Historic Maya Hotel to receive heritage listing

The overgrown and long-abandoned Maya Kanko Hotel in Kobe will be registered as a Tangible Cultural Property. Discussions to register the historic property began in 2017, with the owner, non-profit organization J-Heritage, and an architectural group banding together to start the application process.

The art deco hotel sits on the hillside overlooking Kobe City. It was built in 1929 by the Maya Cablecar Company and is adjacent to one of the cablecar stops. 

The 4-story hotel closed in 1945, undergoing a large-scale renovation that saw a fifth floor added along with art deco interior fittings from the SS Île de France ocean liner. It finally closed its doors as a hotel in 1967 after sustaining damage during a strong typhoon. It was converted into a student seminar and lodging facility in the mid-1970s but closed once more in 1993. In the following decades it fell into ruin and became a popular site for trespassers. 

The owner and NPO ran an online fundraising campaign in August 2017 seeking donations to cover documentation for the heritage listing, conduct land surveys, provide emergency repairs and to install a security system on the property. Within two months they had received over 7 million Yen in donations from 349 people, exceeding their goal of 5 million Yen. 

A revision to the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties in 1996 saw the introduction of the Tangible Cultural Property heritage registration system. This was in response to the 1995 Hanshin earthquake and intended as a means to expand heritage listings by loosening the criteria. Registered properties require the government to be notified before making any changes to the exterior of the building, but interior alterations generally don’t require any notification. The government may also provide some financial aid to assist in the preservation of the property. There are around 13,000 registered Tangible Cultural Properties in Japan.

Sources: 
NHK, March 19, 2021.
The Asahi Shimbun, March 19, 2021.

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