Posts Tagged ‘museum’

Educational History

2011年 9月 1日

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.


Poetic Circle of Friends

2010年 1月 6日

Some time opened up a couple weeks ago and I rang the parents-in-law hoping to spend some time with them. As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for. They were finishing up window cleaning and floor waxing and planned to head to Iga for a visit to the Matsuo Basho (松尾芭蕉) museum. We spent the entire afternoon and evening together. It was exhausting but enjoyable and educational.

For those who are unaware, Basho is the king of haiku (俳句). For those who don’t know, haiku is a form of Japanese poetry. To shorten the explanation for today’s post I’ll approximate by saying they consist of three lines containing 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. Creating a poem in this short form requires concise use of words and extensive vocabulary.

Some of the most interesting items in the museum were books in which Basho and other members of his circle of friends would take turns writing haiku. They would scratch down something interesting and pass the book on to another member. Since all the members were highly-skilled, I imagine there was a lot of motivation to excel. They liked to travel around, which would seem to be reflected in the free order of turn-taking.

I want to write more about our wonderful trip, but it can wait for a few days.