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IT WAS during the Meiji era, 1868-1912, that Japan more than opened to western influence. The country, isolated by choice for the previous 300 years, enthusiastically assimilated western ways in everything from building design to bowler hats.
Meiji-Mura (“Meiji Village”) is an outdoor museum of more than 60 buildings of the Meiji era, painstakingly relocated from the original sites. The museum is in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, about two hours west of Tokyo by train, 20 miles north of Nagoya by car.
The Mei Prefectural Office is an elegant building in Palladian style. It was designed and built by master-carpenter Gihachi Shimizu.
The Mei Prefectural Office survived World War II and continued in use for 85 years. It was recreated at Meij-Mura in 1967.
Not all the structures at Meiji-Mura are overwhelming in size. The Shichijo Police Box and others like it were tidy and familiar sights to city residents.
The Shichijo Police Box is a wooden building, stuccoed and covered in ceramic tile imitating brick.
Dating from 1895, Kyoto had the oldest streetcar system in Japan. It remained in use, albeit with updated rolling stock, until 1971.
At Meiji-Mura, two of these streetcars run a 0.4-mile route between sites.
At first, railway bridges in Japan were wooden, but in 1877 the Hamilton’s Windsor Ironworks of Liverpool assembled this first iron bridge in Japan.
Originally built in 1890 of stuccoed brick, when moved to Meiji-Mura St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral was made more earthquake-proof with brick-faced reinforced concrete.
Francis Xavier came to Kagoshima, Japan, in 1549 and visited Kyoto, the original site of the cathedral named for him.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial Hotel (www.wp.me/p2ETap-11v) is one of my favorite architectural recreations at Meiji-Mura.
Just a tad beyond the Meiji era, the Wright-designed Imperial opened in 1923, just in time for the Great Kanto Earthquake, which it survived.
The Imperial’s Meiji-Mura recreation includes its second-level Tea Room.
Several of Meiji-Mura’s structures are of Japanese significance though originating elsewhere in the world. Hilo, for instance, on the Big Island of Hawaii, had an assembly hall specifically for its Japanese immigrants, even at a time when such travel was without permission.
Built by Rev. Jiro Okabe as a Congregational Church for Hawaiian immigrants, the Japanese Immigrants’ Assembly Hall was reconstructed at Meiji-Mura celebrating the structure’s 80th anniversary in 1969.
The Museum Meiji-Mura continues to add to its delights. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013