Posts Tagged ‘Nagano’

Black Crow Castle

2011年 9月 5日

Every time I think my schedule is tidied enough to allow multiple weekly posts, life swells up to squeeze that space; however, not to be deterred, I am looking forward to gaining ten to twenty hours of free time per week via our upcoming move. For now, rather than apologize for the dearth of trip photos, I will post one gem – if I may arrogantly label it thus – from our return trip, with promises of more.

Black Crow Castle 1
We stopped at Matsumoto on our way home from Niigata. Japan has a fascination with lists of threes: 3 must see tourist spots, 3 must see power spots, … Castles are not to be forgotten here, with: Himeji, Matsumoto, and Hikone (if memory serves) making the grade. Matsumoto castle, also called Black Crow Castle, was built in the 16th century and still stands today. Many points, including its master, make it interesting. Two towers in the main structure – visible in this photo – are one unique point. There is also a moon-viewing platform, which I will reveal in later uploads.

Another unique design feature is making the internal stairways extremely steep and making each step high, some as high as 50cm. Navigating your way inside is quite a chore. Samurai living inside such a building would be very adjusted to the stairs, but any invader unfortunate to survive all the way to the keep would be met with an unexpected challenge.

In the previous post, my final sentence was a bit of irony. Most people heading for Matsumoto have this historic structure on the top of their list but, for my career educator/administrator father-in-law, the historic school was his main focus. Black Crow castle was just bait to draw us into accepting his plan.

Confession time: another reason exists for not uploading photos right away. Submissions to contests are generally kept off the internet, at least until after the contest is completed. People are still waiting for me to upload a couple honorable mention winners.

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.