99-year old residence in Kamakura opened to public for first time

Koga Residence Kamakura 3

A historic residence in Kamakura that was once the holiday home of former Prime Ministers Fumimaro Konoe (1891 – 1945) and Osachi Yamaguchi (1870 – 1931) has been repaired and converted into a French restaurant and wedding function centre. This historic, privately-held home had been closed to the public until now.

The Koga Residence was built in 1916 as a villa for Seijiro Sho (1862 – 1926), the managing director of Mitsubishi. In 1937 it was purchased by Mr. Koga, a manager of Nippon Tochi-Tatemono, and has been in the Koga family ever since.

Koga Residence Kamakura
Images via http://kamakura-koga.com

The two-storey wooden house was designed by architect Kotaro Sakurai, who was the first Japanese person to obtain a license as an authorised British architect. Sakurai studied at the University of Tokyo under Josiah Conder, and in 1899 left for England to study architecture at the University of London. In 1913 he was hired to work for Mitsubishi as their chief engineer and participated in the design of the Marunouchi business area.

In 1923 he established his own architectural office. He retired in 1935 after completing his last project – the Kobe Branch of the Yokohama Specie Bank (now the Kobe City Museum).

Sakurai’s main works include:

  • 1905: Former Residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Kure City, Hiroshima (still standing)
  • 1922: Former Mitsubishi Bank Head Office, Marunouchi, Tokyo (demolished in 1977)
  • 1923: Former Marunouchi Building, Tokyo (demolished in 1999)
  • 1924: Seikado Bunko Art Museum, Okamoto, Tokyo (still standing)

Along with the Kamakura Museum of Literature (c1936) and the Kacho-no-miya Residence (c1929), the Koga Residence is often said to be one of Kamakura’s ‘Big 3’ western-style homes and is a rare surviving structure from before the 1923 Kanto earthquake. A number of Western-style residences sprung up in Kamakura between the Taisho and early Showa period due to some unique circumstances. When the foreign settlement in nearby Yokohama was established, foreign residents were allowed to travel up to 40 km from the open port. Kamakura was within this distance and became a popular destination for foreigners all year round. In 1889, the opening of the Yokosuka Train Line added to the convenience of the area and many wealthy nobles and members of the imperial family began building lavish western-style holiday villas.

Kamakura Museum of Literature and Kacho no miya
[Left] The Kamakura Museum of Literature (c1936). [Right] Kacho-no-miya (c1929).
Unfortunately 90% of the buildings in Kamakura, including many of the large villas, were destroyed in the 1923 earthquake which was centred just off the coast in Sagami Bay. The Koga Residence miraculously survived the earthquake. For short periods the villa was rented to politicians and Prime Ministers. Mr. Koga acquired the property in 1937 as a means of asset protection during the lead up to WWII. The house was confiscated by the GHQ in 1945 and used as a clubhouse for commissioned officers.

Following the war, Mr. Koga’s son, Nobuo, became a famous racing car driver and automobile critic. He often tuned his cars in the front yard of the house.

Wedding facility and restaurant operator and planner, b. note, is leasing the property. After two years of preparation, company president, Tatsuo Arai, is looking forwarding to welcoming the public into the new restaurant. Reservations for lunch at the restaurant are already booked solid for a month in advance, and there are plans to open a cafe as well.

Location

1-7-23 Ogigayatsu, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture

  • 450 meters north of Kamakura Station

Koga Residence Kamakura 2

Koga Residence Kamakura 4

Sources:
Kamakura Heritage Koga Residence (http://kamakura-koga.com/)
The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 12, 2015.
Town News, May 8, 2015.

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