This building was used as the Moji Branch Office of the shipping company, Osaka Shosen Kaisha (Osaka Mercantile Steamship Co., Ltd.; O.S.K. Line) that was established in 1884. The company was growing its business with a focus on transportation by ship, while expanding its branch offices into Shimonoseki, Hakata, Tokushima, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, and Hiroshima. Prompted by Moji Port’s 1889 designation as a special port of export, in 1891 the company opened a Moji sales office, which was elevated to Moji Branch Office in 1897 when it became independent of Akamagaseki Branch Office. The company building, completed in 1917, is distinguished byctive for an octagonal tower on the building’s corner. At the time, it was the tallest building in Moji and a kind of landmark. On the 1st floor was a waiting room and customs office. On the 2nd floor was an office primarily free of partitions that was utilized as a single room. The 3rd floor had a telephone exchange room, toilets, and storage. The building was designed by Ikuji Kawai , who is said to have been a pioneering architect in Osaka. Unusually, the front and back construction differ. The western and northern sides of the building on the side facing the road are of brick-framed reinforced concrete and finished in mortar. The tower design is unified in the Seczession style, and the tower’s two large arch windows and the octagonal portion above them are particularly impressive. When construction was completed, the sea was right next to the road in front of the building, and visitors boarded ships that drew alongside a pier that was a stone’s throw away. Next door was the old Moji harbor police and next to that was the old Moji Branch Office of Nippon Yusen. Those three modern constructions were symbols of Moji Port’s prosperity. Today, it is the property of the City of Kitakyushu, but is also characterized by having been used by the building’s owner as its company office since its construction. Back then, Moji Port was a major base for ship routes to the Continent. After the Sino-Japanese War, the Former Mitsui O.S.K. Line Bldg. was also a base for routes to Korea and Taiwan, and later to Dalian and Mainland China. It experienced its heyday reached its peak around 1935. Osaka Mercantile Steamship had 57 employees, unloaded 400,000 tons of cargo, carried 110,000 ship passengers, and transported 170,000 land passengers. It held the record for handling the 5th largest amount of unloaded cargo in Japan. In addition, it had 130 merchant ships and 530,000 tons of marine vessels, and was the 8th largest shipping company in the world. When Osaka Mercantile Steamship and Mitsui Senpaku (Mitsui Steamship Co., Ltd.) merged in 1964, the building’s name changed to the Shosen Mitsui Bldg. The City of Kitakyushu acquired the building in 1991, and restored elements including the decorations (pediment) on both ends of the outside walls that were lost in 1994, the parapet around the eaves, the dormer windows, and the outside walkway on the 1st floor. Today, the 1st floor is used as a gallery and café, and the hall on the 2nd floor is rented out.
Address：7-18 Minato-machi, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture
Hours : 9:00–17:00
Closed : year-round (Watase Seizo Gallery is closed twice a year)
Fee : Free (Entrance fee for Watase Seizo Gallery: Adults 100 yen, Elementary/jr. high students 50 yen; *20% discount for groups of 30 or more)
Category: Constituent cultural properties
Genre: Story 3