On the 9th of February 1927, Jurohachi Satsuma, the grandson of a wealthy Japanese spinning merchant, made a commitment to the University of Paris to finance the construction of a building at the Cité internationale. Thanks to his generous donation this project became a reality. The first stone was laid in 1927 in the presence of Prince Ri, Emperor Hirohito’s brother-in-law. Inaugurated on the 10th of May 1929 by André Honnorat, the founder of the Cité internationale, the Maison du Japon was immediately opened to its first residents. In the beginning, its 60 rooms were intended to primarily house worthy Japanese students.
The house is recognised as a public utility and its board of directors is chaired by the Japanese Ambassador to France.
Jirohachi Satsuma entrusted the project to his friend Pierre Sardou, the chief architect for historical monuments. The narrowness of the land called for a vertical composition, which was mitigated by playing with volumes of various heights. The entrance porch is adorned with a wooden panel created by Henri Navarre, representing the rising sun. The grey-mauve façades are characterised by a marking of the concrete structure, recalling Japanese wooden structures. The base is made from grey stone from Isère and laid using opus incertum. The roofs are covered with brown panels from the North with the same shape as Japanese tiles.
The interior also adheres to the same principle of simplicity and geometry that is characteristic of Japanese interiors. The large meeting room opens with sliding doors like in traditional houses. The large lounge and the hall in the Maison du Japon are decorated with two murals by the celebrated painter Tsuguharu Foujita, ordered directly by the founder: “The Arrival of Westerners in Japan” and “The Horses”. They were restored in 2000, as was the Navarre etched glass frieze. The Maison du Japon has 77 rooms.