The Royal House | A Journey to the Past

Written by Jordy Meow. Published on January 28, 2011.

In the beginning, there have been only rumors, but serious debates are taking place on the Japanese blogosphere now! This deserted house creates passions. I will try to restore the pieces of the puzzle to solve the mystery of the Royal House. And if you missed the first episode, read it now.

Thank you for considering this research as a tribute and show the respect that this family should have.

Back at the Royal House.

A photo of the house, enlightened. A house still alive, more than a decade ago.

The previous article on the Royal House released very broad details: it was a first visit and I had no idea of what I have discovered. I have returned to the core of the matter for a bit more by studying the information and facts that I already have, and I will try to connect them before establishing any hypotheses. The urban exploration by Scotland Yard!

Back in time.

The Royal House.

Hotel Okura Kiyomi

Bills from Okura Hotel.

Letters sent to Kiyomi Kawai at the Okura Hotel and many different bills (of the same hotel) are piled up at the entrance of the house. So, I have a first track and then a top destination: the Okura Hotel in Tokyo.

Hotel Okura

Okura Hotel.

I show up first a little innocently at the reception to check whether a certain Kiyomi Kawai is still living there.  “Oh! There was a long time ago!” I was told, after 5 minutes of fierce battle with the old computer.   “But these are private information.” Of course. Then I spend the afternoon to explore the hotel, talk to the old tenants of the stores, employees of the cafe … but other than the smell of old carpet clean, I will remember very little. There are only two people from the same period as the Kawai and, according to them, if the family was rich enough to live here, they must have been shopping elsewhere. Sure, that must be it. Fortunately, I have another track.

A Temple in Tokyo

Many pictures of the family tomb, and also, a “Thank you” letter dated 1973 are to be found in the house. The “Thank you” letter comes from the temple which takes care of the tombs, thanking the Kawai family for their very generous donation. A new destination!

Family Tomb Photo

Photo of the family grave.

Temple in Tokyo

  The temple.

 The temple is relatively small, but it should make things easier. The small house of the family who owns the temple is located nearby. I install the largest lens on my camera, put it on my shoulder and knock on the door. I choose to play the role of a reporter for the “20 minutes”, a free newspaper from Paris. Within seconds, an old man opens the door. He knew the family, does not remember very clearly, but he provides some interesting details, nevertheless (including names and dates). Then he opens his register and shows me a page entirely dedicated to the family. The information, scribbled, is not very comprehensive: there are different names, no dates, no identified links, but many facts that I will use in this article later. That’s all I needed!

Tokyo Temple - Nice

The tomb.

I feel like I have entered the last stronghold of post-mortem information of the family. Except for this small temple, and especially the memory of this old man, who may have information as well?  Further on there is also the tomb of the family. There is no one left alive and they have no offspring. The tomb- very rarely visited – was also moved to another field. It’s really sad! This family is forgotten for good! I feel it’s time for a sincere prayer.

Family Tomb

The family grave.



 John and Sugiko are on the same Sotoba (wooden board where Buddhist register a kind of prayer accompanied by the name of the deceased). A foreigner is buried with his Japanese family – interesting. With the information I have now, I can have a different perspective of the numerous photos, and make new connections. But before going any further, here is a presentation of the main characters.

The Characters

The Mother. Kuma Kawaii (… – 1965)

She looks very severe in all the photos, surely because she is very old.



The Father. Masaki Kawaii

He is cut out from all the photos, impossible to know how he looked like.

Masaki Kawai


The “Gaijin”. John Jerwood (1918 – 1991)

The English gentleman that was found earlier beside Queen Elizabeth.

John Jerwood


John’s Wife. Sugiko Kawai (1919 – 1997)

Married to John, so we can name her Mrs. Jerwood.

Royal House - Kiyomi 1942


Sugiko’s Brother. Junji Kawai (… – 1982)

Sugiko’s older brother.

Junji Kawai

Junji Kawai.

Older Sister. Kiyomi Kawai (1912 – 2004)

Sugiko’s big-sister.

Kiyomi Kawai

Kiyomi Kawai.

Younger Sister. Kiyoko Kawai

The younger sister of Sugiko.

Kiyoko Kawai

Kiyoko Kawai.

