Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XXV

Newly discovered group of historical materials

Published on 31 May 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Mr.Ebina

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 125

Newly discovered group of historical materials talk to us from the ruins of the disaster

The inspection of the extent of damage in Kurihara City and Osaki City

This is Mr.Ebina, secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

2 months passed after the quake, and the rainy season is getting close. The secretariat office is receiving requests for rescuing historical materials almost every day, and we are also busy all over Miyagi Prefecture day after day. At the same time, we are getting kind support and cooperation like contributions and voluntary work at our activities from many people. Taking this opportunity, we would like to express our gratitude to you.

The Archives concerned with Boshin War.jpg
The Archives concerned with Boshin War

On May 11th, we visited Kurihara City and Osaki City to investigate the extent of damage . Northern Miyagi Prefecture where both cities are located is an area which recorded the most intense quake. Accoding to the story which we heard from each place, they were damaged by not only the main shock on March 11th, but also the Mg.7.4 aftershock on April 7th.

First of all we visited the O family in Kurihara City, and we found that their main house was seriously damaged by the quake. By the post-earthquake quick inspection of damaged buildings, their house is judged as ‘Dangerous’, its substructure was slanted due to subsidence, and the mud walls inside of the house had fallen down.

In such a situation, we confirmed that there were old historical documents under the surface paintings of Fusuma(*1) as the undercoated paper, and the documents concerned with procuring war expenditure during the Boshin War(*2 戊辰戦争). In the back of the main house, there was a shrine for the family and separated from worship at Komagatane Shrine(駒形根神社), and a whitewashed warehouse. Especially, this warehouse was a very decorated structure having an excellent relief made from the white plasters (it is called Kotee 鏝絵 in Japanese), however the side walls had entirely fallen down.

In this warehouse were preserved the old documents concerning an association(講) which was held by the family from the Meiji (*3) to the Showa Period (*4), and books bound in the Japanese style.

Archives discovered from the tear.jpg
Archives discovered from the tear

Following this, we visited the M family’s house. Throughout the whitewashed warehouse, the mud walls had fallen down and the collections were scattered about the first floor which was used as a storage of archives, but we could find the account books and historical documents concerned with the management of the family business from the Taisho (*5) to Showa Periods.

Because of extremely huge amount of archives, we could just confirm their present condition though, we anticipated that this family’s management history would be understood by analysing these archives.

Finally, we visited the S family in the Furukawa district, Osaki City. According to the master of the house, his family is a collateral family since the modern times, so they might not have any historical documents. However as we investigated the extent of damage in his house, we could find the early modern time’s documents used as the undercoated papers of the Fusuma which were preserved in the whitewashed warehouse.

He explained to us that these Fusuma were inherited from the head family. The historical material was transferred as a form of Fusuma, not as a document. This fact amazed us more than a little.

It goes without saying that the East Japan Earthquake destroyed the communities. On the other hand, as we had already experienced that the historical materials were discovered from the tear in the Fusuma broken by the quake, the buds for the community’s reconstruction were hidden in such ruins. At present, in the community where the retrieval continued, activity had come to the end of the first stage, the historical structures which were damaged by the quake are rapidly demolished and removed.

Since this is one stage in the progress of the reconstruction, it is difficult to prevent. What we can do is to try to rescue as many historical materials as possible, and also we believe that our activity will support the community’s resuscitation in the future.

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

*1 Fusuma(襖): sliding door made from paper and wood, used to partition off rooms in a Japanese house. Sometimes they have beautiful traditional pictures, or old historical documents on the underside to strengthen against being torn apart.

*2 Boshin War(戊辰戦争): occurred from 1868-1869. the war being a fight between a mixed group of mainly Satsuma(薩摩) and Choshu(長州) against the Tokugawa Shogunate soon after when the last Tokugawa Shogun regime returned to the Emperor. By this war, the ally group for the Tokugawa Shogun was completely defeated.

*3 Meiji Period: A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1868 to 1912.

*4 Showa Period: A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1926 to 1989.

*5 Taisho Period: A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1912 to 1926.

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