- A splendid and painstakingly preserved thatch roof
- Countless examples of inlay woodwork that make you nostalgic for the aesthetic sense of the carpenters of that time
- A sunken fireplace that remains in use, where even now a fire is kept burning every day
Meguro House was the government-provided residence of the Meguro family, who served as warimoto-shouya – under the command of gundai and daikan (various Edo-period officials), they controlled dozens of village headmen, allocated annual tributes, and conveyed orders. The building is made with a hip roof (called yosemune-dzukuri), with high ceilings and pillars and beams made of thick wood, a structure that can support heavy snow. Since it is in the snow country, unlike the residences of other wealthy farmers, there is no wall around the mansion.
It seems that even if a wall was built, it would break under the large amounts of snow.
Due to the snow, the entrance gate and the red torii gates in the grounds are all constructed so that they can be removed during the snowy season, and set back up when it becomes spring.
As there is no outer wall, to prevent intruders from the outside, there remains a room for a sleepless watchman to the left-hand side of the entranceway.
In addition, as warimoto-shouya were allowed to bear a surname and wear a sword, there are still spears hung up near the ceiling as relics from that era.
A splendid and painstakingly preserved thatch roof
This article was written in the middle of May. There was still snow left on the ground. Apparently, the snow can pile up until it is just below the thatch roof. The beautifully arranged thatch roof as seen from the front is an overwhelming sight. Even among other wealthy farmers’ mansions in the prefecture, a thatch roof is unusual and very precious. The shape of the roof, called a chidori-hafuu (“plover bargeboard”), gives the mansion a sense of majesty. It seems that keeping a fire burning in the sunken hearth serves to protect the thatch from insects.
Isn’t the wisdom of people in the past amazing?
Countless examples of inlay woodwork that makes you nostalgic for the aesthetic sense of the carpenters of that time
There is one more characteristic feature that can be seen at other residences of wealthy farmers.
That is, the inlay woodwork. Inlay woodwork is a technique of mending holes that form in the surface of things such as flooring, but instead of simple reinforcement, it is said to be the playful spirit of the carpenters, their ingenuity given form.
Here in Meguro House, you can see many shapes such as arrow heads, hamaya (ceremonial arrows used to expel evil), diamonds, noshi (ceremonial origami attached to gifts) – see if you can find them. When walking around the mansion, you can enjoy this kind of treasure hunt.
Additionally, there are decorations that act as metal covers over the marks where nails were hammered in, such as in the guest room where one is shaped in the auspicious form of a tachibana (a variety of citrus), as well as ornaments added on to the handles of fusuma (sliding doors) – in this way, you can admire the fine work of the craftsmen who put in every kind of luxury.
A sunken fireplace that remains in use, where even now a fire is kept burning every day
Once you take a step into the entranceway, you will be surrounded by the scent of soot. This is the pit where the sunken hearth is located. In addition to protecting the thatch roof from insects, the hearth also has the effect of protecting the pillars from water damage, so even now, a fire is kept burning every day throughout the year. In essence, the glossy black pillars and magnificent thatch roof are being protected by this sunken hearth.
Late in the evening the fire is extinguished, so those who want to experience sitting by the side of the sunken hearth should come early.
At this wealthy farmer’s mansion, you can see many kinds of exceedingly luxurious, traditional Japanese-style craftsmanship. Every single piece is like a work of art. Please come and experience the smoky scent of soot rising from the sunken hearth that is still used even today. Here, you can feel as if you have slipped back in time to how the Japanese people lived during this era.
892 Suhara, Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture
9am – 4:30pm (April through October), 9am – 4pm (November through March)
Combined ticket for Meguro House, Archive, and Building for Folk Culture Artefacts: Adults ¥500, Children ¥100 / Meguro House only: Adults ¥300, Children ¥100 / Archive only: Adults 200 yen, Children 100 yen
From JR Tadami Line, get off at Echigo-Suhara Station and walk for 5 minutes
From JR Koide Station, 25 minutes by bus
Take the Kan’etsu Expressway, 20 minutes from the Koide I.C.
Take the Kan’etsu Expressway, 20 minutes from the Horinouchi I.C.