The Grand Lodge of Japan is located in the Tokyo Masonic Building (Tokyo Masonic Center), a stone’s throw from the landmark Tokyo Tower.
Owned by the Masonic Foundation of Japan (formerly the Tokyo Masonic Association), the Center houses not only the Grand Lodge of Japan but also several appendant bodies.
The land on which the Center stands once belonged to the aristocratic Hisamatsu family.
Feudal rulers of large areas of Shikoku, the family traced its ancestry to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the dynasty that governed Japan until the Meiji Restoration introduced Western-style democracy.
To control the feudal lords of Japan, the Tokugawa government imposed a system of alternate residence. Feudal lords had to spend one in every two years providing nominal military support to the government in Edo (Tokyo). While in residence in Edo, the lords had to leave their families in their ancestral homes, and vice versa. The financial burden of maintaining lavish accommodation in Edo and shuttling entire households back and forth every year ensured that no clan was able to amass enough wealth to pose a military or economic threat to the Tokugawa shogunate.
In keeping with the status of the Hisamatsu family, its property in Edo was spacious and the buildings magnificent.
With the dissolution of the feudal system, the fortunes of most aristocratic families waned. The Hisamatsu property was purchased by the Imperial Navy Officers’ Club, which raised a modern ferro-concrete structure on the site but preserved most of the exquisite traditional gardens.
The Naval Officers’ Club (Suikosha) survived the wartime bombing of Tokyo and was, for a time, used as a recreational facility by Occupation forces. Eventually it was placed on the market by the Japanese government and purchased with funds raised by the Scottish Rite Bodies and Tokyo Masonic Lodge No. 2, who joined in creating a non-profit foundation for the purpose: the Tokyo Masonic Association (TMA).
For many years the old Suikosha building was used by TMA and various non-Masonic tenants. When maintenance costs of the ageing structure became prohibitive, the TMA entered into a complex arrangement with two major companies: Shimizu Corporation and Mori Property Development. The Suikosha building was demolished and replaced with two revenue-generating office buildings. The new Tokyo Masonic Center was relegated to what appears, at first sight, to be a modest two-storey building in one corner of the property. The size of the building is deceptive. A large underground complex houses spacious meeting rooms and fully equipped catering and dining facilities. The modernistic design of both the building and its interior has drawn critical acclaim and has been featured in many studies of Masonic architecture.
Tokyo Masonic Center
4-1-3 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011