The Japanese folk house museum was a unique experience in understanding core aspects of Japanese culture. For some of us, relating the importance of the folk house was brought into perspective when we talked with our tour guide (Mr.Ichikawa). He told us about his time in the United States when he experienced an identity crisis. The importance of the folk houses to Mr.Ichikawa was that it preserved his cultural history and along with it apart of his identity as a Japanese. Mr. Ichikawa’s insight to the importance of historical preservation helped to broaden our understanding of not only Japanese historical preservation but also the importance of history to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves. As we look forward, we can use the many lessons we gained from this experience to gain insight into who we are and where we want to go in our lives.
Charles Kim in a traditional Japanese folk house.
From the very steps into the folk houses, I’ve come to touch a part of history still standing in this period of time. I’ve learned so much from these houses. From our tour guide, I learn the how the folk houses were made cater for those who lived in the Edo period. The way the people lived during that time was very harsh. Knowing that people had to find way to cope with nature. One of the many ways they found to innovate, involves the very foundations of the house. These houses were built to withstand earthquakes, something that is standard in many of Japan’s buildings today. Another of nature’s hardships follows the cold winter seasons. To keep livestock such as horses, buildings would be equipped with rooms where the ground floor is dug a few feet deeper so when hay is thrown in the ditch to cover the animal’s droppings, the new hay over the old hay will fill up and produce heat that warms the room. These were just some of the many things we learned on our trip to the Japanese folk houses.
Serene beauty: The mutual understanding between man and nature
The Nihon Minka-en contains a collection of traditional Minkas, or farm houses from back then. It is designated as an important cultural site in Japan, which means that area contains some of Japan’s very identity, something that should never be forgotten. Like many places around the world, everyone struggles to maintain their past identity so that it would not be lost from time. Here in Hawai’i, there are various cultural sites similar to the Nihon Minka-en, such as sites containing Heiau’s, or Hawaiian temples. Although time has degraded much of the heiaus here in Hawai’i, various conservation groups make it their goal to make sure nothing else from those sites disappear, so that the past will always be with us. What surprised me a lot about the Nihon Minka-en site is that they maintained their folk houses so well, sometimes using traditional methods of maintaining the building such as using smoke in the house. By remembering how our homes were created or what they looked like before, we can really see how much we have improved over the years, and appreciate our willingness to survive the elements.
The folk houses are snapshots of the past, where one can observe how life was back then, and how much it changed throughout the centuries.
Written by: Brent Duarte, Alvin Phouksouvath. Charles Kim
Date: April 16, 2017
University of Hawaii at Manoa – Tomodachi Inouye Scholarship