Yesterday we had a change in plans. Monday we drove up the Central Expressway to Niigata and were aiming to return by the Hokuriku Expressway for a change of scenery and, presumably, less traffic. As we passed through Matsumoto on our way north, my father-in-law started going on about Kaichi Elementary school and its history. When we stopped in a rest area for bathroom break and stretching our legs, he tracked down a book about Matsumoto and bought it. By the next day, he had thoroughly studied the book and decided we must see it.
You may wonder what would draw him to see the school, so perhaps a little school history and personal history are in order. My father-in-law became a principal in the later part of his career: at age 50 he was the youngest to achieve such position in our prefecture. Although he, like me, bemoans a number of frustrating points in the education system (and likely retired early because of them); he still feels an unbreakable bond to the education system.
In 1872, during the Meiji Restoration, there were major education reforms taking place and the lord of Matsumoto Castle felt the importance of good education. With that motivation he opened the Kaichi school in 1873 and it is still continuing its history today, making it the oldest existing school in Japan. Of course it has been housed in different buildings and has been physically relocated; however, it continued from its original charter. The building we went to see is apparently the front portion of the second school building (c. 1876) and is used as a museum and historic site today.
One point about this school and other historical schools I have visited which bothers me is the student artwork displays. There are 140 years of school history to choose from; however, the large display of student artwork is from 1942 and, let us say, it is fairly hateful overall. When I was in Iga-Ueno I had the same experience. Why there is a conscious decision to focus on this element is beyond me. It is definitely not the focus of persons in general society, so the focus is coming from education historians or someone related to these projects. On the other hand, furniture, textbooks, and other historic materials are displayed from various periods.
Since we were in the area, we also stopped by Matsumoto Castle.