Nagoya and Aichi Prefecture plan to turn some of their office buildings into tourist destinations and are taking steps to preserve them properly.
Last week, the Council for Cultural Affairs recommended that Nagoya City Hall and the Aichi Prefectural Government Office be registered as tangible cultural properties of Japan. The buildings retain the architectural design of the early Showa Era and are among the few still standing.
Their popularity has grown in recent years with the rise in organized tours and appearances in film sets.
Since 2010, Nagoya City Hall has been open for public viewing every year on Culture Day, a public holiday that falls on Nov. 3. Last year, the event attracted 6,600 people, double the previous year’s tally.
The main highlight of the modern architecture is the VIP room on the fourth floor, where the original chandeliers still hang. The room is usually closed to the public.
In the past, visitors were allowed to enter it only on Culture Day, but entrance is prohibited now.
“The carpet is starting to fray due to the high number of visitors,” a city official explained.
Visitors can also peek into the mayor’s private office from the hallway on the third floor. Last year, a line of visitors seeking a glimpse of the room stretched almost 10 meters.
More than 10 City Hall employees handled the crowd last year, but they were overwhelmed, so Nagoya plans to increase the staff to 40 for this year’s special viewing.
Built more than 80 overs ago, Nagoya City Hall has become a favored film location.
Notably, the TV dramas “Karei-naru Ichizoku” (“The Grand Family”) and “Unmei no Hito” (“My Destiny”), both based on novels written by Toyoko Yamasaki, as well as “Kanryo-tachi no Natsu” (“The Bureaucrats’ Summer”), a remake of the novel by Saburo Shiroyama, were all filmed there.
In 2013, nine TV dramas used it as part of their sets.
Another striking feature is the 3-meter wide stairway in the entrance hall, where lighting ornaments at the bottom of the stairs and steel window frames from the original design have all been preserved.
The ceiling is 4 meters high and the hallway extends for about 100 meters.
Film production companies often say the building has a stately feel that cannot be re-created on set.
Nagoya charges a fee to use the building as a set. On a full Saturday, the city can earn up to ¥200,000 from renting out the space.
In March the city finalized plans and policies for preserving the building and for its future use. Some of the rooms will be restored, and a photo panel will be set up to exhibit details about popular rooms like the VIP room.
As for the Aichi Prefectural Government Office, some 1,700 employees in seven divisions, including Gov. Hideaki Omura, work in the main office.
Despite its imminent tangible cultural property status, the prefecture has not taken any proactive steps to open it to the public.
To remedy this, plans are afoot to gradually restore the old official reception hall, which had been used for important ceremonies in the past, and open it up for public viewing throughout the year.
Located on the sixth floor, the 292-sq.-meter room has an arched lattice ceiling and used to be an important room where the portrait of Emperor Hirohito (posthumously known as Emperor Showa) used to be displayed.
However, the prefecture partitioned the room in 1986 and renovated it into separate meeting rooms and storage space. Currently, it is used as an information center for disaster management.
The center will relocate to a different office by the end of the year so the prefecture can proceed with the restoration of the interior design.
Residents will be able to view the reception hall in its former glory in the near future.
The prefecture also finalized plans regarding the government office in March that include organizing guided tours and allowing residents to use the building for certain events.
“One of our strengths as a prefecture is in manufacturing, which naturally includes the ability to take good care of old items,” Omura said.
“Since the government office building has been designated as an important cultural property, it is under the protection of the country,” said Kenichi Okuno, assistant director in the department of general affairs at the prefectural government.
“We hope to use our building as a tourism resource and make it a symbol of a movement to preserve cultural properties,” he added.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Oct. 18.