ICC Kyoto


The lead up to the selection of Takaragaike in the city of Kyoto– An International Conference Center for Japan

The concept for building an international conference center in Japan arose as a topic for discussion in the period shortly after the end of World War 2. However, it was the year 1956 when it started down the path to becoming a tangible reality.

At the time, Japan was going through its post-war healing process, and there was also strong desire to return to global society. Movements started gaining steam on the foreign diplomacy front as well, as important international conferences continued on in earnest, including the IOC as the campaign to attract the Olympic Games to Tokyo unfolded. We also started to see increasing opportunities to travel to other countries from Japan.

Dignitaries from Japan went on frequent trips abroad to speak at international conferences. We could indeed call this the first step towards participation in international society.

Among the many cabinet members who were traveling overseas at the time, it was Ichiro Kono (chief of the Economic Planning Agency), a member of the Cabinet of Prime Minister at the time Nobusuke Kishi, that noticed this and blazed the trail to the construction of an international conference center. Mr. Kono would go on to play a major role in establishing the international conference center in Kyoto from start to finish.

In 1956, Ichiro Kono visited the Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in order to attend the GATT conference as a government representative. Along with the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Palace of Nations is one of the two largest conference centers in the world.

The concept of the international conference center was born with this discussion hall of world-class proportions standing there before his eyes.

Soon after returning to Japan, Mr. Kono appealed to then-Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi about the necessity of establishing an international conference center.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Kyoto at the time Mr. Yoshizo Takayama had been passionate about making Kyoto into a city of international tourism, and used this opportunity to push vigorously towards bringing an international conference center to Kyoto.

At a cabinet meeting on November 8, 1956, Prime Minister Kishi said “I would like to build an international conference center in the city of Kyoto or its surrounding areas.” This is where the reality of constructing an International Conference Center started to take shape.

The objectives that were decided at this cabinet meeting included (1) being proactive in attracting major international conferences, (2) making Kyoto a focal point for major international conferences held in Japan, on par with Tokyo, and (3) building a conference center facility that rivals the United Nations building in New York and the Palace of Nations in Geneva, and serves as a site for both conferences and tourism. For the fiscal year of 1957 the cabinet approved a budget of 5 million yen for research expenditures related to the construction of an international conference center.


Selecting Takaragaike in the city of Kyoto as the construction site

In July 1959, Deputy Prime Minister at the time Mr. Shuji Masutani and Vice President of the LDP Mr. Banboku Ono performed site inspections, and in August of the same year Minister of Construction Mr. Isamu Murakami surveyed sites at both Takaragaike in the city of Kyoto, and Ojiyama in the city of Otsu.

Then, in a cabinet session on September 15th it was decided that Takaragaike would be the construction site.

Kyoto was chosen because it is the optimal location for showcasing Japan’s proud history and culture to visitors gathering from other countries, with an abundance of tourist resources such as old temples, shrines, and traditional crafts. This was also because of the classically beautiful scenery concealed within nature in the Rakuhoku and Takaragaike areas under the shadow of Mt. Hiei. Of course, we must never forget the efforts from start to finish made by those involved in attracting the conference center to this location.


Open design competition

An open design competition (open competitive format) that accepts entries from the general public was used to decide on the design of the Kyoto International Conference Center.

Other countries had already been using the format of open competition to decide on designs for public buildings for quite some time, and it contributed significantly to advancements in the construction industry. However, this was not popular in Japan at the time.

Nonetheless, this competition was Japan’s first full-fledged design competition in which “the basic design, construction design, and part of the management to help realize the intentions of the designer would be commissioned to the person who actually came up with the most outstanding design.”

*Taken from “Architecture of the Kyoto International Conference Center” published on April 10th, 1999
*The PDF will open when you click on the image


Sachio Otani picked as the architect

After 15 screening panel meetings to review 195 total entries submitted, a young up-and-coming architect who was garnering lots of attention at the time named Sachio Otani was selected as the creator of the most outstanding architect.

