Tag Archives: Hoshigaoka

Choshokaku–a ‘new’ historic building opens: He might be waiting for a chance to explore in a secret tunnel…

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     “How about tomorrow 2pm at Kakuozan. There is a ‘new’ historic building opened there. We could visit it and go to a café for our lesson. Ciao.

     That was a text message from Ricky my private English teacher on September 4th. I take his lesson once a week. We usually meet at a donut shop in Hoshigaoka, where you can get a donut for free if you buy something to drink, and talk in English for an hour. But he suggested another place that day. A ‘new’ historic building? What does it mean? Many question marks crowded my brain. But they disappeared soon, when I happened to open a Nagoya’s community paper that night: Nagoya City had completed the restoration of the historic Choshokaku reception hall and opened the building to the public at the end of August. Ah, the ‘new’ historic building is a reception hall called Choshokaku!

     The hall is part of the estate called Yokiso which was owned by Suketami Ito, the first president of Matsuzakaya department store. He bought a 35,000 m2 land near the Nittaiji Temple in Kakuozan and built about 30 buildings on the estate by 1940. That area used to be a place for guests like the imperial family, nobility, politicians, and foreigners, and for social interaction for them. But most of the buildings were burned down in an air raid in 1945, and some remained ones were occupied by the US Army Forces for a while after the war. The Yokiso Villa has been managed by an NPO since 2003, and was donated to Nagoya City in 2007. Since then some parts of the place has been opened to the public. Choshokaku was originally built in 1937 as a guest house. The renovation began in 2011 and finally opened on August 29 this year.

     Ricky and I met near Kakuozan Station next day and walked to Choshokaku together. According to the community paper, the ‘new’ historic building is in the south area. Both of us had visited other buildings in the north area of the villa, but did not know from where we could enter the south area. However, we arrived at the building without notice while following two women who we saw walking before us. There was a striking red house in front of our eyes. Those ladies were also visitors to the heritage. We paid for the fee, which was 300 yen, and stepped inside.

     The building is a western-style house, but you have to take off your shoes at the entrance. We had a direct view of a tea room when we entered. We decided to have a lesson over tea at the tea room before touring the house. But Ricky ordered a set of curry and rice instead of tea. He has not had lunch yet. The tea room was quite cozy. This is a sequel, but Ricky liked its atmosphere and has spent a lot of time there recently…We talked about Syria’s situation, Turkish movements, and a Serbian revolutionist Popovic at the comfortable and quiet tea room. Ha ha…

     After my lesson, we started touring the house. There was a miniature land of the place at a corner and we imagined the way the villa used to be. Now in the most of the land there are many houses and tall condos. In fact, many of the windows of the house were closed and blocked not to look outside. A guide told us it was because of privacy protection for the residents around the heritage. The interiors were exotic mixed up Japanese, other Asian countries’ and European cultures. According to the guide, many of the parts of the house are made from chestnut trees and they look rough because the wood is very hard to curve. But the roughness has brought to the house its special avant-garde atmosphere.

     The house is two-story and has a basement floor. There are two rooms and a tea room on the first floor, five rooms on the second floor, and a ball room on the basement. The same guide highly recommended visiting the basement floor and came down with us. There was a hall with beautiful Indian paintings on the wall at the bottom when we descended the staircase. According to the guide, the paintings were painted by an Indian exchange student. The ball room also is designed with Indian motives. There are many relieves of Hindu gods and Indian geometric patterns on the wall and the pillars and the windows have Himalayas in the room. Actually you can rent the room at night from 3,000 to 4,500 yen. It might be nice to have a party with your friends there!CAM01243

     Interestingly there is a set of stairs down to the lower level from the basement. And you see a set of doors at the bottom. There is a tunnel behind the doors. Unfortunately it is not to open to the public…According to the guide, the tunnel connects to other places in the villa and there is a dome room in the way. It seems that the tunnel was made for evacuating or hiding important people during the war. It is not clear whether it was used really…As I mentioned above, Ricky liked the tea room. So, he bought a year pass when we left the house. He seems to visit the building and have curry and rice or tea almost every day. But I am suspecting that he might be waiting for a chance to explore in the tunnel…

