113-year old house in Setagaya may be demolished

Unless a last-minute deal can be struck, the historic former home of Yukio Ozaki (1858-1954), a revered politician nicknamed the ‘father of the Japanese Constitution’, is likely to be demolished very soon.

Ozaki, then-mayor of Tokyo City, built the house in 1907 for his wife Yei Theodora Ozaki. Theodora, a translator of Japanese short stories and fairy tales, was the daughter of a Japanese baron and British mother and spent much of her time traveling between Japan and Europe. In 1934 the home was sold for 8,000 Yen to a scholar of English literature. It was dismantled from its original location in central Tokyo’s Azabu Kogaicho neighborhood and relocated to its current location in Gotokuji, Setagaya. After the passing of the former owner three years ago, the building and land was sold to a construction company. In late June, neighboring residents received notice that demolition of the house would start in mid-July. 

Shocked by the news, local residents quickly began to petition for the house to be saved, collecting over 3,600 signatures that were submitted to the construction company. Even Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike expressed the need to protect the historic home at a recent press conference. In response, the company has temporarily halted demolition and is in talks to sell the property to local residents, if a financial agreement can be made.

The possible options include either selling the house and land, and keeping the house as it stands, or selling the house only and have it dismantled and reassembled somewhere else. However, these plans require a significant outlay of cash – easily over 100 million Yen (US$930,000+), and sourcing that amount of funds for a preservation project is not easy. The owner had given a deadline for the local residents to come up with the money by the end of July, although it appears as though negotiations are continuing into August. The land size is over 600 sqm, which could make the market price somewhere in the 300 ~ 400 million Yen range (based on a nearby vacant lot listed for sale).

The two-story wooden house is built in a European-style similar to other houses built around that time in foreigner settlements.

The Asahi Shimbun, July 19, 2020.
The Sankei Shimbun, July 16, 2020.

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