Japan’s oldest condominium building to
The Asahi Shimbun
By Ippei Minetoshi
30 March 2016
Miyamasuzaka Building, which housed the nation's first privately-owned
condominiums, in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward in February 2016 (Ippei Minetoshi)
From a window in the apartment building where she lived for much of her
adult life, 81-year-old Kimi Sekine was in a unique position to observe
the transformation of Tokyo's bustling Shibuya district.
In the late 60s, soon after she moved in, Sekine said she could still
hear the sound of whistles on passenger boats docked at the Takeshiba
wharf some five kilometers away: but not now, and not for many years,
because of the plethora of new high-rise buildings, rapid development
and traffic noise.
After 63 years and fraying around the edges, the oldest condominium
building in Japan faces the wrecking ball, and with it, a slice of
architectural history is passing.
The 11-story Miyamasuzaka Building, a stone's throw from iconic JR
Shibuya Station, housed the nation’s first privately-owned apartments.
The condominiums were commercially marketed by the Tokyo metropolitan
government in 1953.
Miyamasuzaka Building, center right, stands tall among low houses and
shop buildings in 1955. The wide street by the apartment is the
Miyamasuzaka slope, for which the building is named after. (Provided by
Shibuya Miyamasu Shopping District Promotion Association)
At the time, Japan was beginning to recover from the devastation of
war. The era of high economic growth was around the corner. And the
idea of privately-owned real estate in the sky was novel.
Demolition is due to start in spring, signaling yet again how the march
of progress never wanes in this neighborhood of central Tokyo.
The residents were torn about leaving, but finally decided there was no
choice but to allow for the building to be demolished to make way for a
According to the Housing Research & Advancement Foundation of
Japan, a public interest incorporated foundation, the apartments in the
Miyamasuzaka Building were the first apartment properties commercially
marketed to be owned privately in Japan.
“It was stimulating to watch over the ever-transforming city around
Shibuya Station from my window," said Sekine, who moved out in February
after 47 years. "I was expecting to live here until the end of my life,
so I was initially against the reconstruction idea.”
Sekine moved in to a corner unit on the 10th floor at age of 35 in
1969, and commuted to a trading company in Minato Ward until she
retired when she turned 60.
“Back then, there were no tall buildings around that block the sound
(of boat whistles). I loved how things were,” she said.
81, reflects on the years she lived at the Miyamasuzaka Building while
standing in the communal corridor. (Ippei Minetoshi)
Initially, the first floor was used by retailers, and business offices
occupied the second to fourth floors. The fifth floor and above housed
70 apartment units. The original price tag was around 1 million yen for
a unit with two rooms and the dining kitchen, covering 34 square meters
or so. (
366 square feet)
In the early years, a female elevator attendant in blue uniform and
white gloves ushered in visitors and residents, according to Teruyo
Mitsuda, 69, who heads the association for the rebuilding project and
inherited her apartment from her mother.
retains the original features of the apartment built in 1953. (Provided
by Asahi Kasei Fudousan Residence Corp.)
The building was fitted with the latest mod cons, central heating,
garbage chutes, gas-heated baths and flush toilets.
The residents included a bank branch manager and a university professor.