A view on stately buildings along Kobe’s Kaigandori, known among foreigners as the Bund, sometime between 1922 (Taisho 11) and 1927 (Showa 2).
This street originally directly faced the sea (see Kobe 1880s • Houses at Bund for the same location 40 years earlier). By 1921 (Taisho 10), reclamation work in the bay had increased the harbor’s capacity by 2.1 million ton1 and Kobe Port now handled 40% of Japan’s trade in monetary value. As can be seen on this image, the construction moved the street inland quite a bit.
This photo was almost certainly taken from the roof of the Kobe branch of the major shipping company Nippon Yusen (日本郵船神戸支店). Finished in 1918 (Taisho 7), this building still stands and is known as the Kobe Yusen Building.
The buildings on the left hand side from left to right are:
1. Canadian Pacific Steamships, Ltd., 1 Kaigandori.2
Canadian Pacific Steamships was started in 1884 (Meiji 17) as the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Trans-Pacific services were launched in 1887 (Meiji 20). In 2005 (Heisei 17), its successor company became part of Hapag Lloyd.
Canadian Pacific’s steamers called on Kobe from early on, but the company’s first office in the city was only opened in 1898 (Meiji 31). The company moved its Kobe office several times. It was located on 1 Kaigandori from 1915 (possibly 1914) through 1927.
Confusingly, a company with a similar name also had offices in Kobe, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company (太平洋郵船). This US based company started a shipping connection between Kobe, Nagasaki and Shanghai in 1870 (Meiji 3). Many books and internet sites place the Pacific Mail Steamship Company in this corner building, but as any directory from the early 20th century clearly shows, they are mistaken.
Incidentally, this company also still exists, but is now known as APL3.
2. Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, 2 Kaigandori.2
Founded in 1865 by the Scot Thomas Sutherland and now better known as HSBC.
Number 2 used to be the office of Walsh Hall & Co, which established a paper mill in Sannomiya. This incidentally grew into the Mitsubishi Paper Mills. In 1881 (Meiji 14), the lot was sold to the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. According to the 1918 (Taisho 7) Jubilee Number of the Japan Chronicle for a hefty sum4:
3. Mitsui Bussan (三井物産), 3/4 Kaigandori.2
Designed by Kouzou Kawai (河合浩蔵), the Kobe branch of Mitsui Bussan was constructed by the large construction firm Takenaka Komuten (竹中工務店) in 1918 (Taisho 7).
Kawai also designed the Kobe District Court Building (神戸地方裁判所庁舎), the beautiful Kodera Stables of Sorakuen and the Okuhirano Water Purification Plant (奥平野浄水場施設). This is now used as the Kobe City Water Science Museum (神戸市水の科学博物館).
After the Kobe earthquake of 1995 (Heisei 7), the Mitsui Bussan building was incorporated into the Kaigan Building, a large glass tower.
4. Osaka Shosen Kaisha (大阪商船), 5 Kaigandori.2
This building was designed by Watanabe Setsu Kenchiku Jimusho (渡辺節建築事務所) and built in 1922 (Taisho 11) by Obayashi Gumi (大林組). The lot (but not the building) was previously used by the Dutch, German, Italian and American consulates.
Osaka Shosen Kaisha (OSK) was established in 1884 (Meiji 17) and had its head office in Osaka. It was one of Japan’s main shipping companies and serviced lines to, among other destinations, the USA, Russia, China, Hong Kong and the Philippines. In 1964 (Showa 39) it merged with Mitsui Steamship Co., Ltd. to form Mitsui O.S.K. Lines.
5. Oriental Hotel, 6 Kaigandori.2
Kobe’s main hotel for foreign visitors. It was founded in 1882 (Meiji 15) at number 80 in the foreign settlement, on the corner of Kyomachi and Nakamachi streets. In 1907 (Meiji 40), it moved to its new location on Kaigandori.
In the late 1910s, the hotel was purchased and completely refurnished by the Toyo Kisen Kaisha (Imperial Mail S.S. Co.).
The 1920 edition of Terry’s Guide to the Japanese Empire describes the Bund as follows5:
1 Kobe City Office (1912). The City of Kobe. Mitsumura Printing Company (光村印刷株式会社), 8.
2 (1921). Kobe Guide, Everyman’s Directory 1921-1922. The Japan Commercial Guide Co., 141. Several other directories list this address as 1 Bund.
3 APL. APL History (pdf file). Retrieved on 2021-08-23.
4 (1918) Jubilee Number 1868-1918. The Japan Chronicle, 47.
5 Terry, T. Philip (1920). Terry’s Guide to the Japanese Empire, including Korea and Formosa. Houghton Mifflin Company, 623-624.
Reference for Citations
Duits, Kjeld (). Kobe 1920s: Mercantile Houses, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on March 22, 2023 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/298/mercantile-houses
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