April 2007

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by Harumi Okochi.
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Takatori House Mantlepiece
drawn by Hideko Takatori

Takatori House
――A legacy――
(National important cultural asset)

Takatori House, a National Important Cultural Asset, has been long under repair.
On this April 1st, it is opened to public eyes. I have been involved in the plan of restoration, as a member of committee.
I am very glad, and also proud. The House is a treasure for not only the people of Karatsu, but also everybody in Japan.

I will introduce you the history of this house, and will let you see the beauty of this house.
I hope when you visit Japan, you can come to Karatsu to see this house.


This house was a house owned by Koreyoshi (Iko) Takatori. It was built in 1904. It is a big house of 28 rooms. The property is 7600 square meters large, and the house is two stories wooden house.

Iko Takatori was a coal mining company proprietor, and his mines were here and there in this Saga Prefecture. Iko was
Iko Takatori (1850-1927)
 very successful, and made a big fortune. He was not just a lucky coal-miner. He studied at the school which is now Tokyo University. He was one of the first few miners who studied about mining from foreign professors invited from the Meiji Government. As a national project, he studied mining.
At his late days, Iko selected Karatsu to build his private house, because Karatsu was the port from which he shipped his coal.
This house had the private part where his family lived, and also a part of guest house. In this guest house, Iko made a tea ceremony room, Noh stage, and big banquet rooms to entertain guests like politicians, Navy Officers, merchants, and also the citizen of Karatsu. Tea ceremonies, Noh plays, and other cultural gatherings were held here. This was a kind of culture center of Karatsu.

Iko's son Kuro succeeded to this house, and during the Pacific War, Kuro invited soldiers' families to comfort them while their beloved one was away to the war. After the war, Kuro made students live here. They were the miners' children who wanted to go to highschool away from their homes.

After Kuro's death, his widow Noriko and two daughters, Eriko and Hideko, reserved this too big house.
In Japan, in the 1960's, coal mining enterprises came to an end one after another. Petroleum took its place, and Takatori's mine was closed too.
Now that there was no need to welcome the business guests to this house, it seemed like that this house had finished its role and became of no use anymore.
To maintain a Japanese house, not of stone nor concrete, but of woods and earth and paper, is a very hard task. This district is a path of typhoons every summer. For more than 30 years. the Takatoris spent huge amount of money to reserve this building.
After the typhoons:
sheet-covered roof

photo by Kazutami Takatori 1995
But the typhoons of 1991 were extraordinary strong, and two hit this district directly in two weeks. The damage this time was almost unrecoverable. Roof tiles were broken, and rain came into the rooms. To repair this huge roof would cost too much. Mrs. Takatori was forced to decide to destruct this house. She was so sorry to do so, and she wanted to keep this house forever by photographs.
A photographer, Mr. Masakatsu Mitoma, was introduced to Mrs. Takatori, and Mitoma visited this house. Mitoma's eye of beauty made him work very hard to fix things again to their original situation.
The photo album was completed in 1993.

Takatori House Photo Album
published by Noriko Takatori 1993
photo by Masakatsu Mitoma
This album played its role, which neither the Takatoris or Photographer expected. The album moved many people, and there naturally was born the atmosphere to reserve this house.
It happened that at this same moment the government took notice that the houses of Meiji, Taisho, and the early Showa eras were vanishing rapidly all over Japan. To maintain the culture of Japanese house making, it was necessary to reserve some houses as cultural assets.

Waves were coming to Takatori House. Scholars, architects, media came to see the house. More than any other previous times, Mrs. Takatori and Miss Takatori (second daughter Hideko) became busy.
In 1998, Takatori House was designated as a National Important Cultural Asset.
The Takatoris donated this house to Karatsu City and left here.
New stage was open to this beautiful house.

Government and the City began to repair this house into the original figure of when it was first built.
And at last, the work was finished, and the house was opened to public eyes this April.
As a treasure of Karatsu citizen, this house will serve as a main attraction of this city. The celebration of its open will be held on April 21, and Noh play is going to be performed. I am sure that the spirits of Iko and Kuro Takatori will be pleased and satisfied. If there is a spirit of a house itself, I am sure it will be content. I imagine that the one who stood up at the moment of destruction and started a quest to keep it, was the spirit of the house itself.

I, Harumi Okochi, was involved in this movement of reserving, and I always stood by Mrs. Takatori. I am very proud that I was here with this brave lady who did this all to leave us this Legacy.

Beauty of the House    photo by Kazutami Takatori 1995
These photos were taken by Mr. Kazutami Takatori, a relative. They were taken before the repair, so now, these pictures are quite important.
Thanks to Mr. Kazutami Takatori, I can show you here.
One of the rooms is European style, which was possible for only very high-society people at the time.
In the house, there are many sliding doors, wooden and paper. 47 of them have drawings on the surface.
Pictures were strictly Japanese style.
The artist was Koho Mizuno of Kyoto Sijo School.
This picture Wisteria Lady is on the doors next to the Noh Stage.
The motif is from a Noh play.
At the back of Noh Stage, there is a room used for entrance to the stage.
Here, plovers flying over the splashing waves were drawn on 8 doors.
Another character from Kyogen 'Fuku-no-kami'. (Luck God).
Camellia drawn on a paper sliding door.
Light-worms on wooden doors. The natural line of the wood looks like fine rain.
Plum blossoms on the doors at the back side of the Noh Stage. Bamboos are also at the other side.
Noh Stage.
Here, usual as a Noh Stage, a pine tree is drawn.
Pine, bamboo, and plum. These three trees are an auspicious set.
Transom designs were so unique and artistic.
Here is another transom.
Peacock and chicks and poppies:
For the time, this is an extraordinary unique and modern design.
Tea ceremony room
Iko's study. In a Japanese room, a mantlepiece is installed. This is a very rare case. This fireplace used coal, not firewood.
A catch of a paper door.
Three sizes are seen in a same design of cloisonne .
This small thing is also an art.
Passway. Beware of the hundred year-old window panes.
Seen through the windows, garden becomes a picture.
This unique window is seen near the Buddhism altar room .
One of the daily use rooms.
Lump shades are fantastic too.
A small garden to approach the tea ceremony room.

Thank you for your interest in Takatori House. How did you like it?
I hope you will send your comment to me. I will transmit it to the city office.

See you next month.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

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