Nagoya Study – Walking through the Old Route "Takabari Michi" Part 2: Higashiyama Zoo to Issha

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     “You know, there are stone steps below the ticket booth. They’re the remains of the pond’s embankment.” Mr. Hajime Kobayashi said that and the second field study (I’ve already written the first one: http://wp.me/p16bjt-j1 ) began. It was held on March 5th. It had been clear up at the first tour, but unfortunately it was raining that day. TS3N1598 

     What Mr. Kobayashi mentioned is that the stone stairways below the ticket office at Higashiyama Zoo is the remains of part of the embankment of a pond called Shin-ike, which is next to Chikusa Sports Center. Today there is a parking lot across from the pond, but it used to be a part of the pond, which was much bigger in the old days. The pond was reclaimed for building a wide and straight road after World War II. There’re some trees remaining by the parking lot still now. It is a relic of a garden of a house which used to be near the pond. TS3N1604

     The participants of the class walked along the wide street named Hirokoji-dori and turned left and entered an alley before Hoshigaoka Station. The area is called Kameiri. “Kameiri” means upper water gate. There used to be a pond called Nigori-ike around here and to be connected to Shin-ike near the zoo. But there is nothing left of the pond now. What welcomed us at the end of the alley was an old-looking temple. It is Renge-ji Temple. It was moved from the temple town of Higashi-ku on account of the modernization of the city.  TS3N1602

     There is a hill around the station. We climbed up the slope and arrived at another temple. Unlike the former one, this Daijo-ji Temple looked very new and was quite big. I often come to Hoshigaoka area, but I didn’t know there is such a gorgeous temple nearby until the walking tour. The temple was built there about 60 years ago. Mr. Kobayashi said, “They were able to build such a big temple in this place because the cost of the land around here was very cheap at that time. I also might have bought a bit of land around here if I had known the subway station and the bus terminal and Mitsukoshi, the department store, were built…”TS3N1607

     We went through the alley behind the station and came to a small shrine. It is Kobo-do. We saw two other similar ones in Kakuozan and Motoyama at the first class walk. You see two modern buildings behind the small shrine on the photo. One of the buildings is a part of Shukutoku University. I come to the university to take Tai Chi class on Tuesdays, but I had never noticed the shrine. TS3N1613

     As I mentioned on my former article (http://wp.me/p16bjt-j1), Kobo-do is related to water. According to our teacher Mr. Kobayashi, there used to be a spring around there, and a villager had a business with the pure water in old days. It was nagashi somen: people catch and eat noodles with their chopsticks as the noodles run down stream water. TS3N1619

     Suddenly a small park appeared before us while walking along the main street after leaving the shrine and the university. Actually this place used to be a part of the main road. It’s become a kind of rest place to prevent it be used a parking lot by drivers and to make the road straight. TS3N1614

     After leaving the small park, we crossed the road and entered the alley. Actually the alley used to be the main street in the old era. The people of the past walked through this road to bring their renders to the castle town, the center of old Nagoya, and to come back to their village. Today the area looks very modern and tall apartment or business buildings are standing along the alley. But the place used to be hills and mountains and had a narrow unpaved path and rice fields.TS3N1615

     I was able to learn many things about my area I hadn’t known through this course of Nagoya Study this time. It’s become an eye-opener for me. There are many things remaining I don’t know in the field. After the disaster last year, many people have become interested in the history of their places and whose old names. Many of the devastated places have names which tell historical disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami, or tell what used to be those places in the old days. It’s a good thing to study about your place not only for fulfilling your intellectual curiosity but also for disaster prevention.

     The class finished at Issha Station, but the place should be called Ichiyashiro, not Issha. Actually Ichiyashiro is its real name. But nowadays most people don’t know about it…なごや学2 en