 Now, back to the abandoned house! Trying to discover the characters, their history and that of the house.

The Father : Masaki

The father is a complete mystery. There are many old photos of the family, but each time he is “cut out”. Why? Impossible to see his face. It is also possible that just John (the foreigner) is in these photos. According to other documents, the father was the owner of a large theater in Tokyo.

Masaki Kawai

Masaki Kawai.


The Mother : Kuma

It’s an old lady in all the pictures. According to the old man from the temple, she has lived for over 90 years. She seemed to be well respected by the family and she is undoubtedly the most mysterious character of the family. Her gaze is not there for nothing.



It seems that the old lady wrote stories about the Samurai in these pages. A hobby? No evidence. The text is very difficult to read, but if you can read Japanese, try it. She is probably well in her 80’s or 90’s in the photo below. We took the opportunity to make a small tour of the family: on the left, cut in half, it’s the older sister, Kiyomi. The youngest, Kiyoko, is in white, on the left. On the right, it’s John. His wife, Sugiko, is just on his left side. Mother is in the center. There are also two other foreigners in the picture. 

Samurai Stories

Samurai Stories.

Party Time

A party.

 What does this strange document above represent? It is actually very valuable: it is an Imperial Rescript on Education (教育 ニ 関 スル 勅語) dating from 1890. It named the principles of Japanese education and was displayed in every classroom in Japan. This document was considered as sacred as the photos of the Emperor himself! It was banned after World War II and destroyed. But it is still there! Was the mother a teacher, who – after retirement – turned into a writer?

Imperial Rescript on Education

Imperial Rescript on Education.

Here is another family member: Po-Po-Chan! He lived from 1972 to 1979; he hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting the grumpy cat Happy-Chan we’ll be encountering later. This pigeon (!) was apparently highly appreciated by the mother. 

Ubik Po-Po-Chan


Kuma Funerals

The family, without the mother, this time.

 We end with a photo of the mother’s funeral. All family members are there, and very easy to recognize. Let’s get to the children.

The Brother : Junji

He worked as a diplomat during the reign of Emperor Hirohito. He was the guy who met John in Paris in 1936. There is also a very interesting letter in the house, signed by a certain Hatoyama: the grandfather of the former Prime Minister of Japan! This letter (also from 1936) recounts his trip to Europe and his meeting with leaders of major countries, including Hitler (visit the blog Ruins Rider, in Japanese). So, we find new “royal” connections! 

Son of Junji

Junji and Torinosuke.

Junji would have had a boy, Masahiro. But the latter, who died at 4 years (according to the picture on the right), it’s probably not him here with Junji. The third generation of this family remains a mystery. Below, a bank statement of Junji, dating from 1949. Not very profitable. 



Royal House - Junji Bank

Where is your money, Junji…

Photos of Junji are not numerous, but one often sees them in Tokyo or at home. I like the photo below right: Junji looks amused by the attitude of his grumpy cat, ironically named Happy-Chan. This big cat lived from 1956 to 1970.

Junji at Home

Junji at Home.

Royal House - Junji and Happy


Junji Window.


Royal House - Curtains

Torn curtain.

The torn curtain is the same as the one in the picture on the left. This proves that Junji has lived here. It seems, however, that the family is originally from department of Nagano (a birth certificate of Kiyomi proves that).

Royal House - Junji Glasses

Personal objects of Junji.

Have you noticed the round glasses that Junji features most of the time? Here they are. In a box, along with other personal belongings.

Junji Kawai

Junji Kawai.

Many other old photos are present, as this dancing-hall. Probably in Tokyo.  Later, in 1982, Junji dies, and we find the family gathered for the funeral. Even the sister (and the husband?) of John is present.

Royal House - Dancing-Hall

Dancing Hall.

Royal House - Junji Funerals


John Jerwood – The English Gentleman

John. He is the first person for whom it was easy to find information. He happens to be a “faceless” personality. You will understand later. His father was a general during the First World War, and died the same year that John was born, in 1918.

John Jerwood

John Jerwood.

