The Japanese style house in America – a testimony of a WWII-era love story

Those roaming the streets of the American city of Fairfax, close to the federal capital Washington, stop in bewilderment in front of a Japanese traditional style house which seems out of the neighboring architectural landscape. Few know that behind the beautiful house lies a WWII era love story. Washington Post told it to its readers.

Shortly before the end of World War II, Joseph Carrigan was drafted into the US Army and sent to Japan, where he was part of the first troops to occupy the country. He remembers that one day, when he was in the officer’s club, he noticed his future wife across the room. It later took him three months to track down Lydia Mitchell.

The Japanese style house in America

The Japanese style house – traditional interior

They married soon and in 1947, the young couple decided to return to the United States. As he couldn’t find work and her missing Japan very much, the two decided to go back to the land of the rising sun. Joseph went back to his old job in the army, but as a civilian this time.

During the Vietnam War, when a housing crisis was looming, Joseph was authorized to build a house inside the military base. He designed and built it himself, in a traditional Japanese style, but with some Western influences.

When he retired in 1992, he decided it was high time they moved back to America. To convince his wife, more drawn to Japan than himself, Joseph promised her he would build a house in Fairfax similar to the one raised inside the military base. He brought a carpenter from Japan, ordered the roof tiles from across the Pacific and even hired a landscape architect to create a Japanese garden.

The Japanese style house in America

The Japanese style house – the garden

The couple’s youngest daughter recalls that when her mother finally moved back to America she found a house looking exactly the same with the one she had just left. “It’s funny because I grew up in this home in Japan and then I come and visit them in Fairfax and all of a sudden, I’m 8 years old. It’s the same home,” she remembered.

The Japanese style house in America

The Japanese style house – interior

Japanese diplomats serving in Washington DC came to see the house while Japanese magazines wrote about the house in Fairfax. Joseph died two years ago when he was 90 while Lydia passed away early this year. Their Japanese style house keeps telling their WWII-era love story.

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