Jun 27, 2011

Visiting Buaiso, the Former House of Shirasu's

On one Saturday in June, I visited Buaiso (武相荘), the former house of Mr. and Mrs. Shirasu. Mr. Jiro Shirasu was a prominent personality who played an important role in the Japan's negotiation with the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers over various post-war processes, in the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, and in other critical tasks that had a great impact on Japan after the war. Mrs. Masako Shirasu was an essayist and loved antiques. The house stands at a distance of an about 10-minute walk from Odakyu Tsurukawa Station.

After paying for my admission and entering the premises, I found a building that looked like a stable or garage. There was a black-bodied vintage car, Paige Fleetwood Six-38, in the stable. The car is a collection of Wakui Museum, a classic car museum in Kazo City, Saitama Prefecture, and had been brought to this place for exhibition.

I hear that Jiro was given a car of the same model of this exhibited car by his father and was driving it around when he was still a junior high school student. Equipped with the wooden steering wheel, rear seat with an enough clearance for the passengers' knees, black-leathered interior, and other beautiful parts, there were stateliness and an inspiring aura about this car.

After seeing the car, I went through the front gate of this house, and found a big persimmon tree behind the gate. This tree was said to be as old as about 200 years. The main house was seen beyond the gate. This thatch-roofed house has the structure that was quite common to general farmhouses in old days. The roof appeared to have been thatched recently, because the edges of the eaves looked so sharp against a background of the cloudy June sky that I could discern the clear shear cut of each stem of pampas grass used for thatching.

On the east end of the roof ridge, inscribed was the kanji character "寿," which means to celebrate auspiciousness. Incidentally, on the west end, they inscribed the character "水" (water), a charm against fire disaster, at which I missed having a look.


The main house was open to public and you can enter the inside to see the interior and exhibited items, but unfortunately taking pictures is forbidden inside. I went into the house from the entrance on the right of the south-facing building, and I was in the guest room, which had formerly been a space called doma (earthen floor). Mr. and Mrs. Shirashu laid a floor and converted this space into a Western-style room. When you face west from the doma, there were a room with an irori hearth on your left and another room on your right. And, there are two other rooms beyond these rooms. This is a typical floor plan of a farmhouse in old days.

One of the basic characteristics of old-days Japanese houses is that rooms are not connected by corridors but they are partitioned by thin sliding doors made of wood and paper. And, I could see how Mr. and Mrs. Shirasu had been adding their taste to the house based on this simple structure of the building so that they could make the house convenient and enjoy living. I think that it is enjoyable that I can adjust my living environment flexibly by reforming the interior or newly adding new items to the house according to my needs that change as I live there, instead of designing my house plan fixedly and defining specific use for each room from the beginning. Also, I will become more attached to my living environment if I have such a way of living.

In the front garden, several types of flowers such as gillyflowers are in bloom. The gray, cloudy sky finally began to shed its tears. The rain, which didn't seem to stop so soon, was wetting flowers and grasses, and the comfortably moist space extended to the bamboo grove behind. Hearing raindrops on persimmon leaves and looking up, I saw leaves and young persimmon fruits, which appeared freshly glistening with rain. Visiting Buaiso was a pleasant experience even in a rainy, damp season.

Today's Sake
Yamahai Junmai Katanozakura Muroka Nama Genshu (Yamano Shuzo)
I recently found this sake at an izakaya in Tachkawa I frequent. The sake has a meaningful taste with moderate acidity. This is definitely one of my favorites.

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