There is a historical area called “Bunka-no-michi”, or a “cultural path”, in Nagoya. It is located from Nagoya Castle to the Tokugawa Art Museum and has lots of old buildings. This district used to be a town in which middle and lower-class samurai warriors lived in the Edo period, and then flourished as a central place for society gathering entrepreneurs, journalists, and artists from the Meiji to the beginning of the Showa era. I had an opportunity to take part in a walking tour around the historically interesting area on October 25.
First, the tour participants visited Futaba Palace, which used to be a residence of Sadayakko Kawakami and Momosuke Fukuzawa. Actually, the original house had been located in another place. It was moved to the present place and was reborn as a museum in 2005.
Sadayakko was the first Japanese actress, and her partner Momosuke was an entrepreneur launching an electric power business in the Meiji period and was called “King of Electric Power.” The museum exhibits not only Sadayakko’s costumes and possessions but also the Meiji era’s new technology and modern design such as stained glasses. You can see an interesting contrast between Japanese traditional lifestyle and the period’s modern European architecture at the same time.
Second, we headed for the former residence of Sasuke Toyoda, one of whose brothers is the founder of Toyota Industries and is well known as the inventor of an automatic weaving machine, Sakichi Toyoda. Sasuke helped Sakichi with his brother’s business. The building was built 90 years ago in the Taisho era. Sasuke’s other brothers’ houses also used to be in the same area, but today only his house is still there.
By the way, did you notice that their family name is Toyoda but most of their companies’ names use Toyota such as Toyota Motors? It seems that they changed their companies’ names to Toyota because of appealing those companies were no longer their family business and of hoping their enterprises’ great success all over the world.
Let’s go back to Sasuke’s house. It contains both Japanese and Western styles consisting of a wooden Japanese building and a white tiled Western residence. You will find many their family emblems here and there in the Western building. In this mark the Toyoda’s family name is hidden. Toyoda is written in Japanese hiragana character and those letters express two auspicious animals: a crane and a turtle. Cranes and turtles are representative longevity in Japan.
In their Japanese rooms, you will find some delicate decorations, for example, elaborate fanlights and pulls of paper sliding doors. The pulls are different in each room and inlaid with shells. Besides, some of the paper sliding doors are actually a landscape painting. A guide explained about those things passionately.
Finally, we went to Hyakka-Hyakuso. This place used to be a house of the Okaya family, the founder of Okaya Cooperation, which is a steel company, but now is open for public as a kind of rest house in “Bunka-no-michi”.
I was really surprised at the gap between its Japanese traditional exterior appearance and its modern interior. The contrast of their old storehouse and the Western style garden is also interesting. To be honest, I would rather they should have remain as a Japanese old house, though…Yet, the room and the garden are really beautiful, and you can enjoy live piano music there.
There are many interesting places preserving traditional Japan in “Bunka-no-michi” in Higashi-ku. Why don’t you walk around and try to find something Japanese in the district if you have an opportunity to visit Nagoya?