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Crowdfunding begins to preserve Western-style Tokyo home linked to Meiji era politician

A residence commissioned by Meiji-era politician Yukio Ozaki, which was set to be torn down, is shown in this photo taken in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward on June 29, 2020. (Mainichi/Ryotaro Ikawa)

TOKYO -- Crowdfunding has begun to repair and preserve a Western-style house in Tokyo linked to Yukio Ozaki (1858-1954), a distinguished politician of the Meiji era (1868-1912), after it avoided being torn down last year.

    Manga artist Kazumi Yamashita and other individuals behind the crowdfunding effort have set a goal of collecting 12.34 million yen (about $112,000) to mend damaged areas of the house, and the group is accepting donations until July 28.

    Those wishing to support the historical home's preservation can choose among courses with donation amounts ranging between 3,000 and 1 million yen (roughly $27 to $9,040). Donors will receive gifts, including original tote bags and hanging scrolls bearing illustrations by Yamashita herself, along with a letter of thanks adorned with illustrations.

    Details on the crowdfunding can be found at the webpage https://motion-gallery.net/projects/Ozakitei

    Although it is estimated that repairing the whole house will cost over 100 million yen (about $904,000), repair work on the kitchen, bathroom and electrical system, among other areas, will be given top priority.

    Yukio Ozaki was elected to the House of Representatives 25 consecutive times, and is said to have devoted himself to establishing a parliamentary democracy in Japan. Therefore, he came to be known as the "god of constitutional politics" in modern Japan.

    It had been said that the Western-style home, originally located in the Azabu district of Tokyo's Minato Ward, was built by Ozaki for his second wife, whose mother was British. However, later investigations found that there was a high possibility that his father-in-law constructed the house. The house is believed to have been built in 1888, and is said to be one of the oldest Western-style houses in Japan's capital. A British literature scholar and acquaintance of the Meiji politician later acquired the house, and it was relocated to its current location in 1933.

    It was revealed last year that a homebuilder was set to begin demolishing the historical home. However, thanks to activities by Yamashita and others to preserve the house, as well as funds provided by another manga artist and cooperation of a neighborhood association, the house was successfully purchased last November before it was torn down.

    The house is a wooden two-story structure with a standout blue exterior. An eatery is scheduled to open inside the house in the autumn of next year.

    Yamashita said, "The house avoided being torn down, but the story hasn't come to an end yet. Please lend us a helping hand in order to leave this building in a beautiful form for the next generation."

    (Japanese original by Ryotaro Ikawa, Tokyo Bureau)

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