The owner of the historic Iseya Pawnshop in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, signed a contract of sale with Atomi University on March 11. The price has not been disclosed, although some reports suggest it sold for around 130 million Yen (1.07 million USD).
The property includes a 2-storey warehouse dating from the 1850s ~ 1860s, a tatami room dating from 1890 and a shophouse dating from 1907. The pawnshop operated from 1860 to 1982, and was mentioned in author Ichiyo Higuchi’s writings. The three buildings were registered as Tangible Cultural Properties in 2003.
The seller of the property, who was struggling with the upkeep and property taxes, reached out to the Bunkyo City Government in late 2014 to seek assistance in finding a buyer. The government contacted several universities, and Atomi had entered into discussions to purchase the property but agreement could not be reached on price.
By that stage, the owner was preparing to demolish the house and sell the land to a real estate company. This drew the attention of a local heritage protection group who rallied to save the building.
Bunkyo City are assisting the university with the purchase by contributing 42 million Yen (up to a third of the purchase price). The sale contract includes a clause prohibiting the university from re-selling the property for 30 years.
The new owner is considering opening the buildings up to the public on weekends.
NHK, March 12, 2015.
The Asahi Shimbun, March 11, 2015.