Historic Villa in Kobe searching for new owner

Okamoto Residence 2

The owner of a 93-year old European-style residence in Kobe is looking for a new owner to carry on the home’s legacy. Open days in June and July were arranged for the house by the Heritage House Trust. The conditions of the sale will require the new owner to preserve the structure.

The 2-storey home was built on a hillside position in Higashinada-ku in 1923. It was designed by architect Shichiro Kigo (1884-1955) and built for businessman Jiro Inabata. It was later used as a reception hall for the Miyaji Steamboat Company. In the 1960s, most of the hillside surroundings were subdivided into a housing estate called Okamoto Garden. It was at this time that the current owner’s family purchased the property.

Okamoto Residence Kobe 1

Okamoto Residence 3

The house has a total floor area of 434 sqm (4,670 sq.ft) and is on a 1,032 sqm (11,104 sq.ft) block of land in Motoyama Kitamachi 4 Chome. The interior was designed with a blend of Secession and Renaissance styles, while the structure itself appears to have been built by Shimizu-gumi (now Shimizu Corporation). In the 1995 Hanshin earthquake, part of the ceiling and walls suffered damage, making the house uninhabitable. Maintenance costs and property taxes have become too high for the current owner to bear, resulting in them seeking to sell the property.

From the late 1800s until pre-WWII, as many as 400 European-style houses were built in Kobe. Unfortunately many have been lost over the years due to earthquakes and redevelopment.

The architect of the home, Shichiro Kigo, designed many public buildings in the Osaka and Ehime regions. He began his career working for Obayashi Corporation, a construction giant, in 1911, before starting his own architectural firm in 1913. In 1937 he was awarded the French Legion of Honour.

Kigo’s works included:

  • Bansui-so (c1922): The holiday villa for Count Sadakoto Hisamatsu, a descendent of the Matsuyama Daimyo. The building was designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 2011.
  • Ehime Prefectural Office (c1929).
  • Former Nitta Residence, Nishinomiya City (c1928). A Spanish-style home built for Chojiro Nitta, the founder of Nitta Corporation.
  • Former Nitta Building, Ginza, Tokyo (c1930). The building was demolished in 2005 and replaced with a 10-storey building. The original 1st floor arches from the original building were reproduced on the new building.

Shichiro Kigo
[Top Left] Bansui-so; [Top Right] Ehime Prefectural Office; [Bottom Left] Nitta Residence; [Bottom Right] Nitta Building.
The Kobe Shimbun, June 14, 2016.
The Asahi Shimbun, June 26, 2016.

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