One of the final works of English architect Josiah Condor before his death in 1920 was the Tokyo manor of Duke Tadashige Shimazu, a house built in Italian Renaissance style that has become the symbol of Seisen University.
Condor, who first arrived in Japan in 1877 and is known as the father of modern Japanese architecture, also designed the Rokumeikan (Deer Cry Hall) and Nicholai-do cathedral in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, as well as the luxurious house of Hisaya Iwasaki, son of the founder of the Mitsubishi zaibatsu, in Taito Ward.
Sitting on a hill a 10-minute walk from JR Gotanda Station, the two-story house boasts 108 stained-glass windows and a large balcony on the south side overlooking a spacious garden. While not as extravagant or large as some of Condor’s other works, this manor emanates simple but classic beauty.
The all-female Christian university now uses the manor’s main dining hall as a chapel, and many of the other rooms — previously bedrooms or studies for the Iwasaki family — as classrooms.
Rich in history, the house was built on land that once belonged to the Date clan from Sendai before ownership was handed over to the Shimazu family in 1873.
The house itself was finished in 1915 after several design changes, but was sold to the Bank of Japan in 1944 when maintaining it became difficult because of the war.
After Japan’s surrender the next year, the house came under the management of the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces in 1946, when it was used to house Occupation officers until 1954.
Seisen University then bought the house and land from the BOJ in 1961 and moved its campus from Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, to its current location in 1962.
Despite being in the center of a sprawling metropolis, the house provides a quiet and peaceful atmosphere for study nearly a century after it was built.
Shimazu manor is a 10-minute walk from JR Gotanda Station in Shinagawa Ward. Free tours are held twice a month on the first and third Wednesdays between April and June, and between October and December. Tours must be reserved in advance. Application procedures are explained on Seisen University’s website (www.seisen-u.ac.jp).