YOKOHAMA – Demolition began Thursday in Yokohama on a warehouse that witnessed Japan’s industrial rise in the 20th century and even survived the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.
Major trading house Mitsui & Co. built the warehouse on Nihon Odori Avenue, Japan’s first Western-style avenue, in Yokohama’s Naka Ward in 1910 with a combination of bricks, wood and steel beams to withstand earthquakes.
The building, which stocked raw silk, was even older than the famous red brick warehouse in the port city.
Given its historical significance, architects lamented the demolition of the warehouse. Up until the start of work, groups of architects based in the Kanto region had asked relevant parties to change their mind.
“In Yokohama, one historical building after another has been demolished. This is a critical situation,” said Mitsuyoshi Kasai, a member of one of the architect groups involved in trying to preserve the warehouse. “I wish public authorities had stepped in with more determination.”
The architects had requested Ken Corp., a Tokyo-based real estate firm that now owns the warehouse, not to scrap it. Although the Yokohama Municipal Government suggested the structure should be designated as a cultural asset, the real estate firm eventually decided to raze it because of maintenance costs.
The removal work is scheduled to be finished in February, Ken said. The firm has not decided how the site will be used.