Royal House - John Father

John’s father

At the age of 18 (1936), John meets Junji in Paris. Difficult to know exactly why, but the father working for the Japanese government (and having a certain relationship with the pearl market) and John being from a good family (he was already working for his uncle in the trade of pearls), one can imagine a number of reasons for this meeting. Sugiko is very young (and sexy, like an old Japanese phenomenon) along with – possibly – her brother Torinosuke (born in March 1902) and John’s mother.

Royal House - John Mother

John’s mother and Sugiko.

John Singer

John singing.

John finished his studies at a prestigious English school and he was immediately recruited to take part in the Second World War. While he was captain, he developed a strategy that had freed the town of Arielli from the Nazis. Thus, he would receive the Royal Cross in 1943, a very prestigious award. 

Red Cross 1943

Royal Cross (1943).

Royal House - Accordion


He moved to Japan, and resumed the business of pearls completely independent from his uncle who had just died. This allowed him to become quickly rich. He built the house in 1948 and married Sugiko in 1950.

Royal House - Old Days with Lamp

The house, in the 80’s.

It would seem that the house was actually a gift for parents (and brother) because we do not really find any objects that belonged to John. On the contrary, there are many gifts: those 4 TV sets from the 50-60 that seem superfluous, the phonograph, and the video viewer (see previous article), and I’ll bet that the painting of the mother is also a gift. John and Sugiko live in central Tokyo, and travel a lot.

The Lady: Sugiko

Sugiko here very young, but less than on the first “sexy” picture. She was born on August 31th, 1919.  Kiyomi, the older sister, was born in 1912, and her sister Kiyoko was born a few years later, on March 3rd. 

Royal House - Kiyomi Wakai


Royal House - Kiyomi 1942

A more Japanese style.

 John’s address in Tokyo is on his business card. He lived in Tokyo, so let’s go! Unfortunately, everything has just been demolished. We contemplate the Tokyo Tower in a rather gloomy setting. Small surprise, however: the Okura Hotel is just steps away! Sugiko used to go there very often during the absence of her husband (before she was living here completely, much later).

Royal House - John is Gone

The ancient home of John and Sugiko.

 Back in the family. Kiyomi, yet young and pretty, is always alone, strangely. She is, however married to a Japanese, and lives no longer with her family.

Royal House - Old Pics with Okasan

In the family.

La maison aujourd’hui. On retrouve la même lampe que sur la photo précédente. C’était donc bien la demeure de la maman aussi.

Royal House - The House, Indeed

The Royal House.

 Many references to pearls and even here is one. No, I will not touch it!

Pearl Business

Une perle !

Many photos of receptions, dances… this family led the high life. Sugiko is getting along well with John’s sister and there are lots of pictures in which they are together.

Royal House - Diners

Nomikai ! 

Royal House - In Britain Too

With John’s sister.

Some French

Dinner with the French in 1962.

New York


 Japanese women cut their hair when they are young and keep them in order to reuse them when they are older. Sorry, this is perhaps not the best shot to finish a chapter, but you will get used to it

Royal House - Lock of Hair


Unfortunately, we find virtually nothing about the lives of two other sisters. Kiyomi seems to have a life somehow sad, when the young Kiyoko has a husband and she lives a little separated from the family.

 The Foundation (1977-1997)

John, so very rich, established a foundation in his name (Jerwood Foundation) in 1977. He made ??a lot of generous donations , thus explaining the existence of this photo where John is present alongside Queen Elizabeth. The Foundation is particularly active today, as it is very well known.

Royal House - Donations

The Foundation.

Gakuranman bought and reviewed a book about this foundation on an article devoted to him, and he especially noted that John was very little mentioned in the book. Isn’t he, however, the man behind many deeds that are done today? How can we forget that? How can this foundation let the precious artifacts from its founder’s life rot in the dark?

Royal House - John Meishi

A business card with an address leading nowhere except to the old disused park and prohibited to be seen in one of the previous picture.

Royal House - Subway 1983

This subway map is from 1983. At that time, John was an influential teacher at Hitotsubashi University (Tokyo).

There are still traces of the family fortune in the house. Below, the shares from that period, cardboard! Investments mainly in the pharmaceutical field. These companies still exist today.

Royal House - Stocks


Royal House - Old Coins

Coins that don’t exist today anymore.

 We approach the end of the story. This house was the residence of Junji’s mother, and the sisters probably lived there at certain times. It was probably also a sort of holiday home for John and Sugiko.

