The Old Aoyama Villa was built on the business of pulling fish, specifically herring, from the sea. The Aoyama family was one of the region’s three most important, controlling a fishing operation boasting more than 10 tohs—a toh is a group of 25 to 100 fishermen—who could pull in as many as half a million fish a night. With that many fish coming in, the Aoyama family was able to spare no expense on this villa. Starting in 1917, a crew of 40 took six years to finish the place; it’s largely made of lovely zelkova wood, with accents of rosewood, cedar and blackwood. The details of the house are amazing: Wood was set so carefully that no joints were needed, and the door hardware is as intricate as jewelry.

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