Sawada Mansion in Kochi City Remains to be Completed Even After More than Half a Century | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Sawada Mansion in Kochi City Remains to be Completed Even After More than Half a Century

An amateur couple built addition after addition to the "Japanese Kowloon Castle," which has now become a tourist attraction that attracts a flood of visitors.

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Sawada Mansion stands on a vast site of 550 tsubo. There are not only residences but also tenants such as a cafe and a guesthouse.

It takes about 10 minutes by car from the center of Kochi City. As one enters the building from the national highway, a huge white building suddenly appears (first photo).

It is the Sawada Mansion, known as the “Kuryu Castle of Japan. The owner, Yoshinori Sawada and his wife Hiroe (78), who were amateurs in construction, have been self-building and expanding the five-story building with approximately 70 units since 1971, and it is also called the “Sagrada Familia of Japan.

When we actually visited the property, there were dozens of visitors, even though it was a weekday afternoon. According to Hiroe, “Many tourists come here because of the spread of videos and other information.

Even on weekdays, we receive 20 visitors a day, and during major holidays, more than 50 people come to visit. There are many architecture students, foreigners, and especially young people these days. We also have an increasing number of people who have moved to our house from Tokyo.

A man in his 30s from Osaka said excitedly, “There are interesting things everywhere. It’s like a maze,” he said excitedly. The ramps and spiral staircases leading to the upper floors, the handmade lifts, and other details are so full of freewheeling ideas that it is difficult to keep track of where you are.

As one continues strolling, fields and fishing ponds suddenly come into view, and pigs and chinchillas kept in the apartments appear, making for quite a chaotic experience. Hiroe continues.

Hiroe continues, “The father’s goal was to create an apartment where residents could interact with each other. The slope and the wide veranda were also part of that intention. Some university professors have re-evaluated the value of the building and are incorporating it into their own research. The residents have lived here for more than 50 years and are very attached to the property, so I hope that they will observe the bare minimum of manners when touring the property.

While the area is becoming a tourist attraction, Hiroe confides that he is also concerned about the future.

I want to make it a condominium that will last for 100 years, but the building is a living thing, so it won’t last this long,” she said. But recently, my daughter and grandchildren who live here have been working hard to repair the building. If they can rebuild it while I am still alive, that would be great.

Currently, the third daughter, Kazuko (51), and her husband are mainly responsible for repairs and management.

My daughter also works outside as an architect and says she would like to be involved in renovating and rebuilding the condominium in the future. I would like to somehow preserve the house for future generations,” said Kazuko.

The history spun by the Sawada couple will be passed on to their children and grandchildren into the future. There is no concept of completion in this story.

Hiroe Sawada, the current owner. She and her family have been responsible for the property’s repairs.
When we entered the condominium, we found a chaotic space with corridors of different heights even on the same floor.
Unpublished photograph
Unpublished photograph
Unpublished photograph

From the June 28, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview, text, and photography Shimei Kurita

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