After graduating from the Department of Architecture of the First Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo, Mr. Otani went on to graduate studies at the same university to study under Mr. Kenzo Tange. After then working as a lecturer at the Department of Architecture of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo, he established the Otani Design Association Office in 1961, and garnered recognition for designing the old Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

The works of Mr. Otani utilized ancient Japanese construction styles, with a double trapezoid structure skillfully incorporated into the spatial element, a combination which creates magnificent uniformity. In addition to utilizing traditional values of Japanese architecture, this created a planar and three-dimensional form befitting of an international conference center.

The skillful approach to site planning aimed to make full use of the natural beauty of Takaragaike, and ingenuity was also used in how the parking lots were placed, and how the gardens were arranged. It all meshes harmoniously within the panorama of the splendid Takaragaike environment. Considerations were made thoroughly enough that even forecasted expansion plans will not require any dramatic changes to the current layout.

Short Biography of Designer Sachio Otani

1924 February 20th, Born in Tokyo
1946 Graduates from Tokyo University’s Faculty of Architecture, 1st Engineering Department
Postgraduate Special Research student (Former Kenzo Tange Laboratory)
1951 Leaves Tokyo University’s Engineering Department at the end of his postgraduate period and continues his studies under Professor Tange
Participates in the planning, design and supervision of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, old Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and others
1960 Resigns from Tange Laboratory
Devises the Kojimachi plan at his house
1961 Establishes the Design Union and engages in architectural design
1964 Appointed Assistant Professor of Tokyo University Faculty of Engineering’s Department of Civil Engineering (Municipal Engineering methodology, Municipal Engineering lectures)
1967 Starts Otani Associates
1971 Appointed Professor of Tokyo University Faculty of Engineering’s Department of Civil Engineering
1973 to 87 Working concurrently as a lecturer at Tohoku University’s Faculty of Engineering (Architectural planning methodology)
1982 to 87 Working concurrently as a Lecturer at Kobe University’s Graduate School of Natural Science (Municipal Engineering Methodology)
1983 to 84 Working concurrently as a Professor at Chiba University Faculty of Engineering’s Architecture Department (Ekistics/Advanced Ekistics course)
1984 On mandatory retirement from his post at Tokyo University transfers to Chiba University
Emeritus Professor at Tokyo University
1989 Mandatory retirement from Chiba University
Continues engineering activity as representative of Otani Associates
2013 Passes away on January 2nd


Construction from start to completion

Before the open design competition and the construction work, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Takaragaike site on November 19th, 1962 for the commencement of land-clearing work. Roughly 500 people attended this ceremony, including Minister of Construction at the time Ichiro Kono, Vice President of the LDP Banboku Ono, Kyoto Prefectural Governor Torazo Ninagawa, and Kyoto City Mayor Yoshizo Takayama, as well as other local partners and related parties.

Land-clearing on the site was then completed, the design of the Kyoto International Conference Center was decided through open competition, and pile-driving at the site commenced on January 24th, 1964.

Construction of the building required 3,600 tons of steel beams alone, 2,400 concrete piles 30 cm in diameter and 12 meters long were driven into the ground as the foundation for the steel frame. Since the foundation at the conference center site was soft to begin with and the structure for the building above it was complex, this construction effort was more difficult than expected.

Pile-driving work was completed on March 30th, and actual construction (the building itself) began on April 1st. The construction design for this building called for columns tilted at a 67.5 degree angle, and even seasoned construction veterans who could tell at a glance whether a beam was straight or not needed to do point-by-point measurements to make sure the steel beams were assembled correctly.

When the steel frame was for the most part complete in November 1964, work then began on attached fixtures and utilities such as electricity, communications, sanitary facilities, ventilation, and access routes.

