2018.11.02 Honmura's townscape and residential area visit
Exploring Setouchi #21
The Honmura District is located approximately 30 minutes' walk, or approximately 5 minutes by town bus from Miyanoura Port, the gateway to Naoshima. The district features the remains of the castle (Takahara Castle Ruins) of Takahara Tsugutoshi who was a feudal lord from the Sengoku Period to the early Edo Period. The district was once a prosperous area for cargo shipping and fishery industries, and a number of over 100 year old historical homes with traditional kawara tile and mortar roofs and black plank fences still remain in the area.
Naoshima is a very prosperous site of yellowtail breeding. Numerous fishing vessels are moored at Honmura Port. The almost maze-like townscape also features Benesse Art Site Naoshima Art House Project works scattered about. Take a stroll and look at things a little differently and you may make some new discoveries.
Looking at the houses, one notices that near the nameplates are other plates which look like house nameplates and are written in Hiragana characters. Looking at the words carved into the matching 3D metallic design plates one will see "Manne", "Seigo", "Ichindon" and more. For example, on the front of the Takahashi family's home is a plate which reads "Hashimotoya", which doesn't seem to be directly related to the family's name in anyway.
These plates are called "Yago" and are like a sort of nickname given the old houses in Naoshima. These are echoes of the past which one can still hear in the daily conversations of Naoshima's residents. At present 51 of these metal yago plates are in place on homes, and one can also see the yago of the homes which do not have plates but do have yago on the "yago map" located at the Naoshima Town Hall.
For example, "Sakaiya" is a house which was once a ship wholesaler, and it is said to be so named because the household once donated grains to the Matsumae Domain during the Tenpo famine and was given a letter of thanks from the domain lord.
The Takahashi family home is called "Hashimotoya" because there is a stone bridge near the house, and so this name means the "hashi no tamoto ni aru ie", or "house" ("ie/ya") at the "foot" ("moto") of the "bridge" ("hashi").
The owner of the 120 year old home is the Naoshima born and raised Hajime Tateishi. Mr. Tateishi is a very reliable and helpful individual who is friendly with the artists who visit in order to create works for the Setouchi Triennale and also provides guidance to those who come to enjoy the artworks. He also knows of the most beautiful sunset viewing spots, and so is called "Yuhi no occhan" (uncle sunset). The back of the blue jacket he worse this day had the signatures of artists who created works in Naoshima all over.
Mr. Tateishi suggested we "go see a garden with a beautiful pine tree", and led us to a Japanese style house with a black plank fence gate and yellow bricks. The house did not have a yago plate, but this is the home of Mr. Ishikawa and has the yago "Zaimokuya". As the name, Zaimokuya, meaning "lumber house", implies, his ancestors were apparently master carpenters. The house was built by his grandfather 120 years ago and then added onto by his father, and at present Mr. Ishikawa repairs the walls and keeps the garden while living here.
"If the noren curtain is up, then I am usually home, so stop by and say hello. I'll show you around the garden", says Mr. Ishikawa.
Ducking under the noren curtain and entering the garden, the first thing that grabs ones eye is a massive black pine, trimmed like an umbrella. The tree was apparently there since before the current house was built, and is approximately 150 years, and Mr. Ishikawa has tended the tree for approximately 40 years, since he was a company employee, and it still remains beautiful today. Visitors from overseas who have visited his garden have lovingly referred to the tree as a "big bonsai", and Mr. Ishikawa explains that the black pine that is his pride and joy keeps him busy every day, especially from autumn to winter when it requires the most care.
You too can see the yago, the noren curtain, and the garden while you tour around enjoying the artworks.
Tour around the outside of homes in between viewing works of art. Touring around the homes is sure to teach you even more about Naoshima's culture.
*While enjoying walking through the town, please be sure to obey all traffic rules and manners, and not to do anything that might disturb the residents.