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The Ginza Building has retained classic, elegant features such as a manual elevator for over 90 years

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The main structure of the Okuno building, left, and the annex building are connected internally.

In Tokyo’s Ginza district, surrounded by modern office buildings, the Okuno Building has retained its classic and elegant features despite being around for more than 90 years. The building attracted attention as a luxury apartment complex during the early days of the Showa era (1926-1989). Now it serves as a base for people involved in fields such as architecture and art.

The building dates from 1932 and two years later the outbuilding was built next to it. Ginza Apartment, as it was then called, was six stories high and built of reinforced concrete, which was rare at the time. The housing units each had a floor area of ​​approximately 3.5 tsubo (approximately 11.5 square meters).

The building also had a large communal bathroom in the basement and a lounge on the roof. The residents of the ultra-modern apartment complex reportedly included film and music celebrities.

Okuno Building owner Tsuguo Okuno, 80, let me into the building. The first thing that caught my attention was the elevator, believed to be the first private residential elevator in Japan.

The elevator door must be opened and closed manually, and inside the elevator there is an accordion gate, like you would see in old movies. A semi-circular panel and a needle above the elevator indicate which floor the elevator is located on.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun
Even the elevator floor number indicator has a classic look.

The building survived air raids during the Second World War and was converted into an office building during the period of high economic growth, when demand for office space increased. Although the building’s exterior and facilities became outdated during the Heisei era (1989-2019), its elegant appearance attracted galleries and antique stores as tenants. All 69 rooms are still occupied.

“I’ve never seen such a beautiful place anywhere else,” said Kiyoko Tosaki, 79, who runs Gallery Kobo in the building. She said the wooden floor, planks and uniquely shaped window locks have not changed since the building was constructed.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kiyoko Tosaki’s office retains much of its original appearance.

I noticed track-like dents in the center of the hallway, showing how they had worn away as people walked up and down them for over 90 years. Still, the hallway has not yet been repaired because tenants said they preferred it that way. When tiles come loose, tiles are ordered in the same design.

“The tenants of Okuno Building are attached to this place. I want to keep the building as long as there are people who want to stay here,” Okuno said. The building will remain a living part of Ginza’s history.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun
The floor of the hallway is worn out where people have been walking up and down for over 90 years.


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The Yomiuri Shimbun

Okuno Building

Address: 1-9-8 Ginza, Chuo Ward, Tokyo

Access: Three minutes’ walk from Ginza-Itchome station on the Yurakucho Line.

Memo: The building originally had six floors, but the seventh floor was added around 1958-1962.



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