“Miyagi Network News” vol.102

~The East Japan Earthquake, the report from the devastated area (3) ~

This is Daisuke Sato from Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. After the quake occurred, one month has already passed. In the devastated area, many people are still forced to live in difficult conditions. In Sendai City where our secretariat office is located, we are able to gradually get some petrol and supplements, although the gas supply is still being reconstructed. Considering that we are now in such an unusual situation, we should appreciate our circumstances in being able to carry out preservation activities of historical materials.

In the midst of writing this report, an intense Mg7.1 aftershock whose seismic centre was Hamadori area(*1) in Fukushima Prefecture occurred, and the secretariat office in Sendai was also hit by the strong quake.

Today’s report is about that the activities of historical materials in Sendai City on 6th April.

—The disappearance of the old guesthouse in Matsushima

This day’s destination was the structure which used to be the Iwakiri Post Office in Miyagino-ku, Sendai City. This office building was built in 1902, and designated as the historical heritage of modern times by Miyagi Prefecture. Moreover, the inspection was carried out 2 years ago, and then it turned out that a part of the traditional guesthouse , or “Ougi-ya” was removed and reconstructed at this structure. “Ougi-ya” was the most prosperous guesthouse from the early modern times to the beginning of the Meiji Period(*2) in Matsushima where was one of the scenic trio of Japan.

This structure was utilized as an community hall after it discontinued being the post office in the 1960s. However, the structure had already became superannuated before the quake, so the private owner had considered the reconstruction, according to the media’s report at the time when the abovementioned inspection had been carried out. Eventually, the owner decided to scrap this structure following the quake as a start. Because we had gotten his permission to take out the materials which we needed, 4 of us headed to the place.

As we arrived there on that morning, the decommissioning operations had already started. We heard from the workers that there were some archives used as undercoated papers on some Fusuma(*3), and we could actually confirm those documents. While the disassembly work was actively under way, we hurriedly took out the tens of Fusuma to which the historical documents were attached. In addition to them, we could save the some ornaments and the sketch board of this structure’s building plan which was reused as the floor board. During our activity, scrapping operations advanced smoothly and finished soon. One of the traditional structures which informed us of the historical daily lives of our ancestors who had lived in Sendai had disappeared. 





Photo1: confirming the undercoated documents, Photo2: the parts of the old guesthouse

—The undercoated documents have been preserved

On the other hand, we could preserve a part of  the lumber component and a large amount of the undercoated documents which were attached to the Fusuma. As for the undercoated documents, we have already started to disassemble them from the Fusuma although it  will take a long time to clear all the documents. It seems that the day books of the Iwakiri Post Office from 1903 were used for strengthening the Fusuma as the undercoating paper. The year 1903 means it was a year after the post office had started their business. Furthermore, we discovered some pieces of Shumon-ninbetsu-aratame-cho(*4) known as a family register and the documents concerned with the monopolizational system of the Sendai Domain in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Although the structure itself had disappeared, we could keep in hand the clues to solve the olden days’ affairs such as the Iwakiri Post office day books or the older historical documents which indicated the people’s lives, who came and went around Iwakiri.


Photo3: preservation operation of the undercoated documents

 NB: The photos are all from the homepage of  the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.


*1 Hamadori area(浜通り): Hamadori is an area’s name which indicates that the east part of Fukushima divided its land into three zones, because the shape of this prefecture is long from side to side.

*2 Meiji Period(明治時代): A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1868 to 1912.

*3 Fusuma(襖): sliding door made from paper and wood, used to partition off rooms in a Japanese house. Sometimes they have beautiful traditional pictures, or old historical documents on the underside to strengthen against being torn apart.

*4 Shumon-ninbetsu-aratame-cho(宗門人別改帳): A register book by temples. In the Edo period(1603~1868), people were managed by each temple in their area as part of the Government’s policy.



About Nerwork for Historical Materials
A volunteer group for preserving Cultural Heritage suffered from natural disasters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: