Edo Tokyo Tatemono-en or The Open Air Architectural Museum is located inside Koganei Park on the western outskirts of Tokyo. It is a spacious and bright open-air museum that showcases 27 historical and cultural buildings from the Edo period to the beginning of the Showa period. It first opened to the public in March, 1993.
Its vast area of 7 hectares is divided into roughly three sections: buildings from downtown Tokyo in the east, Yamanote residential areas in the west and historically intriguing buildings in the middle.
Along with these historically important buildings, a whole town was reconstructed and the tools used in daily life are exhibited inside as well as outside the buildings. Visitors can then enjoy a more complete experience of what life must have been like from the beginning of the Edo period to the Showa period.
Among the buildings transferred from their original locations and reconstructed in the museum are the residential house of the Mitsui Family, the Bathhouse Kodakara-yu which inspired the popular movie Spirited Away, the residential house of Kunio Maeda, an architect, and the residential house of Korekiyo Takahashi, a politician from the beginning of the Showa period.
At the museum, visitors can travel beyond time and feel their past heritage.
Sasaoka House is an old private house located in Uda, Nara Prefecture. It is the former residence of the Sasaoka family, country samurai who governed nine villages in the Edo period.
The house was built in the Kanei period (1624-44). The fifth house owner, Gohe, won some contest of strength and got pine trees from the domain head. He used the pines to build the house, and the pole plates, too.
The roof is thatched and half-hipped and the wall is white and unembellished. This tells us something of the atmosphere of olden times.
The large garden is well taken care of and is beautiful in spring, when the cherry trees and other shrubbery blossom.
The house has been designated as a National Important Cultural Asset, while the 24th head of the Sasaoka family still lives here and manages the house.
Kura and dozo are storehouses that are built according to traditional Japanese architectural styles, with outer walls hardened by mud and plaster.
Buildings such as kura and dozo were predominantly built for fire and theft prevention, but later on began to be built as a sign of wealth. Formerly used to resist fires during the Edo period, the kura or dozo are known to be strong enough to withstand and retard any fire, as already proved during the American carpet-bombings of World War II.
The walls of kura and dozo have characteristic bumps that have led to them being dubbed 'sea-cucumber walls'. Currently, these kinds of buildings take advantage of their distinct look and are used as restaurants or shops.
Plasterers who complete the walls with mud and plaster work hand-in-hand on traditional architecture projects. Plasterers have always been unbelievably skilled workers who took wall-making to artistic levels.
In Japanese, the word 'koshi' is a mathematical term for equidistant segments and dividers. Generally, though, koshi is used to represent lattice doors or iron grates.
From olden times, Japanese lattice doors were doors of temple-style architecture. This changed during the late Heian period when double sliding doors became more popular. Black laquered sliding lattice doors are described in the 'Tale of Genji Picture Scroll' and the 'Annual Event Picture Scroll'.
Lattice doors can separate spaces, ventilate rooms, take in light and make rooms look more beautiful, all at the same time. All of these things connect to the introduction of shoji: paper sliding doors.
Hikone Castle was once the seat of the Ii family in Konki, Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture. Another name for the castle is Konki Castle. It has been designated as a National Treasure and Special National Historical Place.
After the battle of Sekigahara, Ii Naotsugu, the son of Naomasa, the first Hikone domain head, along with Naotaka, the second domain head, built the castle, which was finally completed in the 8th year of the Genna period (1622).
Even today, the white three-storeyed castle tower still retains its power and majesty. The castle is one of Japan's four major National Treasure castles, the others being Himeji, Matsumoto and Inuyama.
The castle features many Important Cultural Assets such as the Balance Watchtower and the Taiko Gate Watchtower. The mood of each season is enhanced by cherry blossoms, fresh green, red leaves and snow. Moreover, Hikone Castle in moonlight is very beautiful, and comprises one of the 8 great views of Lake Biwa.
Hikone Castle is one of the best castles in the world.
In the 8th year of the Keicho period (1603), the daimyo Tsugaru Tamenobu, who helped unify the Tsugaru domain, first made plans for this castle. But it was not until two generations later, in the 15th year of the Keicho period (1610), that Nobuhira commenced construction to complete the castle two years later. The castle became the Tsugaru family house and remained the center of Tsugaru domain politics for 260 years until the abolition of the domain.
The castle consists of six parts: main, second, third, fourth, north and west in grounds of about 49.2 ha. It is very rare that so much of a 400-year-old castle has been preserved, including a tower, gate, and triple water moats.
There is a small three-storied castle keep located near the southwest wall. The tower harmonizes tastefully with the four seasons that include cherry blossom in spring, the moon in summer, the moon, the maple in autumn and snow in winter.
Shizutani Gakko is the first school of its kind for the general public in Japan, and was established some 330 years ago by order of Mitsumasa Ikeda, lord of the Bizen domain.
Shizutani Gakko is located in Shizutani, in the town of Bizen, Okayama Prefecture. From its foundation, the school's education was based on Confucianism. Students from other domains could enrol at the school, while many scholars and intellectuals often came here.
After the Meiji period, Shizutani Gakko became a middle school in the education system at that time. It then became a high school under the new education system, and is now a prefectural youth education center. Over more than 300 years, many talented people have graduated from the school.
Structurally, Shizutani Gakko is distinguished by its Bizen yaki roof tiles. When the school was being built, a kiln was specially made nearby and craftsmen from Ibe were brought over. The roof tiles give the school the appearance of a Confucian temple. The hog-backed stone walls that enclose the school premises are also beautiful. They were made in imitation of Chinese-style construction with stones carefully placed. Most of the construction features inside Shizutani Gakko, including the temple and the stone walls, have been designated as either national treasures or important cultural assets.
Hari is a flat length of wood, like a thin beam, used to connect pillars and larger beams in traditional Japanese architecture. Generally, the direction of a hari is the same as the depth of a building, and the unit is one 'ken'. One ken is about 18.182m long.
Also, in construction using materials other than wood, there are parts corresponding to hari that play an important role.
The history of hari dates back very many years. In ancient buildings still standing today, you can see naked haris taking advantage of the natural curves of the wood. Using natural wood without processing leads to stronger structures. Hari has an artistic attraction, too, for modern people; some houses have a roof featuring hari which is not for strength but for design.