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Tobe Mukashi no Kurashikan

House of Yesteryear’s Living

To most Japanese people, Tobe calls to mind Tobe-yaki, a type of ceramic known throughout Japan. Of course there are plenty of places in Tobe to see a wonderful variety of ceramics, and this is ample reason for a visit. But another reason to go to Tobe is to see the Mukashi no Kurashikan, or the House of Yesteryear’s Living.

This is a collection of brick-a-brac gathered over the past century by the wife of a local doctor, now in her 90s. The collection is packed into a sprawling old house with a different theme for each room – clothing, dolls, agricultural equipment, pop culture, pottery and so on. There’s enough in here to fill a museum six times the size. I visited with a young Japanese friend Tsutae who is learning to be a potter in Tobe. A very gracious local lady took us around, explaining the use of many unfamiliar articles from the last century, including a Sputnik-like device that turned out to be a hand-turned washing machine.

Much of the first floor is taken up with clothing and toys from the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods. There are some fantastically colorful kimono, and quilted varieties from the cold north of Japan that must have been extremely cumbersome to wear. There’s also a collection of the rigid wooden ‘pillows’ that women used to use to preserve their elaborate hair arrangements intact while they slept. 

After showing us the finery on the first floor, the guide apologetically noted that on the second floor there were only agricultural implements. Being something of a horticulturalist myself, I was keen to see these, and the lady was clearly gratified by my enthusiasm. There were indeed stacks and rows of farm tools of all descriptions, but also military uniforms, canteens, and a beautiful set of wooden measuring boxes, arranged inside each other like Russian dolls. Tsutae kept saying Sugei! – Wow! He had obviously never seen anything like this before.  

The house is opened only twice a year, once during the autumn festival in early November. However you can call (089) 962-2428 to make an appointment at other times too.

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