Historical Ijinkan in Kobe burns down

The Grande Maison Graciani French restaurant in Kobe’s Kitanocho neighborhood caught fire early this morning and was completely destroyed.

A neighbor alerted the fire department after noticing flames from the 1st floor on the north-west side of the building. Fifteen neighboring residents were evacuated as the fire posed a risk of spreading. The restaurant was closed on February 13th and had been locked up since the evening of the 12th. On February 7th, a small fire was reported at the front of the property, but was extinguished. Authorities are currently investigating the cause of the fire, and suspect arson.

The house was one of the original foreign residences in Kobe and was built in 1908 for a French trading merchant, Mr. Graciani. Since 2007 it has been operating as a French restaurant and wedding function hall. The 2-storey wooden structure had a total area of 336 sqm.

“Ijinkan” is the name given to the old Western style residences that were built for foreign settlers in Japan during the end of the Shogunate and the Meiji area. The hillside area of Kitanocho in Kobe is famous for its ijinkan, although they are becoming more and more scarce.

Source: The Kobe Shimbun, February 14, 2012.