May 1, 2005 pt2 – Egawa-tei

izu-egawafront

After an interesting morning featuring a music battle between the Japanese Communist Party and the Uyoku, the Penpal and her parents took me to lunch at Uobun, the 100 year old tempura restaurant in Numazu. I had been to the restaurant once before, when my family had come to visit me last summer. Just like last year, the food was fantastic.

When we finished our lunch, we went for a drive to the town formerly known as Nirayama in Izu Peninsula. Like small towns in Canada, the small towns in Izu are amalgamating to form large, sprawling towns with one city government. Last month, Nirayama officially joined Izunagaoka and Ohito to become the new Izunokuni City.

The area of Izunokuni was important historically. It was the site of a Tojo clan castle in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, and home to a daikansho (magistrate office) during the Edo period. We went to a historical site called Egawa-tei, the home and headquarters of the daikan Hidetatsu Egawa. During the period, the daikan was roughly the equivalent of a police officer, governor, and tax collector for a region on behalf of the imperial government.

We took a guided tour, but since Egawa-tei is not a common tourist spot for foreigners, the tour guide only spoke Japanese. I took a Japanese history class in University, so I had a reasonably good idea of what the guide was talking about, and The Penpal translated the parts I couldn’t understand. Having a personal translator is great for me, and really good English practice for her.

In addition to being an important government official, Egawa was also known for communicating with Dutch Traders during the Edo period. For about 200 years, Japan closed its borders to outsiders except for the Dutch. Egawa’s main imports were techniques for making bread and cannons. Bread was a game changer for armies, as it provided a stable and portable staple food as opposed to rice. Dutch cannon technology was used to build coastal defenses to help keep Japan safe from the non-Dutch.

A famous blast furnace used to make cannons for coastal defence

A famous blast furnace used to make cannons for coastal defence

Thanks to my interest in Japanese history, this turned out to be a very interesting place to visit. It’s also a place I never would have found without The Penpal and her parents. If you really want to experience Japan, I strongly recommend making connections with Japanese people. It will give you an entirely different experience.

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