Royal House - Old Days with Doll

Old photo of the house with the doll still in good condition.

An article on the Okura Hotel, found on the floor in the house (1973). Towards the end, Sugiko frequents the cafe from the hotel every morning. A real ritual! (her residence is nearby, as we have already seen).

Newspaper about Okura Hotel

Newspaper from 1973.

It seemed that Sugiko was a bit difficult as a client and the staff was stressed in her presence. But they did not envied her, John was absent too often. In the photo below, the three sisters are present, and John looks very old but always cheerful.

Royal House - Days Are Flying

Party at Okura Hotel.

An old photo of a nice chest and the sister of John in the picture above. Unless it is a very old photo of his mother…

Royal House - Old Days with Sister

The chest of drawers (circa 1980).

Here is the last picture bringing John, his sister, Sugiko and Kiyoko, together. Behind, employees of the Okura Hotel. John dies in New York in 1991. Sugiko and Kiyomi settle permanently in the hotel and continue their lives in a deep silence. Kiyoko lives her life with another family, elsewhere.

Royal House - Days Are Flying, Okura

Last picture gathering the family.

Here is a proof that Sugiko and Kiyomi lived together at the Okura Hotel. A thank you card from a certain Yuichiro (1992).

Royal House - Thank You

A “Thank You” card.

In 1997, Sugiko, age 78, dies, on her turn. This picture is used for her funeral, where she is obviously wearing … a pearl necklace.

Royal House - Sugiko Funeral Picture

Sugiko’s death.

The Royal House

Years go by in silence. But there are comebacks, and photos to support it. Who is this person, who returns home after years of neglecting? But, with her long face and her hair pulled back, I think I recognize this old lady… 

Royal House - Old Days with Someone


Royal House - And Destroyed

The house today…

… Isn’t she Kiyomi? She comes home and plunges back into her memories. These old photos of the inside of the house show a place no longer inhabited (dust + very dirty television). They were taken on Kodak film VR CP-100, a film that was itself sold between 1983 and 1986. John himself could have taken these photos!

Royal House - Old Days with Cats

Many cats. A calendar from 1982.

In my chronology of the family, there is a black hole of about a decade. The 80’s are hardly represented, except on two calendars in the house, one in 1982 and one in 1986, and the approximate date the photos were taken inside (between ‘83 and ’86, according to Kodak!). My theory: After the mother’s death  (1965) and Junji’s  (1982), the house is inhabited only by Kiyomi who later preferred to join her sister in Tokyo. They returned in 1986, when they took these pictures, and hung a new calendar. In the photos, the house looks very dusty: it has probably not been cleaned for 4 years! Sugiko died in 1997 at the age of 78. When Kiyomi’s death occurred in 2004 (91 years), the Okura Hotel sent all personal belongings to the old house by the postal service (Yamato). They are all stacked on the floor at the entrance.

Royal House - It Was Nice Once

Look up and to the left!

The dining room today … but that’s also what she looked like before. By the way: look in the corner, top left, at the old picture! Mona Lisa.

Royal House - Now A Mess

The gutted panda in the foreground.

The watches of two lovers are still here. But which lovers are we talking about?

Royal House - Clocks

Which lovers?

I almost forgot. The mysterious door! One that was locked! Well actually, it is just the toilet. And sorry to tell you that, but nothing is really hidden. And it seems clear that a Japanese family with such means never lived in a house with such a bathroom after the 80’s.

Royal House - Toilets Are Empty

The toilet.

We now know the history of this house and of its main inhabitants. Let’s not dig up any more, and let them rest in peace, they deserve it. 

House Before


House After


Royal House - Old Days with Chairs

Hoping not to have shown disrespect to your souls…

Four decades ago, it was the home of Kawai Junji, the cat lovers,
and his mother, Kuma Kawai, the mysterious novelist.

The house was abandoned in the late 1970’s,
but visited on several occasions until the late 90’s by the Kawai sisters.

The last official visitors are deliverers from Yamato,
who deposited the packages sent by the Okura Hotel in 2003.

The whole family K now rest peacefully near a beautiful temple in Tokyo…
…except for Kiyoko, who may still be living elsewhere.

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