Demolition of the 90-year old Heirakuji Bookstore in downtown Kyoto will begin this month as the owner can no longer afford to maintain the aging building.
The building was registered as a National Tangible Cultural Property in 1998. The heritage listing will be removed due to the demolition of the structure. This is the first time a national heritage listing has been removed from a property in Kyoto City and the second time for Kyoto Prefecture.
The bookstore started operations in the early Edo period as a small publisher of books on Buddhism. The current 3-storey, reinforced concrete building was built in 1927. A 2-storey, wood frame residence is connected to the bookstore, but is not heritage listed.
The building will be replaced with a block of apartments with a new bookstore on the ground floor. The owner will salvage some of the architectural features of the current building, such as the doors, signs and interior finishes, and plans to re-use them as features in the new building.
The property is located about 850 meters south of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and on the eastern side of the 91-year old Shin-Puh-Kan building which is currently undergoing a conversion into a hotel.
In Japan, the Registered Tangible Cultural Property system has no enforceable powers. There are small fines for property owners who do not follow the guidelines, but property rights outweigh any powers by the heritage listing authorities. This means there is no way to force a property owner to maintain or repair a historic building, and no way to prevent an owner from demolishing their own building.
Owners should attempt to preserve the exterior of a registered property, but are free to change the interior. Although there is partial financial support for design/maintenance consultation fees, owners are usually fully responsible for the large majority of repair costs.
Source: The Kyoto Shimbun, April 20, 2017.