At first Shige Yamahara and Hamuro Iguchi took only passing interest in the construction of the Kobe-Kansai Bank Building. They sometimes peered through apertures in the red fence surrounding the hollowed lot to watch the steam shovels and, later, a mighty pile driver, and they paused now and again before an artist’s sketch of the building as it would appear finished. The sketch showed a conventional and not especially beautiful building and both Yamahara and Iguchi, who were students of Japanese history, insisted that they themselves could have designed a finer building with no more training than their historical studies gave them. Yet when its steel sinews began to rise above the red fence they found themselves taking an unexpectedly deep interest in the building’s progress.

Just across the street from the site there was a small Western-style cafe with a facade of plate glass windows. Yamahara and Iguchi formed the habit of sitting before one of these windows and watching the workmen clambering about the steel girders—riveters and welders now and again brought into mysterious, almost other-worldly, focus by little lavender bursts of light.