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œChapter12œ

The director guides the highlights of the guesthouse for visitors who plan to come this spring.
Naoyoshi Shibata,
Director of YODOKO Guest House

In March 1998, when the repair work after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake was completed, I was appointed director of YODOKO Guest House. Since then, with all our staff, I have been expanding my understanding of YODOKO Guest House and Wright, and feel an unlimited attachment to them. It is my pleasure to explain the highlights of the guesthouse to visitors in ways easy to understand, making "Kindness is the best policy" my motto.

Event information and brief history of the guesthouse

YODOKO Guest House starts the exhibition of the Girls' Festival Dolls on Saturday, February 16. On the occasion of this exhibition, I would like to introduce points of special interest that you should see when visiting us. However, let me first explain the brief history of this guesthouse. YODOKO Guest House was constructed on a small hill near the Ashiya River in Hyogo Prefecture, as a second house of the Yamamura family, a sake brewer in Nada (Kobe) in 1923-1924. The residence was purchased by Yodogawa Steel Works in 1947. In 1974, the house was designated as a National Important Cultural Property, in order to leave this valuable Wright architecture for posterity. Presently, the road in front of the guesthouse is called "Wright Slope" and is beloved by all as a symbol of the area.


See the features of the porch at the entrance with your heart

Walk up the slope and come to the entrance located at the south end of the building lot, while enjoying the exterior view of the building. When you arrive at the entrance, start with the porch that was built in open style: Stand in the porch and look toward the balcony on the south side. The view in front will be cut out and burst into view clearly. The surrounding walls and pillars serve as a picture frame, and you can enjoy a rich moment as if appreciating a landscape picture. Such use of space skillfully brings in nature from the outside and is the best part of Wright's architecture. It can be said that the place around the entrance porch is where you can appreciate the beauty of the building, exercising all your insight and imagination, "Seeing with your heart." For example, the entranceway is rather narrow compared with the size of the building. This reminds us of a small doorway to a tea ceremony room, "crawl-in entrance." Also, when imagining the scene where water calmly springs from the stone flower bowl located around the entrance, we will associate it with the washbasin placed in front of a tearoom. Isn't it interesting? Such design ideas could be taken from traditional Japanese architecture.

Balcony of the south side of the porch on the first floor
Entranceway
Flower bowl around the entrance

Salon on the second floor that indicates the interior philosophy

Now let me guide you into the house. When you come through the entrance and go up the stairs to the second floor, you will find a salon. Here, enjoy the magnificent views surrounded by the large windows at both the western and eastern sides. Right under these windows, built-in couches are installed. These couches show the hospitality of the designer for the guests, the hope that everyone enjoy the views in a relaxed manner. By the way, this room is furnished with a lot of display shelves and cabinets. Not only these spaces, but many places around the house display a flower vase, etc. Don't you think you hear the voice of Wright, hoping that the residents produce the enjoyment of life and lead a happy life.

Window and couch in the salon
Display shelves and cabinets in the salon

Look at the natural lighting in front of the Japanese-style rooms on the third floor

Now, let's go to the third floor, where the Girls' Festival Dolls are exhibited. While going to the three Japanese-style connecting rooms, be sure to look at the hallway. If the weather permits, you will see the decorative plates on the windows have open work, producing the effect of the sunlight streaming down through the leaves of a tree. Also, at the side of a Japanese-style room, there is a four and a half tatami mat space. This space used be used as conversation room, and now, it is used as resting room for visitors. Now, you are on the third floor, but I am sure you won't feel that you are away from the ground as much. This was because of the structure of this building. The floors of this house are horizontally arranged in a staircase pattern along with the slope, all wings are only one or two stories high. Feel the design of the Wright, who aimed to integrate the landscape and building.

Western side hallway, representation of the sunlight streaming down through the tree leaves
Doorway to the Japanese-style room on the third floor
Three Japanese-style connecting rooms
Three Japanese-style connecting rooms

Space surrounding the dining room on the fourth floor is so Western
Dining room on the fourth floor
Decorations in the dining room
Spacious balcony

The highest, fourth floor is in complete Western style, in complete contrast to the Japanese style on the third floor. The dining room is the most decorative room, which even has a religious atmosphere. Since a dining room is also a place for rituals in the West, it is said that it was made to have people feel solemn. When you come out of the dining room, you will see a spacious balcony in front of you. Appreciating the natural scenery, garden parties must have been held in the past. According to the literature, at the time (the end of the Taisho period), there used to be a line up of expensive foreign electric appliances in the kitchen. Unfortunately, most of them do not exist anymore.


We are waiting for your visit!

How was the tour? Were you able to see the highlights of YODOKO Guest House? Now, everyone, please come to this guesthouse and enjoy the building as well as the Girls' Festival Dolls. We are looking forward to seeing you soon!


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Unexpected fact that was hidden in Wright's unique decoration
One of the most frequently asked questions by guests of the YODOKO Guest House is what the stone used for the interior and exterior works is. The stone is called Oyaishi*, which is said to characterize Wright's architecture in Japan. Since this stone is soft and easy to process, it was essential to the carving of Wright's original decorative patterns. In addition, a representative decoration that is a match for Oyaishi stone, is the "decorative copper plates," used in many doors and windows. The motif used for the patterns on these plates is natural plants that grow in the surrounding area. When you look closely at these patterns, the variety of patterns are made and arranged to be geometric, using simple rectangles and triangles. Wright is truly a magician of formative arts, isn't he?
* Oyaishi stone is quarried around Oya-machi, Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture. This is also used in the old Imperial Hotel, a renowned work by Wright.
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*This article was written by Yodogawa Steel Works, under the supervision of Mr. Fumitaka Hirata of the Building Research Institute Foundation, which administrates the restoration and preservation of YODOKO Guest House.

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