Okuno Building, in Ginza: keeping alive the memory of the era Shōwa

The old Okuno building was built at the beginning of the Shōwa era as luxury apartments. Currently, there are galleries of art and stores of antiques.

Earthquake-proof luxury

The Okuno Building, a retro-modernist building, is located between modern office buildings, dazzling department stores, and avant-garde shops, this building has a unique presence.

The building may be familiar to art lovers. They will have heard its name at least once, due to the renowned galleries it contains today. The ground floor houses an antique shop. From the first to the fifth floor we find small art galleries, shops and private offices. All of them have a historical atmosphere. Even the elevator doors on each floor remain in their original style and have to be operated manually.

Actually, more and more Japanese and international visitors are coming to the place to enjoy the building and pass through the various galleries.

Originally known as Ginza Apartments, the Okuno Building actually consists of two linked buildings.

The main building, which remains on the left when one faces the entrance. It was built in 1932 and the so-called new building on the right was completed two years later. The story goes that before the Okuno Building was built the site was occupied by a factory. This factory was destroyed in the Great Earthquake of Kantō in 1923 and Okuno decided to construct a reinforced concrete building to withstand future earthquakes.

Okuno Jisuke called Kawamoto Ryōichi, an architect he knew, to commission the design.

Keep the last apartment

We recommend that people visit the Ginza Okuno Building Room 306 Project, a unique effort to preserve one of the building’s apartments. Apartment 306 opens to the public on the sixth day of each month.

“Okuno Building is not just an old building,” says Kurota Hirofumi, the project’s promoter. “It is a time capsule of the era Shōwa, which retains the histories and cultures of the people who lived inside.

After graduating from university, Kurota became an artist and was involved in the production of video works, etc. His participation in the Okuno Building stems from his association with an art gallery located in the building.

Apartment 306

The original resident of apartment 306 was a woman named Suda Yoshi. She had a beauty salon in an apartment in the Okuno Building, where she cut and combed the hair of a steady clientele. In the late 1970s, he closed the business and turned the salon into his personal residence. For that reason, Suda became the last private resident of the Okuno Building after it became a leased commercial space. She died there in 2009, at the age of 100.

Then, Kurota leased apartment 306 saving it from the renovation. Today, the project houses installations and art exhibitions. The project is also working on a documentary on the history of the building entitled “Okuno Building Monogatari”.

An opportunity to look back

Considerable effort has been put into the interior decoration of apartment 306. In apartment 306 you can feel the remnants of the beauty salon as its mirrors are still hanging on the wall, and the telephone stand is still in place and there are posters and posters.

The building had an avant-garde infrastructure and shared spaces with all the comforts of the time. With such installations, it symbolized the kind of urban lifestyle to which many aspired at the beginning of the era Shōwa.

Interest to rent the Okuno Building

The project also receives queries about renting apartment 306 for private events or as a photography venue. However, unless otherwise indicated, it is available for use only by project members.

“The purpose of the project is preservation, not commercialization,” says Kurota. “However, we organize events that further our goals and convey the raison d’être of the apartment”. The project also plans to investigate and record Suda Yoshi’s life and times and is collecting statements from people related to the building. The current owner of the Okuno building is an unconditional participant and supporter of the project.

Compared to London and Paris, there are no buildings in the heart of Tokyo that have history. This building built at the beginning of the era Shōwa in Ginza is a treasure in itself that also reflects the memory of the people who inhabited it.

In conclusion, tourists have to visit the art galleries and shops in the Okuno Building, as well as the events in apartment 306, to absorb the atmosphere of the time.

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