Miyagi Network News vol.141

—Come to Life, the Moss Garden ~in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture

This is Daisuke Sato, as a secretariat officer of the Miyagi Netowrk for Preserving Historical Materials. Today we report the investigation which we carried out from 9th to 10th of July at the C family’s residence in Ofunato City.

The C family includes a notable manager of fishermen and have been in charge of the forest on a mountain since the end of the Warring States Period. This family possess a large amount of old archives which conveyed their daily activities and community’s history, so that the Sanriku Researchers’ Group for Old Archives which has been promoted by Mr Yoshiyuki Saito have taken out their investigation. Additionally, the Miyagi Networkalso cooperate with this activities.

Investigation for the foundation of the warehouse

This family has a main house which was rebuilt using the building materials of early modern times in 1939, the whitewashed warehouse which was completed in the Edo Period, moreover, the old structure called ‘Jibutsudo still remains. This ‘Jibutsudo,’ a place where family members prayed for their ancestors involves the stone-made stairs whose carved seal indicated that this structure had been repaired in 1784. It stands on the steep hill some 10m above sea level, so it wasn’t affected by the Great Sanriku Tsunami which occurred in the Meiji and Showa periods. However, this time, the Tsunami flooded above the floor level in the main house. Although the old archives which had been preserved on the first floor of the warehouse were safe, yet the wall of the inner garden was entirely washed away, and the foundation of the whitewashed warehouse and ‘Jibutsudo’ were also damaged. Moreover, the garden was covered with the moss washed in by the Tsunami.

The measurements of the elevation plan for the Jibutsudo

On 1st May, in the inspection for determining the extent of the damage by the Miyagi Network, we mainly carried out work on the gutter and the foundation of the ‘Jibutsudo’. At this time, we took the measurements of the main structures and the garden and made records of them so as to pass down this information of the old structure for the future, as well as the confirmation of the present condition of the whole buildings.

For this operation, Mr Toshihiro Sato, leader of the architectural team, Mr Hiroshi Hashimoto who gave us backup about the investigation for the damaged structures from Kanazawa, Ms Aya Nakamura, Mr Kiyohide Muto, Mr Naoki Noda, and Mr Ken Takehiro who is involved in gardening in Kyoto, and myself participated. Accompanying us were 9 members of the Sanriku Researchers Group who had previously carried out the cleanup operation gave us their support.

In the operation, we measured the main house, whitewashed warehouse and ‘Jibutsudo’, and sketched plans of both the plane and elevation. In terms of the garden, we recorded the location of stone walls, the angle of the garden rocks and the structure of the pond in detail. I took charge of repairing the floorboards in the main house, and took the measurements of the elevation plan for the Jibutsudo. Before this operation I had participated in the investigation of the old archives as a member of the Sanriku Researcher Group and had visited this Jibutsudo. Furthermore, I could fully experience the survey of this structure as a true member of the team. As I thought a lot whilst measuring using the traditional Japanese calibrated scale, I very closely felt this family’s ancestors who preserved the old archives and structures until now.

The measurement of the stone wall

As for the extent of the damage, the pillar of the whitewashed warehouse was partially decayed, according to Mr Muto. However, roughly speaking, the damage was not by the earthquake, it was caused by age-related deterioration. Once when we investigated the old archives, the master of the house showed us the Jibutsudo’s ‘Mikuriya’ (it means kitchen) door which had been closed without a gap. Now it closed the same as before. The C family’s buildings which were built by local craftsmen known as ‘Kesen Daiku (meaning carpenters in Kesen area)’ which paid tribute to their craftsmanship as they revealed that the structures hadn’t yielded an inch by the East Japan Earthquake.

At the same time, according to Ms Nakamura and Mr Takehiro, the investigation revealed how much the family cherished this garden. Moreover, the moss garden which was damaged by the Tsunami was also partially reproduced at the back of the Jibutsudo. How to bring back to life the moss garden which the ancestral masters of the house carefully maintained will be addressed, as well as repairing the inner garden.

Surveying the history of the garden

In addition, we newly found the 6 old Byobu (*) on the ground floor of the whitewashed warehouse which were transferred to the secretariat office in Sendai by the architectural team. They were confirmed as belonging to the early modern times, by Prof. Toshihide Uchida of Kyoto University of Art and Design. With regard to their future treatment we will respond in cooperation with the people concerned.

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

*Byobu(屏風):a holding screen with a coloured paintings or a black-and-white drawing in Japanese pattern


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

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