While there may be no hope of preserving the Dojyunkai Apartments in Aoyama, a sister building in Bunkyo Ward could be saved.
The Otsuka Women’s Apartment, owned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, was the nation’s first female-only apartment block. Built in 1930, it remains home solely to women.
When the metropolitan government came up with a plan to raze the Otsuka building late last year, a group of experts began moves to try to preserve it, saying it has cultural significance as a symbol of the nation’s first generation of working women.
“As it is still fully owned by the metropolitan government and does not disturb the interest of residents, the building has a chance of surviving,” said Toshio Otsuki, a lecturer in the department of architecture at Science University of Tokyo, who is involved in the preservation movement.
The Otsuka building was built after a government bureaucrat was inspired by the concept of protecting workers’ living conditions while attending an International Labor Organization conference in Geneva.
At around the same time, there was concern over how to protect the increasing number of working women in Tokyo who had no family in the capital.
“As (private meetings) were considered morally corrupt, men visiting the apartments, even family members, had to be met at a reception room where a matron kept a watchful eye,” Otsuki said.
Presently, about 40 women, aged between 65 and 80, live in the building.
“The metropolitan government, (hoping to use the land for different purposes and) finding the women troublesome, stopped accepting new residents in 1975. I think they are just waiting for the women to die,” Otsuki said.
He added that even the Bunkyo Ward mayor sent a written request in 1999 to Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara to demolish the apartment block because it’s an eyesore.
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