Monday, October 5, 2015

Finding the "Red Brick Hall"

The Akarengakan
For the scavenger hunt, I decided to go find the “red brick hall,” also known as the Akarenga Kyodōkan or the Red Brick Folk Museum. It is located in downtown Akita near the Kawabata Entertainment area. The Akarengakan is a historical building dating back to 1912 and contains the Katsuhiro Takushi Memorial and the Sekiya Shiro Memorial with artwork from both craftsmen on display.

Finding the Akarengakan was not too difficult. On Sundays, Tuesdays, and holidays, there is a free shuttle that goes between Aeon Mall and Akita station, so Silver Week provided the perfect opportunity to go scavenger hunting. I will admit that I ran into a slight problem reading the photo of Google Maps I had on my cellphone. I ended up turning right instead of left and started wandering away from the downtown area. Also, one of the city maps I used was located so that it was just blatantly wrong.

“White Star: where the first map claimed I was. Note the red “You are here” sign. In reality, the Akarengakan was behind me, and I had already missed my turn…

Going into the search, I knew what the building looked like and what general area it was in. I was prepared to get lost and was not really concerned if I did. I had been downtown using the special shuttle before, so I had some previous landmarks, but I did not understand how they were located on a map. Maybe it was just the time I went (during Silver Week around noon), but the streets downtown and the Akarengakan itself were not really crowded. I found it interesting that simply walking off the main street made my surroundings instantly much quieter and the space around me feel wider. Surprisingly, the Akarengakan was located on one of these less busy streets. Again, it could have just been the time I went. It is located near the Kawabata Entertainment area, so there were a lot of restaurants in the area. Inside the museum though, there were photos of what the surrounding area used to look like.

The Akarengakan was designed by the local architect, Yamaguchi Naoki. The construction took three years and was completed in 1912. The Akarengakan served as the headquarters of Akita bank until 1969. The building was then reconstructed and converted into a folk museum in 1981. Two additional building were connected to the back of the original building. Despite the reconstruction, the Akarengakan still retains elements of its bank days. The main hall of the building left the teller booths intact, and some of the rooms I entered had vault doors.

The museum features work from two local artists, emphasis on the “local” part. Sekiya Shiro was a famous metalwork artist who was named the National Human Treasure. He mastered the fusion technique, hagiawase, and his work was recognized as Japan’s important Cultural Asset. There is a memorial room him featuring several pieces of his work, along with some metal working tools. The second featured artist is Katsuhira Tokushi, who is famous for both designing and making woodblock paintings. His work features many scenes of Akita life, such as the Kanto festival, rice harvesting, and snow scenes. His work is distinct and popular both nationally and internationally. The museum has a collection of his woodblock prints, templates, wooden dolls, and tools.  

The Akarengakan and the art featured inside were all made by people from Akita. Sekiya Shiro and Katsukira Tokushi were native to Akita. Both were acknowledged on a large scale and made advancements in their respective areas of expertise that influenced the generations to come. The subjects of the artwork are connected to Akita as well and portray the everyday life of the people who lived there. The Akarengakan is a folk museum. Great care was put into the foundation of the building so that it could withstand the test of time (and natural disasters) and keep on preserving Akita’s culture and crafts.

1 comment:

Eliza Alvarez said...

This museum sounds really cool. I especially like the picture of the room with vault doors.