Friday, April 1, 2011

Kyushu Samurai Residences

I'd mentioned in the article on Izumi that a number of very prominent samurai families lived in the area a few hundred years ago, and that some of the buildings are still intact. If you walk from the station towards the city center, you'll see some signs (in English and Japanese) pointing to your left as you enter downtown. These signs are for cars coming in, and they take you out around the downtown area the long way. After a kilometer or two, you'll see little maps along the road identifying the individual buildings, which are spread out in a 2 kilometer square region. Instead, if you stay on the main drag and get to the other side of the shuttered shops, you can turn left and go up the hill, which will take you to one of the primary residences, and one of the few open to the public to walk around inside.

There was a really big period drama TV series on NHK a year ago, and some of the location shots were filmed in the buildings here. Entrance is free, but there is a tip jar to thank the people acting as information guides. They don't speak English but they are really friendly if you can understand some Japanese.

The "hime-sama" (Princess) display is right at the front of the building, and the first thing you see as you come in. It's actually made up of figures donated by the residents in the neighborhood and wasn't owned by any of the samurai themselves.

In the next room back is a more tongue-in-cheek version of the hime-sama display, made up of plush cloth figures.

I have yet to figure out what this contraption is called. I've seen this many times in Edo-era manga (such as Inuyasha), but with a piece of wood replacing the fish. It's purpose is to make picking up hot tea and stew pots from off the fire safer.

This is what the living space would have looked like 200-300 years ago during the day, since there was no electric lighting. Candles might have been used at night, but they would have presented a major fire hazard if someone tripped over them.

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