A local outcry has erupted after it was discovered that Minato-ku based real estate and expat leasing company, Ken Corporation, is considering demolishing the 104-year old Former Mitsui Bussan Yokohama Warehouse in Nihonodori, Yokohama.
The warehouse is one of the earliest structures in Japan to incorporate reinforced concrete in the construction. Built in 1910, the building has three floors as well as a basement and a total floor area of 2,194 sqm. It was designed by Oto Endo (1866-1943), a pioneer in designing RC buildings. He also designed the neighbouring Mitsui Bussan Yokohama Office Building (c1911), the Yokohama No. 2 Joint Government Office Building (c1926) and the Yokohama Teisan Office Building (c1926). The Mitsui Bussan Yokohama Office Building was the first building in Japan to be completely built out of reinforced concrete.
The port of Yokohama was a major port in the silk trade and this warehouse was used to store silk thread.
In recent years the City had discussed designating the structure as an important cultural asset, but approval could not be obtained from the building owner. As such, there are no rules or restrictions protecting the property from demolition.
The building and land was previously owned by a real estate arm of Mitsui. Ken Corporation, acquired the warehouse and neighbouring office building and land from Mitsui in 2013. A representative from Ken said they plan to demolish the 104-year old warehouse but will keep the neighbouring 101-year old office building.
Mr. Yusuke Aoki, a researcher from the Museum of Yokohama Urban History, said the structure is an extremely precious example of early trial-and-error methods of mixed RC, wood and brick construction.
A symposium seeking to protect the historic building was held in Yokohama on August 5. 120 people attended the meeting including emeritus professor Kazuo Nishi from Kanagawa University and emeritus professor Koichi Yoshida from Yokohama National University. The professors called for urgent action to protect the property.
The Kanagawa Shimbun, August 7, 2014.
The Tokyo Shimbun, August 10, 2014.
Interior images from old rental listing.