On the 30th of November in 1964 the steel frame was completed, after which concrete was poured for the Main Hall. Efforts then began one after another for things such as elevators, telephones, receiving and transforming facilities, and simultaneous interpretation facilities. Concrete pouring for the building finished on March 30th, 1965, which completed the construction of the Main Hall.

Usually it is sufficient when setting the concrete to make the scaffold for constructing a building story by story, but for this conference center the floors in the rooms on each story all have different heights. This means that when setting the concrete, a different scaffold was needed for each meeting room, even for those on the same story. For that reason, three or four times more time and labor were required to set the concrete than would normally be required for a building of this size.

The weather also brought about challenges during efforts to set the concrete. Takaragaike is surrounded by mountains, and in the winter the average temperature is 1 to 2℃ lower than in Kyoto city proper. It frequently dropped as low as negative 4 to 5℃, even occasionally hitting sub-zero temperatures in the afternoon which can be fatal to the hardening of concrete.

After that, finishing work was done for the interiors, exteriors, landscaping and parking lots, and when two years and two months of construction work had reached completion on March 20th of 1966, the Kyoto International Conference Center was officially complete.


Establishing an administrative foundation

As construction progressed on the Kyoto International Conference Center, expectations and interest in the center continued to grow. However, in the initial stages no policies had been decided for how it was to be administered once it was complete.

In the “Kyoto City Assembly International Conference Center Committee” on October 23rd, 1965, the “International Conference Center Task Force” provided a report detailing concrete measures for the establishment of an administrative foundation. Responsibility for administration of the center would first be commissioned from the country to the city of Kyoto, after which it would be commissioned from the city to a foundation.

The following year, on January 31st of 1966, the center received its license and the “Kyoto International Conference Center Foundation” was officially inaugurated.

When the Mayor of Kyoto Yoshizo Takayama ended his term in office, he took the role of president of the conference center on February 15th of the same year, and everything was in place for it to finally open its doors.



The Kyoto International Conference Center opened its doors on May 21st, 1966.

Before the opening ceremony, the Ministries of Construction and Finance hosted a completion ceremony to commemorate the end of construction on the conference center.

There were around 300 people in attendance at the completion ceremony, including Vice President (acting prime minister) of the Liberal Democratic Party Mr. Shojiro Kawashima, Minister of Construction Mr. Mitsuo Setoyama, Parliamentary Vice Minister of Finance (acting Finance Minister) Mr. Katsushi Fujii, Mayor of Kyoto Seiichi Inoue, Chairman of the Board Konosuke Matsushita, President Yoshizo Takayama, and architect Sachio Otani.

After that, the opening ceremony was then held in the Main Hall of the center, hosted by the City of Kyoto and the Kyoto International Conference Center Foundation.

[Construction Summary]
Total building area: 27,055 m2(Steel frame reinforced concrete structure/some ferroconcrete structure, 6 floors above ground, 1 basement floor, and 2 additional floors above roof level)
Total area: 157,100 m2
Total construction cost: 3.96 billion yen (including land costs and furnishings)


Opening event for the international conference center
Holding the “5th US-Japan Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Problems”

The opening event for the international conference center was the “5th US-Japan Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Problems” held for three days from July 5th through 7th in 1966. This was an event of extreme importance, with top officials from both the Japanese and United States governments in attendance. Several overseas news outlets covered the proceedings at the conference, and the event was able to conclude with great success.

The Kyoto International Conference Center would go on to hold great numbers of seminars and international conferences involving meetings between governments, the United Nations, and more.

Go to 50 proud years of history


Completion of the Hosho-an Tea House

The tea house was completed on November 11th of 1967, at a total construction cost of 24 million yen. This was funded through contributions by five companies: Matsushita Electric Industrial, Matsushita Electronics, Matsushita Electric Works, Matsushita Seiko, and Nakagawa Denki (these were the names of the companies at the time).

The tea house was built to be a guest hall for entertaining mainly participants in international conferences in a traditional Japanese atmosphere. It was given the name “Hosho-an” by President Konosuke Matsushita in homage to the beauty of Takaragaike and the lush greenery of the pine trees surrounding its pond.

