Senbon Matsubara, a pine grove that has survived for centuries and enshrouds a quiet and peaceful area of Numazu, Shizuoka, sits between the majesty of Mt. Fuji and Suruga Bay.
Nestled inside, a traditional sukiya-style teahouse and a bold, modern Japanese villa.
A pine grove preserved for 400 years
Senbon Matsubara was recorded by a traveler almost a millennium ago as a “splendid pine grove.” After the forest was destroyed by warring clans in the 16th century, strong winds and sea salt wreaked havoc on the local villagers. An itinerant monk who passed through the stricken area is said to have planted a thousand pine trees, chanting a sutra for each. The forest was slow to regenerate, but the monk appealed to the authorities to strictly protect the saplings, and the struggle of several generations resulted in the magnificent pine grove that remains today. The dense thicket includes enormous trees that grow as straight as cedar or zelkova, unlike the twisting shape of other pines. Many literary figures have been attracted to the treasured natural riches of the ocean breeze and pine grove, the charms of the wild birds and changing seasons.
Numazu flourishes as a villa area
Blessed with natural beauty at the foot of Mt. Fuji, the rich bounty of the sea and mountains, and the nourishing sea breeze, Numazu developed as a transportation hub after the railroad arrived near the end of the 19th century. Its favorable climate and protection from the ocean by the pine grove made it an ideal location for villas, as well as sanatoriums that used the sea breeze to treat tuberculosis.
Following the construction of an Imperial Villa, distinguished people and literary figures began to build their own villas in the area. Zembei Miwa, who made his fortune with Mitsuwa Soap in Osaka, was among those who came to Senbon Matsubara. An unreserved tea enthusiast, he wished to hold enormous tea ceremonies and erected the large sukiya-style teahouse with a first-class tea room. This was the beginning of Numazu Club.
Grove and building unscathed by war
Numazu Club was built in 1913 by Yuzaburo Kashiwagi, who was said to be the best carpenter in his generation and tenth in a line of master carpenters that once served the Tokugawa government. During World War II, the building was confiscated by the Ministry of War and used as a rest house for officers. Numazu, highly industrialized and home to a naval arsenal and other military factories, also became the target of a major air raid. However, the American aviators were impressed by the grandeur of Senbon Matsubara and avoided bombing the pine grove, thus sparing Numazu Club from destruction.
After the war in 1946, the mayor of Numazu acquired the building and established Numazu Club as an association. Discussions about war reconstruction were held in the teahouse. Amid the ruined city, Numazu Club became a center of the local political scene as the only traditional restaurant that could entertain guests, thus playing an important role in the area’s reconstruction and development.
Rebirth with a new villa structure
In Autumn 2006, the dilapidated building was restored after years of disuse and an villa structure was added on the premises. Numazu Club reopened in 2008. The new building was designed and built by Akira Watanabe, whose notable work includes W-House, a residential complex that won the Prize of the Architectural Institute of Japan for Design, as well as Niki Club (closed in 2005). Numazu Club is known as Watanabe's last work.
In 2015, the teahouse and Nagaya Gate were registered as Tangible Cultural Properties of Japan for their historical and artistic value.
Culture, nurtured and rewoven.
Relish artistic gems within an architectural masterpiece.
In 2023, this culture safeguarded by the people of Numazu has been inherited, nurtured, and passed down. The exquisite design of the teahouse and villa have been maintained with only a few updates. Along with alluring cuisine that combines and reimagines its roots, a new page in Numazu's history is being written.