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Locals lament closure, demolition of historical Japanese-style inn in Fukuoka

The Kashima Honkan Japanese-style inn is seen in Fukuoka's Hakata Ward before demolition in this provided photo.

FUKUOKA -- Local residents are lamenting the demolition of the long-established "machiya" town house inn "Kashima Honkan" in this southwest Japan city's Hakata Ward, after it went out of business due to a sharp drop in visitors blamed in part on the coronavirus pandemic.

    The two-story wooden lodging in the style of a tea-ceremony house was built along the approach to Kushida Shrine in the Taisho era (1912-1926) through the early Showa era (1926-1989). It became an accommodation facility for surviving kamikaze pilots under the name of "Taisei-kan" during the Pacific War, and was used as a dorm for the Allied Occupation forces after the war. Since restarting as Kashima Honkan in 1953, when the owner changed, it had welcomed travelers for about 70 years.

    The inn's front gate and guest room building became the first structures in the city of Fukuoka to be registered as a national tangible cultural asset in 2007. As one of the few remaining genuinely Japanese-style inns in the central part of the city, Kashima Honkan was so popular that its recent guests included many people from abroad who were interested in Japanese architecture, as well as domestic tourists and students on school trips.

    However, the inn went out of business in June 2020 because of dwindling customer numbers amid the cooling of relations between Japan and South Korea and the pandemic, explained Yutaka Yoshida, 67, its third-generation owner. The inn was demolished in May this year, and the site is now a parking lot.

    Takeyasu Tateishi, 69, the owner of a picture-framing shop in the same ward, said of the inn's loss, "It's extremely unfortunate." His shop, built at the end of the Meiji era (1868-1912), is also in the machiya town house style. His shop and home apparently "doesn't need air conditioning in summer, and partial heating such as a charcoal brazier will do even in winter."

    Tateishi is concerned about the old town houses disappearing in his neighborhood.

    "This is the age when (the United Nation's) SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are cherished. I hope that the advantages of machiya will be studied from the architectural perspective and that a mood to strive for their preservation will be created," he said.

    (Japanese original by Kozo Matsuda, Kyushu News Department)

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