“Hosho-an” is a one-story building built in the style of a tea ceremony house with an area of 830 square meters and a “hiwadabuki” roof made of Japanese cypress bark. This tea room has a calm atmosphere that blends simplicity with refinement, with pillars made of “Kitayama” Japanese cedar logs, a ceiling of grained red cedar wicker, built-in tatami-matted seats, and “ryureiseki” chairs for entertaining foreign guests.

The tea garden makes use of the scenery provided by the surrounding mountains and Takaragaike. It has an outdoor tea ceremony lawn that faces the pond, to be used for parties that accompany international conferences.


Joining AIPC

In 1968 the Kyoto International Conference Center joined the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) as an international conference center representing Japan.

AIPC is an organization that has international convention centers from around the world as its members, established in 1958 for the purpose of facilitating mutual exchanges of information necessary for managing these convention centers, and conducting educational and research activities. Currently it is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, with 175 member convention centers in 57 different countries.

It should be noted that Kyoto International Conference Center is currently the only member of this organization located in Japan.


Completion of the Press Center

After two years of construction at a total cost of 1.15 billion yen, the much-anticipated Press Center was finally completed on January 8th, 1973.

Sophisticated mechanization of news reporting had been advancing rapidly over the previous few years. Activity hubs for members of the press and the availability of communication equipment were being referred to as essential elements to the success of international conferences in the future.

The Kyoto International Conference Center had been used as a place for all types of international exchanges through its first six years, from governments to economics, academics, and culture. However, the center would need to add functions and equipment to embrace the mechanization of news reporting in order to further elevate its status as an international conference center. Since the content of the proceedings and the atmosphere experienced at the conferences would be widely communicated, accommodating this would also help deliver on what the conference center was intended for. For those reasons, the completion of the Press Center was a very meaningful event for the future of the conference center.

As was the Main Building, the Press Center was also designed by Sachio Otani. It has four floors above ground with one basement floor, and a total floor area of 7,600 square meters. Its features include a joint press conference room equipped with simultaneous interpretation equipment for six different languages, as well as television and radio broadcast booths. It also has a combined office space for the press and 18 individual press rooms for separate companies in addition to a large banquet hall. Each room including the individual press rooms can also be used as a meeting room.


Joining ICCA

In 1978 Kyoto International Conference Center joined the lnternational Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) as an international conference center representing Japan.

ICCA is a global organization of parties related to international conferences and conventions, which was founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands in October 1963. It currently has around 1,000 member organizations in 90 different countries.

Since becoming a member, the Kyoto International Conference Center has been working to attract conferences by communicating with partners from overseas and actively exchanging information regarding international conferences. When general meetings are held, center representatives also enthusiastically participate in breakout session discussions on specific topics such as challenges in the management of conference centers, developing human resources, and speedy gathering of conference information.


Completion of the Event Hall

The time around which the Kyoto International Conference Center was completed in 1966 was also a time when Japan’s economy, academics, and culture were making large advancements in global stature. Taking that into account, the center truly came into being at a good time.

However, society would subsequently undergo some rapid changes, and the center found itself also needing to take action in dealing with these changes. It was particularly noticeable that international and domestic conferences were becoming larger and more specialized each year. Along with this the format would change as well, as the focus tended to shift from speaking and use of flat materials such as slides and images, to an emphasis on displays and things that would add a three-dimensional effect to reports and announcements. This resulted in some instances where we were unable to sufficiently accommodate the requirements of the organizers. In order to keep up with these requirements of the times, starting around 1978 the center petitioned the national government for the addition of an event hall, including an exhibition space and lodging facilities. After submitting several requests approval was finally received, and at the end of 1982 construction began on the Event Hall in a part of the large parking lot nestled against the Iwakura River within the premises of conference center. The completion ceremony was held on April 2nd, 1985.

