The former head office of Aboshi Bank has been turned into a restaurant. (Jin Nishioka)

HIMEJI, Hyogo Prefecture--A century-old building here that once housed the headquarters of the now-defunct Aboshi Bank has been given a new life thanks in part to expertise in a different type of dough.

After about nine months of renovations, the city-designated important urban landscape building is now home to a restaurant called the Kyu-Aboshi Ginko Minato Club.

“I hope it serves as a starting point to draw attention to Aboshi, where there are other historic buildings,” Daiki Hamada, the 26-year-old manager of the restaurant, said.

The building in Himeji’s Aboshiku-Shinzaike district was originally built around 1920 and has since been beloved by residents as the symbol of the community.

It was used as a women’s clothing store until 2015 before it was offered for sale.

But the building initially attracted no buyers.

Tsukasa Utaka, 58, a corporate executive who lives in the city, bought the structure in April 2018 because he thought it was necessary to pass down historic buildings to future generations.

Utaka approached his second son, Ken, 26, who was a baker in Tokyo, and Hamada, Ken’s childhood friend who was working at a restaurant, to discuss what to do with the building.

They decided to open the Minato Club but wanted to recreate the ambience of the bank for the interior.

So the vault was maintained, as was the custom of securing the carpet on the stairs with clasps.

The floor remains 30 centimeters higher than the ground level at the entrance, a reminder to visitors that the building once housed an elevated teller counter.

The roof and outer walls were reinforced, but most of the exterior was left untouched.

The restaurant opened on Nov. 10.

Ken, the restaurant’s head chef, serves freshly baked bread and stew made with ingredients from the prefecture.

The area of the building around the mouth of the Ibogawa river is dotted with historic buildings, which retain the ambience of what was then a flourishing port town. The buildings include the Yamamoto family house built during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and the Kato family house, which is a government-registered tangible cultural property.

A local woman in her 70s who visited the restaurant said she remembers the building when it was used as a bank.

“It has been changing with the times,” she said. “I’m glad because it had been closed for a long time and I was feeling a twinge of sadness.”

The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. For more information, visit the official website at (https://aboshiminato.wixsite.com/aboshiminato).