Takashimaya store built in 1933 to be protected

by Reiji Yoshida

Takashimaya’s 76-year-old department store in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district will likely be designated an Important Cultural Property now that its managers have relented after repeatedly declining unofficial government requests.

An education ministry panel recommended Friday that education minister Ryu Shionoya bestow the status upon seven buildings, including the Takashimaya store. Shionoya is expected to formally announce the designation in June or July, Cultural Affairs Agency officials said.

Takashimaya’s Renaissance-style building was the first Japanese department store to use air conditioning when it opened in 1933. The store, a survivor of the massive air raids of World War II, has largely maintained its original form and still attracts about 35,000 shoppers a day.

Takashimaya reportedly didn’t want the status because it would make it difficult to conduct major renovations without government authorization.

In the past 10 months, the Cultural Affairs Agency has worked closely with Takashimaya to determine what repairs would require government approval and to make sure the status doesn’t greatly obstruct its business, Toshinaru Bojo, the agency official in charge told The Japan Times on Friday.

“The building underwent large-scale renovations in 1954 and 1965, but still has maintained its original form very well. Such construction is quite rare,” Bojo said over the phone, explaining the agency’s reasons for requesting state designation, which can only be applied with the consent of the owner.

Important Cultural Property status makes the owner eligible for repair subsidies, but large-scale renovations require government approval.

The seven new buildings will bring the number of structures designated as Important Cultural Properties to 4,304 nationwide, Bojo said.