Just like the Main Building and the Press Center, the Event Hall was also designed by Sachio Otani. It has three floors above ground and one basement floor, with a total floor area of 8,600 square meters. It cost a total of around 3 billion yen to build, and the construction was the largest project undertaken since the conference center opened its doors. Lodging facilities (the Lodge) were also added on the east side of the event hall.


Construction of the hotel

From the perspective of Kyoto, the Kyoto International Conference Center has become a jumping off point to go from being the heartland of Japanese culture to being a city of international culture. From the perspective of the national government, it also meant having a place to promote the internationalization of Japan, with Kyoto as a setting. At the time the conference center opened, Japan was not accustomed to the concept of international conferences, but as time went on the center hosted a gradually increasing number of international conferences with larger numbers of participants, reflecting the rise of Japan’s international standing.

With this as a backdrop, the 12th G7 Summit was scheduled to be held in Japan in May 1986, and there was a movement to try luring it to Kyoto. Efforts towards the construction of a hotel moved forward quickly.

The summit itself did not end up being held in Kyoto, but demand for a hotel to be built had already been growing, and continued increasing each year until the Kyoto city assembly passed a motion for it in April 1984. The Kyoto Takaragaike Prince Hotel (now called the Grand Prince Hotel Kyoto) was then built in 1986.


Extension of the subway

Improving access to the Kyoto International Conference Center had been the most prominent concern since its opening in 1966. The Kyoto Municipal Subway (Karasuma Line) from Kyoto Station to Kitaoji Station went into service in 1981, and a request was filed to extend this line to the conference center. In 1992, the Ministry of Transport (now called the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) approved the plan to extend this line to Kokusaikaikan (International Conference Center) Station.

This plan called for construction to begin in June 1993, and Kokusaikaikan Station went into service on June 3rd, 1997. This dramatically improved access to the facility from the Kyoto city center, as the time required to get there from Kyoto Station plummeted to only 20 minutes.

Additionally, cooperation from the national government and the city of Kyoto was obtained to build an underground passageway from the station concourse to the conference center, which was then completed on the 19th of November. This provided good access for people who came from all over the world to participate in the Kyoto Protocol Climate Conference (COP3) which was held soon after, starting on December 1st that same year. It also provided a chance to draw attention to the full lineup of facilities surrounding the conference center.


Completion of the Annex Hall

Taking a cue from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of January 1995, Kyoto International Conference Center underwent earthquake resistance renovations starting in November of the same year. (This was completed on the last day of March in 1999)

As this occurred, the decision was made to erect the Annex Hall as an alternative facility to the ones that were being renovated. Construction on it began on in April 1997.

When it was completed on March 31st, 1998, the Annex Hall then went into use as a permanent facility that April. This hall has a capacity of 1,500 people as a conference space, and since it can also be divided with moveable walls into two separate spaces it has broad versatility to be used as a space for breakout meetings, an exhibition hall, a reception hall, or other purposes.


Improving access (From the subway to the main entrance)

With Kokusaikaikan subway station having opened, and the direct underground passage in use, construction then began in February 2001 on a covered walkway connecting the entrance to the underground passage with the main entrance to the conference center. It was completed in August of the same year. This has made it possible to move between the main entrance of the conference center and Kokusaikaikan subway station without an umbrella when rain is falling.

Widening of the dedicated road (main entrance rotary) also helped accommodate VIP vehicles, taxi pickups and drop-offs, and arrivals and departures of large buses.

An elevated bridge has also been newly built to replace the steep-angled hairpin curve (known as fox hill) on Takaragaike Dori, and since renovation on the dedicated road has been completed, access has been made a notch easier.


Environmental considerations (Cogeneration, installing wastewater equipment)

Since its opening, Kyoto International Conference Center had always been equipped with private electricity generators to ensure a stable supply of electricity. When this equipment needed to be replaced, the conference center took the environment into consideration and decided to utilize a cogeneration system. High-temperature water and steam recovered through a gas engine from cooling water can be used for water heaters and air flow systems such as heaters and air conditioners, not only reducing the environmental footprint and saving on utilities expenses but also cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions by employing natural gas for fuel.

