Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C.

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Embassy of Japan
Embassy of Japan in Washington DC.jpg
Coordinates 38°54′56″N 77°3′22″W / 38.91556°N 77.05611°W / 38.91556; -77.05611Coordinates: 38°54′56″N 77°3′22″W / 38.91556°N 77.05611°W / 38.91556; -77.05611
Location Washington, D.C.
Address 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Ambassador Kenichirō Sasae
Japanese Embassy
Built 1931
Architect Delano & Aldrich
NRHP Reference # 73002092
Designated  February 20, 1973

The Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C. is the diplomatic mission of Japan to the United States. It is located at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., in the Embassy Row neighborhood.[1]


The incumbent Ambassador is Kenichirō Sasae, who presented his credentials in November 2012.[2] Ichirō Fujisaki served as ambassador from 2008 to October 2012.[3]

About the building[edit]

The embassy was designed by the U.S. firm of Delano & Aldrich (one of whose principals was William Adams Delano, a distant relative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt). Emperor Hirohito allegedly approved the design personally.[4][5] The United States Commission of Fine Arts approved the design of the building on September 16, 1930.[6] Erected in 1931, the building is in the Georgian Revival architectural style, with subtle elements of Japanese architecture.[4][5][7]

As originally designed, the embassy consisted of the ambassador's residence, two chancery buildings with strong Japanese architectural influence, a tea house, and tennis, gym, and other recreational facilities.[7] The embassy features a cobblestone courtyard and driveway in front of the building.[4][5] The original embassy building is now known as the Old Ambassador's Residence, and is located at 2516 Massachusetts Avenue NW.[8] The original embassy and the two chancery buildings are two-and-a-half stories in height, with two underground levels. The total building height is about 31 feet (9.4 m).[7] The chancery buildings, which front onto Massachusetts Avenue NW, are about 98 feet (30 m) wide.[9] The grounds were landscaped to complement Rock Creek Park, which abuts the rear of the embassy grounds. As of 1971, the Japanese Embassy was one of the few remaining formal estates in the city.[7] The total cost of construction was $500,000.[10]

In 1959, then-Ambassdador Koichiro Asagai and Tatsunosuke Takasaki, a member of the House of Representatives of the National Diet, proposed creating a replica of the rock garden at Ryōan-ji at the Japanese embassy. Constructed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese embassy to the United States, the scaled-down garden was finished in 1960. A small teahouse named Ippakutei (the "Teahouse of 100 Years"), built in the style found at the Katsura Imperial Villa, is in back of the rock garden.[11]

The Japanese Embassy was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 20, 1973.


The 1986 chancery building.

A stark, Modernist chancery building (the offices of an embassy) was completed in 1986.[4] The chancery was built after Congress passed the Foreign Missions Act in 1982, which made it easier for embassies in the District of Columbia to expand their chanceries.[12] Oddly, the new law significantly delayed construction of the chancery. The federal government lagged in promulgating regulations for the approval of chanceries, which meant that the chancery had to be approved by the District of Columbia Zoning Commission instead. But by the time the matter arose before the Zoning Commission in February 1983, the city was already in a multi-year process to revise its zoning regulations. The delay imperiled the funding provided by the Japanese government for the new building.[12] Under intense pressure from the United States Department of State as well as the Japanese and Saudi Arabian governments (both of which wanted to build new chanceries immediately), the city enacted emergency zoning regulations on April 12, 1983.[13] Construction of the chancery was approved on June 10.[14] It was designed by architect Robert B. Anderson of the Benham Group.[15] The local Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the Sheridan-Kalorama Neighborhood Council applauded the design for "retaining the historical aspects" of the embassy compound.[14] The project consolidated chancery offices from two rented buildings elsewhere in the District into a single structure on the embassy grounds.[14]

The chancery has 250 underground parking spaces,[13] and a tunnel from Waterside Drive lead to the underground parking garage (providing a more secure entry for important diplomats or visitors).[14]


President Barack Obama visited the embassy to express condolences over the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Salmi, p. 169.
  2. ^ "Japan." The Washington Diplomat. January 2013. Accessed 2013-06-18.
  3. ^ Sweet, Lynn. "Japan Amb. Fujisaki Hits Chicago: Speech, Gov. Quinn Meeting, Desiree Rogers Dinner." Chicago Sun-Times. June 13, 2010, accessed 2013-06-18; Staihar, Janet. "Japanese Ambassador to Retire." Georgetown Dish. September 20, 2012, accessed 2013-06-18.
  4. ^ a b c d Washington, D.C., p. 209.
  5. ^ a b c Field, Gournay, and Somma, p. 139-140.
  6. ^ "Arts Group Views Plan for Changes in State Building." Washington Post. September 17, 1930.
  7. ^ a b c d "Japanese Embassy." HABS No. DC-264. Historic American Buildings Survey. Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation. National Park Service. Department of Interior. 1971, p. 1. Accessed 2013-06-18.
  8. ^ "Tour Ippakutei and The Old Ambassador's Residence." Japan Information and Cultural Center. 2011. Accessed 2013-06-18.
  9. ^ "Japanese Embassy." HABS No. DC-264. Historic American Buildings Survey. Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation. National Park Service. Department of Interior. 1971, p. 2. Accessed 2013-06-18.
  10. ^ Federal Writers' Project, p. 689.
  11. ^ Yamada, p. 19.
  12. ^ a b Mariano, Ann. "State Department, City Clash Over Zoning Rules For Japanese Chancery." Washington Post. February 19, 1983.
  13. ^ a b Mariano, Ann. "District Passes Emergency Zoning Regulations." Washington Post. April 13, 1983.
  14. ^ a b c d Mariano, Ann. "Japanese Get District Approval To Begin Expansion of Embassy." Washington Post. June 11, 1983.
  15. ^ Barnum, Alexander. "Newsmakers." Washington Post. November 11, 1985.
  16. ^ "Obama Visits Japan Embassy, Says America is 'Heartbroken' Over Tragedy". International Business Times. March 17, 2011. 


  • Federal Writers' Project. Washington City and Capital. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1937.
  • Field, Cynthia R.; Gournay, Isabelle; and Somma, Thomas P. Paris on the Potomac: The French Influence on the Architecture and Art of Washington, D.C. Athens, Ga.: United States Capitol Historical Society, 2007.
  • Salmi, Noelle. Frommer's San Francisco Day by Day. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
  • Yamada, Shoji. Shots in the Dark: Japan, Zen, and the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
  • Washington, D.C. Greenville, SC: Michelin Travel Publications, 2001.

External links[edit]