here's a gallery of images from 2015's Wa no Akari, with photos by Grigoris Miliaresis: Access The Meguro Gajoen is very close to Meguro Station served by JR\u2019s Yamanote Line, Tokyo Metro\u2019s Namboku Line and Toei\u2019s Mita Line. Exit from the west side, walk a couple of hundred yards, go down a veeeeeery steep slope and you\u2019re there. The good people of the venue, knowing that what goes down must go up, have a free shuttle that will take you from their door to the station so you can avoid seeing the \u201cdark side\u201d of said slope. If you intend to visit though: Wa no Akari is usually only held from July to August. But if you miss this exhibit, fear not, as Gajoen holds art exhibits a few times a year. Just some examples of previous exhibits are a doll exhibit for the Hina festival and a lucky cat exhibit. As mentioned earlier, most exhibits do not allow photos, but you might get lucky every so often. Wa no Akari Details 2017 dates: July 1-August 27, 2017 Time: 10:00 am-6:00 am (Mondays-Thursdays), 10:00 am-8:00 pm (Fridays, weekends, and holidays); last entry 30 minutes before Admission:\u00a01,500 yen (800 yen for students; free for elementary school students and younger) This article was originally written by Grigoris Miliaresis in 2015 and updated by Tiffany Lim in 2017.