Notes From Japan - Part Six

Turn-of-the-Century Western Style House in Kitano Ijinkan, Kobe, Japan (LEO Design)

The bustling port city of Kobe is long and skinny—squeezed between the Bay of Osaka on the one side and the Rokko Mountain range behind it.  Along the water is the industrial part of the city: manufacturing, sake brewing, warehousing and shipping.  In-between, the city surges with life and commerce.  

Along the hilly rise, not far from our hotel, is a leafy neighborhood called Kitano Ijinkin.  In this quiet, residential district, modern apartment buildings are mixed with Turn-of-the-Century Western-style homes, built by the American and European diplomats and merchants who did business in Kobe.  Recall, the Port of Kobe opened-up to Western Trade in the 1850's, after which Western businessmen arrived, beginning to purchase and export Japanese goods.  Today, this neighborhood is a very popular tour site, principally (it seems) for Japanese tourists visiting Kobe.  But the well-preserved remnants of century-old architecture reminds one that Kobe was (and still is) a very cosmopolitan place, busy at work with the rest of the world.  The cross-breeding of cultures is always interesting to me; one culture melds with another, creating something new, different, and oftentimes fresh and invigorating.

The house above, built in 1909 by the German trader Gottfried Thomas, is now known as "the Weathercock House"—named that for the rooster perched above the steeple.  The weathercock has become a symbol of this district.  Some of the Western homes are still residences.  Many have been preserved as museums which can be visited.

More from Japan tomorrow and in the days to come..


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248