This unexpected architectural gem hides in plain sight in a quiet Tokyo neighborhood. Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan is an unmistakable Frank Lloyd Wright creation. The complex is among the few Wright structures still standing in Japan.
The building complex, built with the specific intent of being a Christian girls’ school, was completed in 1921. The U-shaped campus includes a central chapel, classrooms, and an auditorium.
The school relocated in the 1930s, and the campus eventually fell into decline. The structures were finally restored between 1999 and 2001. Today, the buildings frequently serve as rental spaces for weddings and other events.
The main feature of the campus is the chapel, which looks out onto a large lawn. It’s now a cafe with short tables and custom chairs matching the style of the rest of the building. Up a narrow staircase adjoining the original dining hall is a Frank Lloyd Wright mini-museum, complete with an uncanny—if slightly unsettling—Frank Lloyd Wright marionette.
The neighborhood of Ikebukuro was largely decimated in the air raids during World War II, but much of the complex has been left as it was. Some people believe that the American fighters avoided attacking Wright’s creation and the church-affiliated Rikkyo University. However, it’s unlikely and the survival of Myonichikan is considered a miracle today.
Some doorways are intentionally shorter than normal to emphasize that they were built for small girls, rather than adults. Save for the cafe, the furniture and fixtures are all original or exacting reproductions.
Know Before You Go
About a five minute walk from Ikebukuro Station. The building is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (5 p.m. on Saturday-Sunday), except Mondays. Entry is 400 yen for adults.