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Retro Japan: Ex-Chinese villa in Kobe now dedicated to revolutionary Sun Yat-sen

The Ijokaku tower, known as Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, is seen with Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in the background, in the city of Kobe's Tarumi Ward on July 23, 2021. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)=Click/tap photo for more images.

KOBE -- A three-storied structure built as an annex of a prominent Chinese merchant's villa in this western Japan city in 1915 is now dedicated to Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925).

    A restored fireplace and tiles made in Britain are seen in the Ijokaku tower in Kobe's Tarumi Ward on July 23, 2021. Golden Chinese-patterned wallpaper is used around the fireplace. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)=Click/tap photo for more images.

    The pale green octagonal tower at Hyogo Prefectural Maiko Park, located near the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Kobe's Tarumi Ward, stands out strikingly against the blue sky.

    Named Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and also known as "Ijokaku," the structure is designated as a national important cultural property. It was built by Wu Jintang (1855-1926), a wealthy Chinese merchant in Kobe, and later managed by the congress of Chinese residents in the city. The facility was donated to the Hyogo Prefectural Government in 1983, and was turned into a memorial hall.

    Sun had a strong connection with the port city of Kobe, where many Chinese people lived. He visited the city 18 times over the course of his life, and interacted with both Japanese and Chinese businesspeople here.

    Ijokaku's pillars and beams are made of wood and its exterior walls are constructed with 5,018 concrete blocks. It is one of the earliest structures in Japan built in such a way, and is very rare. Elaborate designs are used in the window decor, which varies from floor to floor, while the wallpaper features Chinese patterns.

    In 1994, disassembly of the hall began after officials decided to move it 200 meters southwest from its original location due to the construction of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. It suffered only minor damage in the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January the following year, and its relocation was completed in 2000 after restoration and reinforcement against quakes.

    (Japanese original by Takao Kitamura, Osaka Photo Department)

    A Chinese phoenix design adorns the center of the second-floor ceiling of the Ijokaku tower in this photo taken in the city of Kobe's Tarumi Ward on July 23, 2021. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)=Click/tap photo for more images.

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    The Japanese version of this article was originally published on Aug. 15, 2021.

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    This series explores Japan's architectural wonders and secrets of yesteryear. Read more Retro Japan articles here.

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