Yokiso, regarded as a masterpiece among Nagoya's suburban villas built in the modern era, was developed on a hilly land in Kakuozan over a period from the 1910s to the 1930s for use as a villa by the first president of Matsuzakaya Department Store, Ito Jirozaemon Suketami the 15th. It is established on vast undulating land stretching over 8 acres by taking advantage of the original terrain and natural surroundings to create ponds and streams, and in its prime, 30-odd buildings of high architectural / historical value stood on the premises.
Since Suketami led an active life as a successful businessman / capitalist, while engaged himself in social activity such as international exchange, Yokiso did not remain as a mere villa owned by an individual. As it served frequently as a luxurious reception hall for a social gathering such as a garden party, a moon-viewing party, a tea party or the like to which Imperial family members, statesmen, businessmen and celebrities from various fields were invited and it was used as a hostel for Asian students studying in Japan, it actually played a role as a place for extensive exchange among people from Japan and abroad.
Although most of the premises and buildings were lost due to damage from air raids during World War II, deterioration from exposure to wind and rain, or neighborhood area development affecting them, major structures were still preserved and they were donated to the City in 2007. These structures have almost maintained their original forms when they were built initially, and five buildings (Choshokaku, Yokiso-zashiki, Bangaro, Sanshotei and Hakuun Bridge) were designated as the City's tangible cultural assets in 2008, giving pride to citizens as the community's historic / cultural resources.
The first phase of an improvement project to restore / preserve Choshokaku was completed in 2013 and it made a new start as the citizens' historic / cultural resource transmitting the region's history / culture as well as for utilization as a nucleus for town development and exchange among citizens.
Origin of Yokiso's name
The name of Yokiso is said to be taken from a Chinese poet Tao Yuan Ming's poem referring to the blight autumn moon as one of the scenes particularly impressive in the four seasons, because the place was a well-known site for moon viewing.
Shiroyama / Kakuozan neighborhoods
Shiroyama / Kakuozan neighborhoods, where Yokiso is situated, embrace many historic / cultural resources such as temples, shrines and universities established in undulating landscape and green-rich surroundings, and citizens' efforts for town development are being actively promoted in a bid to enhance the charm of the area. With respect to Yokiso, various activities involving citizens such as a study for its preservation / utilization, a survey, clean up, repair and the organization of an event have been promoted keenly.
Ito Jirozaemon Suketami
Ito Jirozaemon Suketami (infant name: Morimatsu), who built Yokiso, was the founder of Matsuzakaya Department store. He was born in 1879 as the second son to the merchant Ito family established in Kiyosugoe. He appeared to be a boy with an unyielding spirit and a playful mind. He inherited the estate in 1924 at the age of 47 and succeeded to the headman's name as Jirozaemon the 15th.
As a businessman, he transformed "Ito Gofukuten," a dry-goods store carrying on since the Edo period, into a limited liability company and opened in Sakae a department-store style shop for the first time in Nagoya. Prior to the opening of the shop, he participated in a Japanese delegation to the U.S. formed by businessmen as a delegate from Nagoya. After his return to Japan, Suketami, who participated in the delegation as the youngest member, maintained his association with leading businessmen from all over the country including Eiichi Sibusawa, who led the delegation, thus, expanding his view as a businessman and building his countrywide human network. Later, he did not only expand business, but also played a leading role in the Nagoya business circles by assuming the office of chairman of Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and Industry, making a considerable contribution to the development of Nagoya.
He resigned from the office of president of Matsuzakaya and other official positions such as the chairman of Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1933 at the age of 55, following the age 55 rule set by himself. Thereafter, he dedicated himself to social activity such as the foundation of Shuzenkai Association, international exchange activity and the reception of foreign students studying in Japan.
Since his childhood, he learned and familiarized himself with various arts and hobbies including Kyogen, the study of Chinese classics, the tea ceremony, pictorial art, archery and so on and demonstrated his talent in his broad association with celebrities from various fields. Suketami's well-cultivated taste was reflected strongly to the development of Yokiso, which was built as a place for social gathering, and he often held a garden party, a moon-viewing party or a tea party there. He also showed fervent belief in Buddhism and made a 4-month pilgrimage tour to Indian Buddhist relics in 1934. He expressed a deep impression perceived during the trip in Choshokaku.