Bruno Taut's only architecture in Japan: Kyu Hyuga Bettei

Posted on August 8, 2018 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments



After traveling through the Kansai and Chubu regions during the first half of the trip, I finally reached the Kanto region, where I spent time the rest of stay in Tokyo and Kanagawa. From Tokyo, I took a train to the well-known hot spring seaside resort, Atami, which is less than an hour from the city.

My first stop was a lesser-known but important cultural property, Kyu Hyuga Bettei; it is in fact the only architecture designed by the prolific German Bauhaus architect, Bruno Taut (1880-1938). I did not know of the villa's existence until I was doing some research on where to visit in Atami, and I had to book a slot via an online form through Atami City Hall prior to my visit (N.B. the villa is only open in the weekends and public holidays). It was lucky that I made the trip because the villa is now going through a major restoration works, and it will not reopen to the public until 2022.


atami  atami



Hidden up on the cliff of Kasugacho not far from Atami train station, Kyu-Hyuga-Bettei is a 2-storey villa that belonged to a successful businessman Rihee Hyuga (1874-1939). The building was built between 1934-6 by Japanese architect, Jin Watanabe (1887-1973), known for the Wako Building in Ginza and the The National Museum of Art in Ueno.

The villa was built on a slope with the main entrance on the top floor, and a garden overlooking the Sagami Bay. In 1936, Hyuga commissioned Bruno Taut (who had to flee Germany due to the Nazis) to design the basement of the villa. The project was a collaboration between Taut and architects Tetsuro Yoshida, Kahei Sasaki, and Mihara Yoshiyuki (Taut's only Japanese student).


Kyu Hyuga Bettei

Kyu Hyuga Bettei


On the day of my visit, I was the only non-Japanese visitor and was only given some English information on paper, while the Japanese enjoyed a more detailed guided tour. Nonetheless, it was still worth the visit as the annex is a true masterpiece that combines nature, Japanese and Western elements together harmoniously. Consisted of three rooms (no photography is allowed inside the building), Taut named the rooms: Beethoven, Mozart and Bach.

The first room (Beethoven) is a bright parlour surrounded by bamboo and paulownia; the second is a western room (Mozart) featuring red walls, a rasied platform with stairs and views of the ocean; and the last room is a Japanese twelve-mat tatami room (Bach), with a raised four-and-a-half-mat raised platform, and a five-and-a-half-mat room behind it.

The furniture and furnishings in the rooms are detailed and beautifully designed, and as I walked through the rooms, I could feel a sense of tranquility. Unfortunately, Hyuga only enjoyed this annex for a few years (he died here in 1939), but to die in such a tranquil setting perhaps was not a bad way to go.


Kyu Hyuga Bettei


Taut also died two years after he left Japan to accept a Professor position in Istanbul. Hence, this villa was the only architecture that he built in Japan during his short stay there. It is one of a kind, and it epitomises the best qualities of Japanese and Modernist architecture. Hopefully, the restoration works will enchance the beauty of the villa and let this masterful design shine even more.



This post was posted in Architecture, Travel, Anything Japanese, Architectural conservation, Modernist & Art Deco, Japan and was tagged with Japan, Architectural conservation, modernist architecture, Japanese architecture, Bruno Taut, Atami, Kyu Hyuga Bettei, Bauhaus