Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Amasagi village

On February 28, hubby and me visited Amasagi village (mura in Japanese). It is a famous tourist spot in the town of Iwaki in northern Yurihonjo in Akita prefecture. This ‘hands-on’ village recreates Edo era life in the prosperous castle town of Kameda in Iwaki. In the village compound, houses of various classes of people such as samurai warrior caste, farmer, merchant, and craftsman are reconstructed. In addition, there is a museum with collections of furniture and samurai armor along with various types of preserved traditional handicraft materials of the Edo period.
There is an interesting historical story about Amasagi mura. At the end of 8th century, a person called Hayao Amasagi was a local ruler around the area surrounding Mt. Takashiroyama in Iwaki. He made a castle and governed around this local region of northern Japan. However, around this time Emporer Kanmu of Kyoto appointed a general and shogun called Sakanoue no Tamuramaro to command an expedition army to subdue native ezo tribe of northern Japan. The legendary story goes that the Emporer’s army was troubled by Hayao Amasagi. Finally, Hayao Amasagi ended up giving in to Sakanoue no Tamuramaro but he seemed to have been a legendary great man as a symbol of resistance for the local people.

Amasagi castle
On reaching the Amasagi mura tourist spot, hubby and me saw a beautiful castle called Amasagi castle. The height of this castle is 22 meters. From the top of this castle building, we can enjoy a spectacular view of the town. There are restaurants and souvenir shops inside the castle.
Amasagi castle

Me in front of Amasagi castle

View of Amasagi castle from inside the village

Jomon main gate
There is a beautiful structure called jomon at the entrance of Amasagi mura. Jomon is a reproduction/restoration work of the main gate of Kameda castle. Kameda han domain of the Edo period was located in Iwaki in Dewa Province (present day Akita and Yamagata prefecture) and was ruled for the entirety of its history by the Iwaki clan. Kameda castle was the castle of the Iwaki clan rulers. The restored main gate is 5.6 meters high, 7.7 meters long, and 4.2 meters wide. At the entrance of the main gate, a ticket counter is located. To visit the village, we had to buy tickets worth 400 yen per person.
Me standing in front of the jomon main gate

Yonezo Abe fine arts museum
Once inside the Amasagi mura premises, we first decided to visit the Yonezo Abe fine arts museum. A major portion that is more than 200 interesting pieces of sculpture art works of the artist are exhibited in this museum. Most of the sculptures are made from Akita cedar wood. Artist Yonezo Abe was born in the year 1911 in Iwaki town. He graduated from Akita prefecture. He became an artist of great repute, and in 1981 he received Akita prefectural award for the fine arts work. This museum, although is located inside the premises of Amasagi mura, apparently seems to have no relation to the history of the Edo period, although I am not sure about it.

Several art works of Yonezo Abe

Sasaki house
Next we visited the Sasaki ie (house), which is a reconstruction of the Edo period house of a farmer. Around the Keicho era (1596 to 1615), the Sasakis came from Kaga province (present day Hokuriku) and settled in Izumida village in Iwaki. The Sasakis were of peasant caste and served as kimoiri (the domain village head). The Sasaki house was originally located in Izumida. It was moved from its original site and transferred in the Amasagi mura complex. The architecture of the house is based on the end of the Edo period format. This construction format was typical of a farmer house of the northern part of Japan sea-side (mostly Akita and Yamagata prefectures). This format of the house is known as katanaka mon sukuri structure.
Sasaki house. The roof is made up of straw.

Another view of the Sasaki house

Entrance of the Sasaki house

View on the left side just inside the entrance

A mino straw coat worn during the winter season

Wooden mortar vessels (usu) and mallets (kine) used for making mochi

Me standing next to a human sized farmer doll

A horse stable near the main entrance

Inside the Sasaki house

Kago (palanquin) was used as a mode of transport

Kitchen area

Kamado: traditional wood or charcoal fired earthen vessel used as a stove or oven

Another photo of the kitchen

Utensils used during the Edo period

One of the living room of the Sasaki house. Me sitting next to a cooking pit.

Baskets used for keeping the kids

Me standing in another living room of the Sasaki house

Me standing in front of a small altar in the room

A few showpieces displayed in the room

Me sitting next to the cooking pit with a tea pot

View inside Amasagi mura
Once we came out of the Sasaki house, we enjoyed the beautiful scenic view of the Amasagi village. There was a small pond and a bridge in the village.

Scenic view inside the Amasagi village

Inside the village, there was a statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy known as kannon bosatsu. The height of the statue was about 2 meters. We prayed in front of the statue for a few minutes.
Statue of the goddess of mercy

Endo house
After this, we visited the Endo ie. Previously, this house was known as Matsumura house. Endo house was a house of a samurai. The samurai of this house served under the king of Kameda han domain and worked as a horse riding instructor. The salary of this samurai was 28 koku of rice a year (1 koku equaled 180 liters during the Edo period). The house shows typical features of an Edo period samurai house of the Kameda han domain. Inside the house, the lifestyle of the samurai family is represented by using human sized dolls.
Entrance of the Endo house

Dolls of samurai father and son inside the house

Another view of the dolls of samurai father and son

Dolls of mother and daughter inside the samurai house

A servant doll inside the samurai house

Toilet inside the samurai house

Unuma house
Finally we visited the Unuma ie, which was also a house of a samurai. Unuma house was built in the year 1623 and is still preserved very well to date. Several generations of scholars were born in the Unuma house. They served as scholars to the king of Kameda han domain. The salary of the samurai of this house was 50 koku of rice a year. Exquisite shodo calligraphy works of Tenrei Komatsu, a scholar born in Ouchi town of Akita prefecture, are presently exhibited in all the rooms inside this house.
Entrance of the Unuma house

Display of shodo calligraphy inside the Unuma house

Me standing next to shodo calligraphy works

Hubby standing next to shodo calligraphy works

We had to yet visit the houses of craftsmen and merchants, and a museum with collections of furniture and samurai armor of the Edo period. However, the visiting time of Amasagi mura was until 4 pm. By the time we left the Unuma house, it was already 3.55 pm. So we skipped seeing these places. Hopefully during our next trip to this tourist spot we will cover the remaining places too.

We reached home by 6 pm and had a dinner of sushi and tonkatsu fry.
Our dinner of sushi and tonkatsu fry

It was a nice day and hubby and me enjoyed seeing the Edo period relics in Amasagi mura.


google said...

nice picture (story) and yum yum food :D

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks google for your comment.

Runa said...

It is nice too see the great effort being put into preserving the history for the future generation. Keep up the good work

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for the comment Runa. Yeah, the government is making great efforts to preserve the history of Japan.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this! I was looking for the houses in the Edo period and I'm happy you took the time to explain and take pictures

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thank you very much for your comment Anonymous. Hope you enjoyed the virtual trip to the Edo period houses.

In September 2013, we had visited Michinoku Folklore Village in Kitakami City. The museum has many old buildings, belonging from the feudal Edo period up to Taisho period. Please have a look at the following two posts.