Photo/IllutrationThe main keep of Osaka Castle is visible up close from the rooftop of the Miraiza Osaka-jo commercial complex in Osaka’s Chuo Ward. (Kenta Sujino)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

OSAKA--Exuding a nostalgic charm, historical buildings that once housed institutions such as government offices and military headquarters are getting a new lease on life as commercial facilities.

A growing number of these buildings are being converted into hotels and other tourist attractions. Some businesses are also operating national networks of wedding halls housed in historical buildings.

The Miraiza Osaka-jo commercial complex opened Oct. 19 on the grounds of the Osaka Castle Park here, in a repaired building of the former military headquarters of the Fourth Division of the Imperial Japanese Army.

The building formerly housed the Osaka City Museum until 2001. Characteristic architectural components, such as a staircase and a vaulted ceiling, have been preserved as they were when the structure was erected in 1931.

The building’s interior houses souvenir shops, restaurants, banquet halls and other facilities. Wedding ceremonies can be held on its rooftop terrace.

Officials of the park operator--Osaka Castle Park Management Co., in which Daiwa House Industry Co. and other companies hold stakes--said there used to be few eateries or restaurants on the grounds of the park, so many of the visitors left quickly after they finished sightseeing.

“More and more people are interested in wedding ceremonies with a difference,” said an official with a company that is commissioned with the operation of weddings, adding that holding the ceremony in historical buildings will serve as a selling point.

The government defines touristic use of historical buildings as one of its measures for attracting more visitors to Japan. The Agency for Cultural Affairs has worked out a plan for setting up 200 tourism bases that draw on cultural properties by the end of 2020. It has also set up a system for subsidizing repairs and other expenses.

Some businesses are intentionally setting their sights on similar buildings.

Starting in 2005, Novarese Inc., a Tokyo-based operator of a nationwide network of wedding halls, has been operating six facilities housed in historical buildings. They include the former Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ Ashiya annex in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture; the James-Tei (James mansion), a former Sanyo Electric Co. guest house in Kobe; and the Mitakiso, a former luxury Japanese-style restaurant in Hiroshima. Those buildings have hosted marriages for some 5,500 couples.

The operation of historical buildings comes with its own expenses and labor costs, including in renovations and in the applications for permits and licenses that are required for cultural properties. A Novarese representative said that those buildings nonetheless have a great appeal for customers.

Watabe Wedding Corp., another major player in the industry, also has a lineup of wedding plans in historical buildings, including at the Okakuen mansion in Kyoto.