Thursday, October 24, 2013

Road Trip to Hanamaki - Inside Kenji's old house

Our neighbor Ms. Hori is really quite something. I told her that we were going to Hanamaki to visit the Kenji Miyazawa Memorial Museum and see the Kenji Festival that is held September 21 each year, but we didn't know anyone there. So she rang up one of her friends to see if she could get us some kind of introduction.
There used to be a restaurant where I live in Ena called Yamaneko-ken, or The Wildcat Restaurant, taken from Kenji's The Restaurant of Many Orders. Ms. Hori's friend was the owner of that restaurant and they had actually been to Hanamaki to ask permission to use the name from the originalYamaneko-ken restaurant in Hanamaki - located right next to the museum.
So she introduces us to her friend Mr. Ono at the Yamaneko-ken restaurant in Hanamaki and then when we arrive in Hanamaki he very kindly introduces us to Mr. Oda who is a director at the museum and he gives us a personal guided tour of the museum.
I tell ya, that Ms. Hori is really something.

I found all of the people in Hanamaki to be extremely welcoming and always ready to help you out with any questions or just happy to have a chat. I only stayed there 3 nights but I felt like I could have stayed there for a couple of months. We stayed at a placed called Kenji no Yado which is a bit of a cross between a hostel and a hotel, with shared toilets and facilities. It's simple, but it's more than enough and the staff there are super nice. The bath there is a wooden hinoki bath which has a wonderful feel and smell to it when it is full of steaming hot water. If you are like me, as soon as you try a hinoki bath, you'll find yourself thinking about trying to put one in your own bathroom. There is no room for one now, but I am thinking I could put one outside under the bamboo forest...(just dreaming).

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Kenji's old house that he lived in when he started the Rasu-chijin-kai, after he quit teaching at the school. The house was originally built by his grandfather. The idea of him living here was to help the farmers make their farms more productive and to make farming more interesting by introducing the farmers to all kinds of music and plays. Kenji was a man with a lot of great ideas, but unfortunately he wasn't great at bringing them to fruition. One reason was because his mind's engine was running at a speed others couldn't keep up with.

Another reason was because his body gave out on him.So after less than a year, he went down with pneumonia and was forced to give up the house and move back in with his parents.
But the house has been beautifully restored and now sits on the grounds of a high school. There is no gatekeeper here so anyone can just wonder in and have a look around as they please. It is actually a little hard to get to, but that is good because that means there is hardly anyone there and it is nice and quiet. It certainly is a beautiful house, but with all the snow that Hanamaki gets during winter, it would be a bit chilly living here.

And this photo on the left is the famous blackboard that says "下ノ畑ニ居リマス" (I'm down in the bottom field) so that anyone who came to visit him would know where to find him. The chalk looks fresh so I guess that someone rewrites it everyday, which seems a nice thing to do. Why has it become so famous? I think perhaps because it is a symbol of Kenji as a learned and cultural man making farming his priority ahead of everything else. And it would be the dream of a lot of people to just hang a sign like this by their front door, forget about everything else, and just go and tend to some veggies. I bought a sign of my own!

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