Yokote City is located in the southern area of Akita, Japan. There is a historical landmark, “KURA” (a traditional warehouse), which has over 100 years of history. It’s one of the tourist attractions in this area and is good as a travel destination for both domestic and overseas visitors! If you come to this KURA Street, you may feel the old days in Japan. It’s going to be a memorable experience!
This district seems to be one of the best places in Akita to learn about local history as well as to enjoy traditional market. Many old residences and shops remains the street even today.
Among them, I visited the Former Ishida Rikichi Residence because I was so curious about its 3 stories building! Let’s go!
History of the Former Ishida Rikichi family has started in 1819. They had been running a brewing business since the 1st to the 6th generations, but from the 7th generation, they have become a doctor and opened a hospital. Today, the family live in a different place, but the historical wooden house remains there.
As hearing the family history by the guide, I found out that this house has such sophisticated techniques in its interiors and architecture.
The KURA was built in 1881 by the 5th generation of the family. Doors of the KURA are made of black and white plaster, whose contrast remains beautiful even today. A single door consists of three pieces of doors with about 5cm thick each. I was recommended to close the door, BUT! They were really heavy! So I pushed them with both of my hands, then, finally they started to close.
According to the guide, they were made like this to protect the materials stored in the KURA, just in case when there were disasters. Although the door was so heavy to push, it closed smoothly once it started to move. Also, each door closed completely without any gaps. This is an amazing craftsmanship still remaining over 100 years! I was really impressed!
The main house was built in 1937 by the 6th generation of the family. The 3-story wooden building seems rare in Akita. It is the City Designated Cultural Asset.
On the 1st floor, there are Japanese guest room and Uchi-gura (an internal KURA). In winter, they usually have a lot of snow so this type of KURA became popular in this area. There remains old furniture and interiors; wooden floor, wall, ceiling, drawer, dishes, etc. They are exhibited in the KURA. This KURA was built in 1881, besides some of the wooden materials are over 500 years old! What a historical building it is!
By the way, the guide told me an interesting story about the architecture. She introduced an arrow and straw sandals put on the ceiling as a charm for protecting the house from devils or bad things. Looking at the sandals carefully, I noticed the sandal straps were cut off. This is not the right way because it makes people impossible to walk. The reason, however, was interesting!
It was to show the carpenter’s confidence that there would be no need to come back here for any repairs because he had built such a perfect building ever! Since it was unnecessary to come here again, he cut off the sandal straps and put them on the ceiling as an amulet. I see… When I heard this story, I was sooooo impressed by the old carpenter’s passion! He’s so professional, I thought!
Visiting the Japanese-style room on the first floor, I could see more craftsmanship. The Kurogaki (black persimmon tree) used around the room is a rare material. Especially, the striped ones are so scarce that they cannot be found easily even today. By looking at the beauty used in a drawer, sliding doors, Ranma (transoms above the sliding doors) and so on, we can guess that this room, or the entire house, was made not as a residence but as a guest house at that time.
On the second floor, there were a Japanese-style tea room and a retro western room. The rare material, Kurogaki, can be seen here, too! Also, the pattern of the wooden flooring and ceiling is beautiful! I heard that some world-famous artists as Leonard Tsugouharu Foujita (1886～1968) were invited in here! Not only the rooms but the guests were impressive, too!
Finally, I visited the third floor. A big room of 25 tatami mat size was used to see annual fireworks in this region. There used to be fewer buildings before, so the fireworks must have been seen more clearly! Many people seemed to be invited to this room to enjoy the summer event in the old days. So nostalgic!
Through this tour, I could learn more deeply about the local KURA and this Former Ishida Rikichi Residence. Studying local architecture and its history are so worthy! If you are interested, there are more old houses open to the public. (*Go to the official website♪) Let’s investigate and make unforgettable memories!
＊＊＊Check it out!＊＊＊
Yokote Masuda Manga Museum → Go to blog♪
~~~ Facility Info ~~~
Former Ishida Rikichi Residence
95-2 Nakano Aza Masuda, Masuda-machi, Yokote City, Akita, Japan
*Closed on Mondays (the next day if Monday is a national holiday) and December 29 ～ January 3
【Admission Fee】310 yen per person (*250 yen per person for groups of 20 or more people)
*For free under high school students
【Parking】Free parking near the Kura street
＊From JR Akita station：JR Ou Line “Jumonji Station”（About 1 hour 35 minutes）～ Bus for Masuda-machi（Iwaikawa Line or Yokote・Oyasu Line）「Masuda kura no eki」（About 7 minutes）～ On foot（About 2 minutes）
＊Tohoku Expressway「Kitakami IC」～ Akita Expressway「Yokote IC」～ Yuzawa・Yokote Expressway「Jumonji IC」 to the KURA street（About 1 hour 30 minutes）
＊From Akita Airport：By car・taxi（About 1 hour 30 minutes）／By car・taxi to JR Wada Station（About 8 minutes）or By limousine bus to JR Akita Station（About 40 minutes）～ JR Ou Line ”Jumonji Station”（About 1 hour 35 minutes）～ Bus for Masuda-machi（Iwaikawa Line or Yokote・Oyasu Line）「Masuda kura no eki」（About 7 minutes）～ On foot（About 2 minutes）
Written by Naomi in Ugo
*As of October, 2020.