Government seeking to acquire and preserve historic villas in Oiso

The Japanese government is considering converting several privately owned historic villas in the coastal town of Oiso into a public park. The project may include acquiring the properties and restoring them so that they can be opened to the public.

The proposal covers a 6 hectare site including the Sorokaku Villa, former Ikeda Shigeaki Residence, former Okuma Shigenobu Residence, and former Mutsu Minemitsu Residence.

The properties are owned by private companies and not currently open to the public. Some of the homes, which are unused, have fallen into various states of disrepair over the years. The government may consider purchasing the buildings and land from their owners and has set aside 27.3 billion Yen (approx. 240 million USD) in the national park’s budget for the project.

[Left] The original Sorokaku villa during the Meiji era; [Right] The 1920s villa (image taken in 1988).

Sorokaku Villa

Built in 1890 in Odawara City as a holiday villa for Prince Ito Hirobumi (1841-1909), a London-educated samurai and Japan’s first Prime Minister. It was relocated to a 18,150 sqm block of beachfront land in Oiso Town in 1897, becoming Ito’s main residence. At the time, many of Japan’s top political rulers and industrialists had extravagant holiday homes in Oiso. By 1907, there were over 150 grand estates in the town.

In 1921, it was transferred by Ito’s adopted son to the House of Yi (Korean Imperial Household). It was completely destroyed in the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake but rebuilt shortly after. It was briefly confiscated during the occupation following WWII, before being transferred by the Yi family to politician Narahashi Wataru in 1946. In 1951, the property was sold to Seibu …continue reading