A Showa House


Yesterday, our wonderful realtor, Matsudate-san, called us urgently. There was a house he really wanted us to see. An old house in Mejirodai, one neighborhood over from us, that will be pulled down next week so the land can be sold. The price of the land, 12,000万円, is too high for us but Matsudate-san knew we'd want to see it anyway - we'd appreciate the house as much as the land it sits on.

The land is great - 125 sq m in a quiet neighborhood. The long, east side abuts the wealthy neighbor's tree-lined driveway, so there's beautiful sunlight on that side of the house, and treetops from the 2nd floor window.

The house, previously owned by Yanagisawa-san and Yamamoto-san (they were family, Matsudate-san hurriedly assured us!), was gorgeous in a way only old houses can be. Built about 50 years ago, it featured wood ceilings and used screens to separate rooms and halls, so it was possible to see from one end of the house to the other.

Out Front
The only "western" room in the house looked out onto the garden (More photos on Flickr)

The colors were mainly worn-in natural browns that nothing new ever competes with and the textures were of tatami, rough plaster and smooth wood. It had plenty of closets (beyond plenty into "wow, they must have had a lot of stuff!" wonderment) , natural light in every room, and quirky things like a stainless steel sink in the second floor hallway.

If I had a million dollars, I'd buy it and rebuilt something just as special on the lot. Alas, we do not have that kind of money, so it will all be bulldozed next week to make way for what will probably be some dull modern building made of petrochemicals.

I'm especially sad that the rock garden and the trees out front will be destroyed. I hope someone rescues the beautiful pine bonsai. Do you think anyone would anyone notice if I went over with a shovel and a burlap bag?


Wow... a REAL shame that it's going to be gone so soon. I remember reading somewhere (I think in "Dogs and Demons") about people who would buy houses like these, without the land they were on, reconstruct them, and move them to cheaper property. I suppose there's no time for you to do something like that, is there?

And as to the bonsai, I say do it. At worst, you'll end up in the "Foreigner Crime File" magazine with a cool supervillian name like "The Tree-Snatcher"!

Lots of light. It's just beautiful. A shame it's going to disappear.

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  • JHK: Lots of light. It's just beautiful. A shame it's going read more
  • Ian Horner: Wow... a REAL shame that it's going to be gone read more