Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XVIIIa

Preservation of historical materials in Kadowaki district, Ishinomaki City

Published on 9 May 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Yoshiyuki Saito

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 118 Part 1

About the whitewashed warehouse owned by the Honma Family in the Kadowaki district, Ishinomaki City

Before we go any further, for a long time, although we had introduced about the Honma Family as ‘H’ family in this Network News, it was accepted by the master of the house that we could reveal their real name.

A whitewashed warehouse which was left in Kadowaki district, Ishinomaki City. On the first floor of the warehouse which stood against the Tsunami and survived as if it had been buried itself in the debris, a lot of historical materials remained without a scratch.

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We consider whether we can preserve this warehouse which had been miraculously saved from the great disaster so as to convey the memory of the unprecedented earthquake to future generations, and so we have started the preservation activities. For this reason, we look back on the historical sequences and the process of rescue operation about the warehouse again, and think of the meaning of its existence.

About the Honma family before the quake

The Honma family were notables who were descended from the Takeyama family who flourished as the greatest shipowners and wholesalers in Ishinomaki. Although the Takeyama family had withdrawn from the wholesale business after the Meiji Period, they had started to manage money and banking on a large-scale, simultaneously had given themselves to develop the community and concern themselves with establishing the Sanriku Company, the Rice Business Company and the Ishinomaki Merchant Academy and so on. At the same time, the successive masters of the family had held public office such as the assembly members of the town or city, and the mayor.

Around 1885, the Honma family purchased Katsumata family’s ground and the facilities of the breweries for soy sauce and soybean paste, and launched the brewing industry. As it had smoothly developed, they constructed the new brewing factory in Atomachi around 1897. This ground has become the present residence of this family. We can see their prosperous condition on a painting which was drawn in the early Showa Period.

However, the Takeyama family name died out with the death of the master in 1926, so the Honma family which the Takeyama family’s fourth daughter had married into became the heir of the Takeyamas, and inherited their residence and factory. Afterwards, although the Honma family managed the company for a while, they closed the business in 1970. After going out of business, the house ground and main structures were left as they were and became their residence, however, all of the structures were entirely washed away by the the Tsunami except for the whitewashed warehouse.


In addition, although the big warehouse which we can see along the mountain in the painting had been used by the brewer, the warehouse was used as the repository for the miniature model of the ship ‘Wakamiyamaru’ which was constructed by mainly the ‘Ishinomaki Sengokubune association’.

Miniatua ship 'Wakamatsumaru'.jpg
Miniatua ship 'Wakamatsumaru'

I, Mr.Yoshiyuki Saito had a connection with this family since the summer of 1997, and interpreted the old Takeyama family’s archives which were concerned with the wholesale business in the Edo period, and published as “The archives of the Takeyama Rokuemon family, in Kadowaki, Ishinomaki City” in 2006.

The earthquake on March 11th and the Honma family

As a result of the great earthquake and the Tsunami, Kadowaki district had been reduced to a field of debris as far as we could see. At first, we could obtain nothing except about the scenery itself which was repeatedly broadcast on TV. Afterwards, the secretariat office tried to grasp the extent of damage to the coastline area by analysing the satellite photographs taken after the quake. By observing the photos, the area over the Kadowaki district which the Honma family had lived had completely collapsed and we couldn’t get any information whether the family was safe or not.

Around March 20th, we could at last contact the master of the house by mobile phone, and could confirm the family’s safety. According to him, when the quake occurred, they had evacuated to Mt. Hiyoriyama at the back of their house, and after that they took shelter in the shed in the tennis court near the mountain. He said all of the house and whitewashed warehouses had been washed away, and alot of archives had also been lost. A few days later, when we phoned him again, he gave us good news that a warehouse which stored old archives safely appeared from the heap of debris, and although the ground floor had been submerged up to the ceiling, the first floor was safe and all the archives were saved from the Tsunami. At that time we of course recognised the necessity of preserving those materials, however we couldn’t start the rescue operation because it was hard to get enough petrol in Sendai.

The inspection of the state of damage and preservation operations at the beginning of April

At the end of March, we could at last get enough petrol in Sendai, so Prof.Hirakawa and 4 members of the secretariat office visited the field and grasped the serious condition of the Kadowaki district involving the Honma family’s residence on 4th April (please see ‘Miyagi Network News’ vol.100). Following this inspection, 11 members of Miyagi Network carried out the rescue operation of the Honma family’s archives on 7th April (please see vol.103). In addition, our activity was reported in the newspaper of Kawakita Shinpo (on 18th April).
Like that, although the Honma family’s archives could be preserved for the time being, as for the whitewashed warehouse, the master of the family said that there was no way but to scrap it because the structure might face the risk of collapsing.

However, in such a devastated area, the scenery of this whitewashed warehouse standing alone in the debris was too symbolic. The warehouse which was miraculously saved from the disaster and was simultaneously the very precious witness of the community’s history for 120 years should be passed down for generations by any means so as to convey the memory of this earthquake. Prof. Hirakawa suggested so, and then we discussed it. Moreover, because we got information that there were some structures the same as this warehouse, we began to consider that those buildings would require the specific judgement by experts, so Prof. Hirakawa required Mr. Toshihiro Sato who lived in Fukushima City and was a qualified architect of the first class to be an adviser who would counsel any investigations into the damage of those structures and how to repair them. After that, Mr. Sato ended up cooperating with us for all of our activities. (to be continued)

By Yoshiyuki Saito, the vice chairperson of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials

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

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