Nippon Yusen Pt 1
Former Nippon Yusen Offices, Otaru – Part One
We left our canal bimble and headed across the park to the building I wanted to visit, now known and christened by me (for a change from Bear doing such a thing) as the Fred Olsen Building. The thing in the middle is a fountain all wrapped up for the winter.
Bear decides it’s a long way to London.
The information board says: Canal Park was created as a reminder of Funairima. Funairima was a small bay which was used exclusively by the Former Nihon Yusen Company Otaru Branch (the building was designated as a Nationally Important Cultural Asset) to load and unload commodities directly from barges in the canal to the warehouses surrounding it.
The park is a reminder of the original state of the canal and its surroundings in those days.
A grand old lady, the highlight of my time in Otaru – Nihon (Nippon) Yusen Company Otaru Branch Designated on the 12th of March 1969. Erected 1906 Construction: Two-story stone.
The lovely entrance, classical doorway with flag detail.
James Hill & Co brass door/floor plate, purveyor to Queen Victoria. We look up to see a firm set of calf muscles.
Too cold to take my socks off, I really struggled in the slippers I was given. Bear bracing himself – perhaps we should have wedged children’s ones on. It took us all our might to get up the stairs and we had to scuff along for the next hour or so.
We paid the very helpful, but not a word of English ladies, I put a stamp in my book and finally we were admiring the downstairs reception room.
A quick look back at the main room while it was empty and we faced the stairs, we would have found it easier to go up with skis, mountain boots or tennis racquets for that matter.
The piece of paper the nice lady gave us says: In 1904 construction was begun on the former Otaru branch offices of the Nippon Yusen Co., Ltd. a two-storied modern European Renaissance structure in stone, and completed in October 1906. The architect was Shichijō Satachi a member of the first graduating class of the College of Engineering while contracting was done by the local construction group headed by Iwakichi Yamaguchi.
Construction costs amounted to about sixty thousand Yen at that time. It is thought that the construction of the office was undertaken because of the widespread fire that had occured in 1903. At the time Otaru was filling out its commercial port facilities in functioning as a key city in the development of Hokkaido and the shipping, sea freight and warehousing industries were vying to establish docking and stone warehouse facilities. Also, in the latter half of the Meiji Period, top class architects were using what were then the most advanced techniques to create Western style architecture, of which many representative examples remain. This structure is symbolic of the beginnings of that era.
In 1955 the building bought from Nippon Yusen by the city and beginning the following year it was used as the Otaru Museum. In March of 1969 it was designated as an Important National Cultural Asset as a representative example of latter-day Meiji Period stone architecture.
As a historical footnote to the office building, shortly after its completion in November 1906, the second floor meeting room was used for the Commission to Determine the Russo-Japanese border on Sakhalin Island in accordance with the Portsmouth Treaty after which the neighbouring special guest reception room was used for a party in celebration of the event.
As years passed the building began to show sign of age and first the roof replaced in 1978. Then, in 1982, a full inspection was made to ascertain the extent of the necessary repairs and in October of 1984 restoration operations began, which were finally completed in June of 1987 after thirty three months of work. Here was resurrected the cultural inheritance of superior commercial architecture representative of the commercial city of Otaru in the latter day of Meiji. I feel tired after typing that with Bear dictating. I’ll have to have a cup of tea.
The lavish sitting room, as used for the party after the meeting.
I loved the woodblock floor design, a picture from the past and Bear loved the simple use of cord stuck to the wallpaper in the corner, adding finish and neatness.
The wallpaper in this room still shone, although sadly, chipped in places.
Embossed Gilt Wallpaper: (Kinkarakawa) in the main meeting room. The walls of the special guest reception room and meeting room on the second floor and ceilings of the first floor operations office, reception room and branch manager’s office were papered with Kinkarakawa paper, and embossed gilt wallpaper.
Kinkarakawa wallpaper was developed after the idea of European coloured leather wall coverings. Hand made rice paper had been used to make wallpaper, chiefly for export, since the beginning of Meiji. The high quality and its special beauty had received high acclaim at international expositions.
Adding of it being hand made, and very expensive however, it was also very long lasting, so that order were few and demand dwindled until, unfortunately, the manufacturing process itself had no one to carry it on.
In any case, Kinkarakawa wallpaper is a special heritage of the Meiji Period born of a combination of original Japanese materials and an ingenious hand made process.
Lace curtains. Hefty blind pull and intricate patterns on the radiator.
Beautiful door frame into the meeting room.
The meeting room with its vast table.
Lights and ceiling detail.
Then and now.
The corridor with matching windows at each end.