07 August 2009|
The original stone structure Gothic style building has long captured the attention and imagination of all passers-by. The two-story building, which strongly resembles a medieval castle, is located on an area with splendid landscape, including a beautiful Japanese garden. It has been the official residence of successive Thai ambassadors to Japan since 1943, and has served as an important venue for meetings and accommodations for high-ranking officials and visiting dignitaries.
The history of the building dates back to the years before the Second World War when Mr. Mumon Hamaguchi (1883-1945), one of the leaders of the prestigious Hamaguchi clan from Wakayama prefecture in southern Japan, purchased a piece of land consisting of 2,500 tsubo (1 tsubo = 3.30 sq.m.) in 1931 at the place which is now 14-6, Kami-Osaki 3-chome, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, from Mr. Momosuke Fukuzawa, adopted child of Mr. Yukichi Fukuzawa, founder of Keio University. Mr. Mumon Hamaguchi had the so-called “Hamaguchi Mansion” built on the purchased land in 1932. The mansion was designed by Mr. Yoriaki Wada and constructed by Shimizu Corporation. Mr. Mumon Hamaguchi, later known as the 10th Kichiemon Hamaguchi, was well-known as a connoisseur of arts and antiques. He decorated his mansion with exquisite materials and high-quality imported household goods, thus making the Hamaguchi Mansion a harmonious blend of classic architecture and artistic decorations.
H.E. Mr. Direk Jayanama, then Thai Ambassador to Japan, bought the Hamaguchi Mansion and property on 10 April 1943, for the amount of one million yen. Although it has been renovated on many occasions in the ensuing years, the mansion’s originality has remained virtually unchanged. An adjacent building, connected to the mansion by a second-story walkway, was constructed in 1952 to serve as the Embassy’s chancery.
Each room on the ground floor of the mansion is designed with a particular theme in mind and is meticulously adorned with paintings, ornaments, sculptures and household materials of remarkable quality and originality. Passing through the main entrance into the Grand Room, guests are welcomed by the famous painting by Mr. Kanji Maeta on the elaborately carved wall. This painting depicts the scene of a turbulent ocean in the midst of a storm in Chiba Prefecture. Estimated to be worth more than 100 million yen, it won the best-painting award at an annual art contest in 1929, and has been displayed at various grand exhibitions in Japan over the years.
The so-called Louis Dynasty Room, beyond the Grand Room, projects the grand and gracious charm of traditional French-style decorations. A luxurious Louis-style sofa set at the center of the room is matched by the fine glittering French chandeliers hanging from the ornately carved ceiling. Flanked by a marble fireplace which is also ornately decorated, the Louis Dynasty Room is one of the splendid drawing rooms in the mansion.
To the right of the Louis Dynasty Room is the dining room framed by a fine Italian red marble fireplace. It is said to be one of the only two Italian red marbles existing in Japan. (The other is in the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo.)
The ornately decorated stairway leading to the private quarters on the second floor attests to the architectural magnificence and grandeur of the mansion. There is a huge gold-framed painting which was said to have been painted by an Italian artist. It depicts a group of drunken men in a festive mood carrying casks of wine on their backs. The room’s serene atmosphere with its subdued lighting provides an ideal setting for appreciating the beauty and magnificence of the painting.
The mansion also holds a treasure of Chinese furnishing art work. On the first floor at the main entrance, one finds a lacquered rosewood tea table and chairs set inlaid with colorful mother-of-pearl shells in magnificent Chinese style. An elaborately carved wooden screen separates the Louis Dynasty Room and the Dining room on the same floor. The presence of the Chinese art objects in the mansion is attributed to the fact that one of the nieces of Mr. K. Hamaguchi, Lady Hiro, was married to Prince Fuketsu Aishinkakura, the younger brother of the last Emperor of the Ching Dynasty of China who later became the Emperor of Manchukuo (Manchuria). The couple temporarily resided at this mansion before moving to Manchuria.
At the back of the mansion, the traditional Japanese garden, occupying a vast area of land, provides a scene of lush greenery with cherry trees.
The two ornately sculptured lions made of Manchurian ceramic stand guard on the steps leading from the mansion down to the spacious garden. In the garden also stands the replica of a Thai pavilion. The spacious garden is the venue of garden parties held on several occasions throughout the year such as the Birthday of His Majesty the King of Thailand, thus providing the opportunity for the guests to savor its serene setting.