For an old building lover like me, there’s few places in Japan like the Meijimura in Aichi prefecture right in the centre of Japan, a park where buildings come to retire. Actually it is an outdoor architectural museum where buildings torn down in different areas around the country is rescued and reassembled. Most of the buildings in the park are from the Meiji era of Japanese history, 1868-1912. This building is a beautiful old school building, although not all of it remains today there’s enough to try and imagine what it must have been like for the local children who first moved into this school house. It’s full name is “Mie Prefectural Normal School and Kuramochi Primary School”, and it was originally erected in 1888 in the city of Tsu, and later moved to Nabari in Mie prefecture and finally to this park in 1973. It’s a beautiful combination of the mid-Meiji era western and traditional Japanese building styles. I wish my school had been as beautiful as this! Not much of the interior remains but one of the class rooms were partly recreated and even though it’s more than a hundred years earlier, it actually looks pretty similar to the elementary school I went to. If you are ever in Aichi prefecture with a day or two to spare, Meijimura is a great place to visit! More photos to come!
Here’s an idea for the entrepreneurs among you! In the late 80′s a newspaper company started up a small chain of cooking schools called “ABC Cooking Studio”. It is basically a a place where you take short classes in cooking in small groups of students. The school doesn’t train you to be professional, just to enable you to learn new dishes or kitchen skills in a comfortable, fashionable, clean and well lit environment. Three quarters of the students are females between 20-34 and most schools are for female only but a +m sign after the name shows that this school is also open for couples and men. In Tokyo millions of young men and women from all over the country come to find jobs and start their careers and with the famously long hours of Japanese corporations and the fact that there are few large, airy and well lit kitchens in affordable apartments in Tokyo mean that people can have a chance to enjoy cooking for the first time since they left home. Personally I think it is a great idea and many department stores and shopping malls have these cooking studios here in Tokyo. In Tokyo jobs are easy to find but time and space is at a premium, which opens the market for clever companies like this. The one studio I snapped a picture of is in Nihonbashi’s Coredo building.
Some more photos from the art community center I blogged about yesterday. I know it’s nothing new but I really love the woodwork used in the tables of the resident restaurant, recycled wood glued and polished to make a gorgeous wood table. Lovely. The old school grounds have also been turned into a local mini park, also used in the many various art projects. But apart from human art, what do you think of that magnificent tree? It must have been planted just after the war and now it’s taller than the school building itself. I wonder what species it is? As you can see from the interiors, it still looks and feels like the Junior High it used to be, complete with the original shoe boxes. These little boxes by the various entrances are used for students to keep their outdoor shoes. While in school most students wear special indoor shoes, like the one from the elementary school in Miyagi I blogged about earlier this year (second to last photo of this series). One thing I like about Japan is how extremely serious they are about separating outdoors and indoors!
This is going to be a massive post. It’s just too painful too keep coming back to this place, even if it is only photos. I’m glad I saw what I did, but it will be awhile until I can return to my normal self again. This is the school as I saw it, abandoned and untouched, frozen in time after the last fires were put out and the evacuation completed. I took these on April 2, quite some time after the disaster, but not long after the area was declared safe by the search and rescue teams.
The people who took me there told me that the school will never be used again, even though the building is structurally intact. On April 10th, some teachers organized a return to the school to retrieve personal belongings and to salvage what they could. At least the kids seemed to enjoy that. Worst hit were the ground floor offices and the top floor where the sixth graders had their homerooms. For some reason, the principal had locked all the grades and graduation documents in a safe prior to the disaster and some people told me that it survived the tsunami and the fire.
I made a Picasa gallery of all these photos, and some others. Most of them have GPS information so you can follow the route I took from Tokyo to the school. Of course there were plenty of stops and things I didn’t take photos of. These photo are completely unedited and at full size. If you want to use any of them for publication let me know first thanks.
If you want to see what the area used to look like before the disaster, please have a look using Google Street View, searching for the address 宮城県石巻市門脇町２丁目 and then clicking “maps”, and finally “street view”. I started too but it’s just painful to see the difference between then and now. Here is what the school used to look like, at the main gate.
This is the first of the photos showing the inside of the school, this is the main entrance where students and visitors would remove their outside shoes and change into the indoor shoes or slippers. The mud is mixed with ash from the fire.
First corridor, looking east. You can see the decoration put up by students and teachers to celebrate the graduation.
A blackboard outside the teacher’s office with diplomas and certificates, photos proudly displayed. Some fire damage.
An administrative office, much like thousands of other Japanese elementary schools.
A fire damaged space for washing up in the ground floor corridor.
Outside of the school, just next is the garbled remains of a buddhist cemetary.
The entrance to the school gymnasium. Largely intact but water damaged. Someone has tried to save the big taiko drum from the mud and water.
Inside the gymnasium. Mud everywhere, but building is intact and mostly undamaged. This is because it was situated on higher ground and shielded from the burning cars by the cemetery.
The stage. Classes had just ended and sixth graders together with teachers were just getting ready to prepare the gymnasium for next week’s graduation ceremony.
Time has stopped. The earthquake struck on 14:46, at about 14:49 power supply was interrupted and the clock is not moving any more.
The handwritten sign is by the 5th graders and read “6th graders, thank you for all the memories”.
Back in the main school building. This is the nurses office and the counsellor’s room. First aid kits, physical equipment lays scattered.
A classroom on the ground floor. The tsunami washed away all that was written on the black board.
A writing practice book belonging to little Sakurai. I hope he is ok.
The children had just finished math class and were probably getting ready to leave when the earthquake struck. The teacher had collected a pile homework to check. The text on the blackboard tells us the date, March 11th, and that Hayate and Yuu were on homeroom duty. One boy and one girl to help out with small tasks in the class room, this rotates every week or in some schools every day.
View from third floor, swimming pool and school yard.
Indoor shoe covered in mud and sand.
This student had better hand writing than most English native speakers and better than mine, certainly.