By Rod Walters
The heart of the ‘city’ known as Seiyo is the little town of Uwa, and in the middle of Uwa is an area called Unomachi. This is a single street of old buildings dating from the Edo Period and later. In this area there are four separate museums, all of which are worth a visit. Here we’ll have a look at the Kaimei School (開明学校 Kaimei Gakko in Japanese).
This is located up a little stone-paved lane that leads to Kokyo-ji Temple. Opposite the Kaimei School is the Museum of Folk Tools, one of the other museums of interest. This little area offers an interesting spectacle of roofs in various styles at all sorts of levels, with the hills that enclose Uwa in the near distance.
The Kaimei School is one of the oldest primary school buildings in western Japan. It was built in 1882 in Japan’s Meiji Period. As befits this period when Japan was busy copying Western style, the little school has ‘European’ arch windows, although the porch is unmistakably Japanese. The building to the right of the entrance is the Shingi-do, a private school and the forerunner to the Kaimei School. Ehime has traditionally been a prefecture which has placed a strong emphasis on education, and the Kaimei School was built using donations received from the wealthier citizens of Uwa.
There’s not much to see in the Shingi-do, but the main, two-story school building is now a museum with displays of textbooks, photos of pupils, school uniforms and educational materials from the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods. One room of the school is given over to a simulation of how a classroom looked, complete with educational posters and a student with a metal pail and cloth for scrubbing the bare wooden floors. The interior with its wooden pillars and creaky floorboards is very atmospheric.
On the left side of the schoolyard is an archeological museum which is worth a cursory look. The view of the little schoolyard from the second floor with the temple behind is very photogenic.
Admission to this museum is 200 yen for adults. Alternatively for 400 yen, you can get a ticket which includes this museum, the Kaimei School, the Rice Museum and the Philosopher’s Museum, which is a real bargain.
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I was born in Bristol, England, and I came to Japan in 1991 … which means I’ve lived half my life in this island nation on the other side of the world. The theme of my career in Japan has been communication. I started as an English teacher, and moved into translation as I learned Japanese. I worked at a well-known electronics manufacturer, facilitating their multinational communications before I became a freelance translator. As such, I translated a lot of tourism-related information. It was obvious to me that most of this isn’t sufficient to convey the excitement and wonder of Japan. In 2011, I established Knowledge Travel Partners, an inbound tourism consultancy. After living in several regions of Japan, I settled in Ehime where my wife is from. It’s on the southern island of Shikoku facing the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Japan’s Mediterranean. The pace of life here is slow and peaceful, but we do like to throw a raucous festival now and again.