NIKKO, Tochigi Prefecture--The historic Belgian Embassy villa in the Oku-Nikko district will open to the public for the first time in June to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its construction.
The special limited-time opening is part of the prefectural government's "Genuine Encounter Tochigi: Destination Campaign" tourism project, which will run between April and June.
With the villa still used as a holiday home, it will be a rare chance for visitors to see inside.
Since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the areas surrounding Lake Chuzenjiko had been bustling with vacationers. More than 40 resort villas owned by the United States and European countries, as well as by diplomats, were built around the lake during the peak years.
"The Foreign Ministry moves to Nikko in the summer" was a common refrain.
The Belgian Embassy villa was built in 1928 by Kishichiro Okura before the founder of the Hotel Okura chain apparently presented the building to Belgium. It is still in use along with the French Embassy villa.
The decision to open the Belgian Embassy villa to the public as a special offering for the tourism campaign came after a commemoration event held in June 2016 to mark the start of the public opening of the former British Embassy villa in Oku-Nikko. A Belgian acting deputy ambassador to Japan, who was invited to the event, told Tochigi Governor Tomikazu Fukuda about the plan.
The first floor, entrance, hall, salon, terrace and verandah of the pure Western style two-story wooden resort villa will be opened to the public for free for a total of 12 days on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays in June (except June 30) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Another event will also be offered during the month, encouraging participants to visit the Belgian Embassy villa and four facilities owned by the prefectural government, including the British and Italian Embassy villa memorial parks, Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park and lakeside boathouse, to collect stamp prints.