A sacred place where many masterpieces were born is about to be lost.
In the “Valley of Happiness,” a villa area behind the Manpei Hotel, a prime location in the town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, there is a mansion loved by Nobel Prize winning author Yasunari Kawabata. This is the place where he wrote such masterpieces as his novel “Mizuumi,” and the view from the terrace appears in his essay “Rakka Ryusui. The wooden house was built on a vast plot of land with two floors above ground and one floor below. Inside, there is a masonry fireplace.
This historic villa is now on the verge of demolition. This was triggered by the death of a relative of Yasunari Kawabata, who had been managing the property, in February this year. Then, in August of this year, the real estate company that owns the land decided to demolish the villa and build a new one. The situation came to light when the company greeted the neighbors prior to the construction.
“The villa is a wooden house that is over 80 years old. The house is over 80 years old and has leaks, making it difficult for people to live there. However, the Valley of Happiness is a prime location in Karuizawa, and we can’t just leave it there. We know the cultural value of the property, but we have no choice but to build a new villa and sell it,” said a real estate agent.
On the other hand, there is a strong opposition to the demolition from the local residents. Six organizations involved in the preservation of Karuizawa’s landscape and heritage filed a petition for its preservation on August 6, and the budget for the project was discussed at the town assembly that started on August 26.
Sayoko Hirokawa, vice president of the Karuizawa Cultural Heritage Preservation Society, who led the project, said, “It’s true that we can’t leave the site as it is now.
“It is true that it is impossible to use it as a residence in its present state. So we are thinking of relocating it and opening it to the public like a museum. We proposed to the assembly to carefully dismantle the building, reinforce it against earthquakes, repair the interior, and reassemble it. We would like to move it to a place where it is easily accessible and tourists will not disturb the neighborhood, and use it as a cultural heritage.
On September 1, the real estate company started to demolish the building little by little. The town council is in a state of resignation, and Mr. Hirokawa and others are scrambling for funds.
Will the relocation be completed in time? How will the turmoil over the memento of one of Japan’s greatest writers play out?
Photo： Karuizawa Kogen Bunko (first photo), Karuizawa Cultural Heritage Preservation Society