Owner ignores heritage listing, plans to demolish significant Kyoto machiya

On February 1, Kyoto City issued a warning to the owner of a city-designed historic home after learning about plans for its sale and demolition or relocation. This is the first time the city has had to issue a warning to a property owner. 

The Kawasaki Residence was built in 1926 for Risuke Inoue, a wealthy cotton merchant. The large Kyo-machiya townhouse features a blend of both traditional Japanese and western-style architecture. Architect Goichi Takeda (1872-1938) was said to have taken part in its design. Takeda designed the Kyoto Prefectural Library (1909), Goryu Palace (1921) and Kyoto City Hall (1927~1931). The Kawasaki family purchased the home after WWII, and it had been used as a kimono museum in recent years. 

The city became aware that the previous owner had sold the property to a Tokyo-based real estate company back in early 2018 when they began to receive inquiries about relocating the house. The city informed them that any relocation, demolition or restoration plans require city approval. Neighbors also reported a lot of coming and going from contractors, raising concerns about the future of the home. The property was sold to a real estate company in January 2018. Based on the size of the land and the prime development potential, a property like this one could fetch somewhere in the 1 billion Yen + range (approx. 10 million USD+).

On January 29, 2019, the city was informed that the property will be demolished. The maximum penalty for demolishing a heritage-listed building without first obtaining permission or submitting notification to the city is just 50,000 Yen (approx. 450 USD). While the amount seems paltry, the fine is likely to have not been updated since the law was introduced many, many years ago. If the owner ignores the city’s warning, the city will file a complaint with the prefectural police.

This would be the first case in Kyoto City where a city-designated cultural property is demolished. 

Location

Sanjocho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City

Sources:
The Kyoto Shimbun, February 1, 2019.
The Sankei Shimbun, February 2, 2019.

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