Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

May 12, 2012

Yamamura Residence (Yodoko Guest House) by Frank Lloyd Wright (Museum)

Among the surviving works in Japan by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the only building located in Western Japan and at the same time the only surviving residence he designed, can be found in Ashiya near Kobe. Now called Yodoko Guest House, in the past it was more correctly called the "Yamamura Residence." It was built as the summer villa for the well-heeled sake brewer Tamamura Tazaemon (of Sakura-Masamune). Designed in 1918, construction was completed in 1824, with the help of Wright's disciples Endo Arata and Minami Makoto.

[Entrance to the house]

The house stands on a small, wooded hill behind Ashiyagawa Station on the Hankyu Line, and its top part with characteristic trapezoid chimney can be seen when exiting the station on the north side. The slope to the house has been called "Raito-zaka," or "Wright Slope." The design of the house is very ingenious, and the decoration inside is marvelous as well. The four floors of the house have been set into the hill in symmetrical steps, so that it is nowhere taller than two stories. From all levels there are wonderful views of Kobe Port and Osaka Bay. The house has not been built from concrete, but with blocks of soft-textured Oya stone, from a historical quarry in Tochigi Prefecture. The house seems to grow out of its natural surroundings.


In 1947, the house was acquired by the present owner, the Yodogawa Steel Works; in 1974 it was designated an Important Cultural Property, which led to a large scale restoration effort by the government - the house had fallen into disrepair, but was completely refurbished. Since 1989 it is open to the general public on designated days. The damage of the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 has also been repaired.

[Decorative window, bedroom floor]

One enters via a driveway that ends in a porch, a wide rectangular that offers framed views of the surrounding landscape. Inside one finds broad staircases and decorative mahogany framework. Also the characteristic light fixtures are beautiful. Most of the second floor is taken up by a spacious salon with large windows and a raised ceiling. Between ceiling and windows is a neat row of small ventilation shutters. Along the north wall sits a massive fireplace. The third floor consists of the bedrooms, guest rooms and bath rooms, linked by a long corridor along the west wall with windows from ceiling to floor. Most of the bedrooms are Japanese style, with tatami and clay walls.

[Dining room]

Throughout the house, and also on the transoms between the Japanese rooms, one finds square copper plates with a delicate leaf design. On the fourth floor is the dining room with an interesting vaulted ceiling and another large fireplace from Oya stone. On the south side of this room is a large, rectangular balcony with more spectacular views.

[Rooftop balcony]

In short, a magic place and a very interesting, little-known "small museum."
Access: 10 min walk from the north side of Ashiyagawa Station on the Hankyu Line. there is a map on the website. Hours: Open on Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and National Holidays. 10:00-16:00. Tel: 0797-38-1720