Friday, October 24, 2014

Re-remembering Japan (ポーラ)

Along with our professor, Dylan, Janae and I went to the town of Kakunodate on the 14th of October.  The new phenomena of the October typhoon had just swept through Akita the night before leaving the streets a dangerous glistening mess of black pavement, oil, water, and leaves.  Although early for the changing of the leaves – a sight deemed especially beautiful in Akita prefecture – the edges of the still green sakura trees hinted at what was to come.

Kakunodate is a preserved samurai town.  It has many different small museums of sorts all stationed within old samurai homes.  During our visit, we traveled to two such homes.  The first we visited was the Ishiguro house.  It was the home of the highest ranking family in this district and was very large.  The part of the house accessible to visitors about 4-5 rooms all of about 6-8 tatami mats.
The second home was that of the Aoyagi clan.  This manner was significantly more museum-like.  It was also considerably more difficult to distinguish what parts of the manner were historic and which parts were added during later builds.  Admittedly it is probably easier to determine if you can speak Japanese.

Although another of my classmates has already written his thoughts on the association of Kakunodate and Edo-fying the past, I would like to respectfully disagree with his perceived lack of connection between Gluck’s work and the preserved samurai village.  I think that the way that information was presented in these houses for the most part ignored history prior to the Edo period.  The history presented in these preserved homes began with the rise of the samurai and particularly in the case of the Aoyagi manor, carried a relatively singular thought path all the way to the current day.  As someone who is not terribly interested in history (sorry Rob), and as someone who has not intensively studied the ways in which museums present their information I am not qualified to give anything other than my own personal perspective on this.  I would guess museums across the world have similar difficulties integrating history into a larger timeline.  That said, from what I have read about in regards to painting history for the use of propaganda etc, manipulation of the timeline is common.  Therefore, I think the emphasis on this particular time period within these museums and their preservation as Akita’s history is potentially revealing to someone who knows more than I.  If you get the chance, do go.  Many places in the area are relatively understanding towards English speakers, and even if not, the large amount of artifacts and their display should be revealing to people who are familiar with this time period.

1 comment:

In Search of Modern Japan: Writing Capital Cities (Moderator) said...

Given that none of these estates were built until well into the Edo Period, and in fact most of the families weren't even in the area until the Edo Period, being mostly exiles for opposing Tokugawa Ieyasu, it strikes me as odd that we would expect there to be anything (other than swords, which were often kept for many generations and - guess what - are the only Sengoku artifacts present) pre-Edo to talk about. (from Dylan)