Also taking into account the increasingly acute awareness of the importance of water in recent years, a conservation-type water circulation system was introduced in March 2003. It reduces the use of clean water mainly by changing how greywater is supplied, normally circulating clean water used within the conference center and re-using it as greywater, while in times of disasters taking water from Sachigaike in the main garden to use as washing water for toilets.


Establishment of the Media Center

2003 In March 2003, a media center was built on the 4th floor of the Main Building. It has the audio, simultaneous interpretation, and video equipment necessary for conferences, all fully-digital and in high-resolution, with the facilities to centrally control these systems at the center of an optical fiber network with 600 lines connected to each of the conference rooms. This provides a base for stable, high-speed communications. Audio and video are fully-digital, and images from the high-resolution cameras transmit clearly without deterioration. Comprised of sophisticated systems on par with broadcast stations, the Media Center can flexibly meet a diversified range of conference needs including recording, editing, remote, live broadcasts, on-demand transmissions, and internet broadcasts.


Shift to a public interest incorporated foundation

In accordance with reforms to the country’s public interest corporations system, the conference center devised a three-month plan to facilitate a smooth transition to being a public interest incorporated foundation. As a result, the prime minister accredited the conference center with the status of public interest incorporated foundation on March 24th, 2011.

This accreditation means that Public Interest Incorporated Foundation Kyoto International Conference Center has been entrusted with the management and operation of the center by the national government, by way of the city of Kyoto. With it, the center is making diligent efforts to proactively attract intergovernmental, international, and domestic-only conferences suitable for a state-run international conference center, and operate the conferences in a way that satisfies the organizers; At the same time, the center is actively working to deliver services to the public as a public-interest corporation that controls a national facility, including autonomously-planned business activities that contribute to the community and facilitate international exchange.


Installation of digital signage and solar-powered facilities

To display welcome messages, event details and program information to conference center guests, digital signage was installed in the underground passage between the center and Kokusai Kaikan subway station. This includes two 70-inch panels, six 45-inch vertical panels, and one chain of four 32-inch panels.

Additionally, the power source for this digital signage equipment is provided by electricity generated from environmentally-friendly solar energy.


Earthquake resistance renovations to the Main Hall, etc.

Earthquake resistance renovations beginning on February 24th, 2011 went on for four years until they were complete in March 2015. The conference center had undergone a sequence of renovations and repairs since it opened, but the completion of this large-scale renovation project marked the end of seismic reinforcement for the entire conference center.

The main hall light fixtures, dimming lights, and screens in particular are now at earthquake-resistant specifications, ensuring that the conference center offers safe, secure, and enjoyable space for its guests.

This renovation work also served as a renewal for the conference center facilities, providing an occasion to transition to LED lighting fixtures and modernize the outer walls and interior of the building.


Beginning of construction on the New Hall

International conferences have gotten more diverse and larger in scale in recent years, and as the existing facilities at the Kyoto International Conference Center have gotten cramped we have established a track record of handling things flexibly by partnering with other facilities, setting up portable tents, and doing whatever else is required.

However, with the passage of half a century the conference center finds itself in a rapidly changing environment, characterized by the evolution of the “meetings industry.” Looking abroad, the trend toward larger convention centers is already evident even in Asian countries, not to mention the United States and countries in Europe.

In these circumstances, we believe we will need to boost our international competitiveness with an even more attractive lineup of facilities in order to bring in international conferences. This has resulted in the desire for a new hall.

Based on this we continued working on requests to the national government for an extension. As a result, we will have a new multipurpose exhibition facility completed in fiscal year 2018 which will accommodate a capacity of around 2,500 people. We have already done the paperwork required for construction, selected the contractors, and construction work is currently under way.