Japan Museums: Kikuya Residence, Hagi
Kikuya Residence 菊屋家住宅
The Kikuya Residence in the old the castle town of Hagi was built in the first decade of the 17th century and is among the oldest surviving examples of merchant architecture of the Edo Period as well as being one of the best preserved, so its not surprising that five of the buildings are registered as Important Cultural Properties.
The Kikuya family were a very wealthy family of merchants that ran the town on behalf of the ruling Mori lords, in very much the role of what would now be called mayor. In feudal Japan's four tier class system, merchants were at the bottom, but the Kikuyas were not always merchants, originally they were samurai, the highest class, with the family name of Tsumori, and they were vassals of the Ouchi Clan who ruled Yamaguchi.
Following the downfall of the Ouchi they chose to become merchants and became strong supporters of the new ruling clan, the Mori. Following their defeat at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, the Mori were stripped of all of their territories except what is now Yamaguchi, and when they moved to Hagi to construct their new base the Kikuyas came with them.
The entrance gate to Kikuya Residence, Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture
The garden seen from a tatami room at Kikuya Residence, Hagi
The Kikuyas were given the piece of land where their residence is now located and set about constructing homes for lower and middle ranking samurai in the area between their residence and the beach and port to the north.
The new districtbecame so associated with the Kikuyas that the beach, Kikugahama, was named after them. The Kikuyas established themselves as the leading family of Hagi, becoming purveyors to the Mori. Their residence was also used as the town office by the Mori and official visitors from the Shogun were put up there.
The four tier class system of Tokugawa Japan is often characterized as being extremely rigid, so it may seem strange that someone would choose to be "downwardly mobile", but in many ways the class system was based upon appearances, and some of this can be seen in the house.
On display are boards made of cedar that were used to cover the veranda made of keyaki wood. Keyaki was forbidden to members of the lower classes, so the veranda was covered with cheap cedar and only removed when higher-ranking visitors came. The residence also has several types of gates that were forbidden to members of the merchant class but were used by shogunal visitors and representatives of the Mori.
All the structures of the residential complex are open to visitors and the rooms are packed with items of historical value from the families personal collection of household items including screens, paintings, dolls, and weapons, as well as some more recent objects like the first telephone in Hagi and items used during the visit of Prince Arisugawa in 1890.
The kitchen and utility areas are also quite interesting, filled with more mundane objects of daily use. The large garden is viewable from several of the rooms.
Exhibits at Kikuya Residence, Hagi, in south western Japan
Tel: 0838 25 8282
Admission: 500 yen
Google map of Kikuya Residence
Storeroom at Kikuya Residence showing the room much as it must have looked in the Edo Period (1603-1867)