Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Inoh Tadataka Museum & "Little Edo" Of Sawara


Inoh Tadataka Museum in Sawara.

The next stop we made was the Inoh Tadataka Museum in Sawara.

So, who is Mr Inoh, you might ask. Inoh Tadataka is credited to be the person for completing the first map of Japan, created using modern surveying techniques. Before Inoh Tadataka left for Edo (Tokyo now) aged 50, he worked in Sawara as the headman of the village administration and managed the family liquor business.

When he was 34, while traveling to Matsushima, he visited many temples and shrines. Later, when he was 48, on a trip to the Ise shrine in Mie prefecture, he measured and calculated its longitude and latitude. From this time, he became very interested in astronomy and calendar science.


A replica of the first map of Japan based on the survey results, published in 1867.


A mini sculpture of Itoh Tadataka on the ticket counter of the museum.

In Edo, he became a pupil of Takahashi Yoshitoki, a famous astronomer in the latter half of the 18th century. Aged 55, Tadataka undertook a surveying expedition of Hokkaido's south coast, and afterwards undertook a total of ten survey missions of the whole of Japan up until he was 71. Tadataka died in 1818 when he was 73, and three years after his death, the map of the whole of Japan was completed by his surveying team.

The Inoh Tadataka Museum is Sawara's spacious, well-organized tribute to this remarkable favorite son. Amongst the Inoh Maps, apart from the full Greater Japan Coastal Maps (大日本沿海輿地全図) consisting of 214 large scale maps (1:36000), 8 medium scale maps (1:216000) and 3 small scale maps (1:432000), there are many other kinds of maps, such as those drawn of areas of natural beauty and those drawn while on the surveying expeditions.


If you're a map freak, and you are in the Tokyo area, then a trip out to the Inoh Tadataka Museum in Sawara is mandatory.

Along with the very high accuracy because they were produced based on actual surveys, each map also holds great artistic beauty. The museum displays the maps of all sizes and scales, and the surveying tools behind glass panels. The display in the museum also changes at regular intervals. One of the most revealing is an electronic display that superimposes the Inoh Map on a recent Landsat photo of Japan. Aside from some slight longitudinal deviation (longitude, which Inoh tried to derive from observations of solar and lunar eclipses, was much harder to measure than latitude), the Inoh Map is an astonishingly close match to the satellite's.

Nearly as fascinating as Inoh's maps are the museum's charts of the labyrinthine routes he took on his expeditions, zigzagging his way up and down the archipelago with a band of surveyors, retainers and guards. It is interesting to see how Inoh's mapping accuracy improved as the Shogun increased his budgetary support. However, photography unfortunately, is not allowed inside the museum.

Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed: Mondays (Tuesday if Monday falls on a holiday), beginning and end of the year, the day after a national holiday.
Admission: 500 yen (adults), 250 yen (children under six-year-old); 450 yen (adults in group of at least 15 people), 200 yen (children under six-year-old in group of at least 15 people)
Address: 1722-1, Sawara-i, Katori-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 287-0003 Japan.
Tel: 0478-54-1118    Fax: 0478-54-3649
Access: Car: 10 minutes from Sawara Katori IC on Higashi-Kanto Expressway; Train: 15 minutes on foot from Sawara Stn. on JR Narita Line


A magnificent view of the Ono River of Sawara, beautifully decorated with weeping willow buds on both sides of the river bank.

Sawara was a city located in Katori district in Chiba prefecture, upon its merge with Omigawa, Yamada and Kurimoyo in 2007 to form the new city of Katori. Sawara has a long history since prehistoric times; its name is believed to have derived from the earthen ware called "sawara", which was offered in the oracle ceremony at Katori Shrine.

Sawara is famous for its old quarter of lovingly preserved and restored Edo-era traditional residences, merchant shops and warehouses along the banks of the willow-lined Ono River (小野川), which earns the town its nickname "Little Edo" (小江戸).  

Due to its strategic location where the Ono River meets the mighty Tone River, Japan's greatest waterway, Sawara developed from the Edo period as a relay port for transportation and flourished as a merchant town that benefited by being a bit of a remove from the political center of Edo. Sawara's citizens enjoyed more intellectual freedom than their big-city counterparts, it seems, and felt free to indulge, for example, an interest in Western science. There are also people who claim that "When you want to see Edo, come to Sawara. Sawara outdoes Edo".


The boat ride in "Little Edo" of Sawara.


A still-functioning mini wooden clock tower at the area we boarded the boat.

One of the main attraction in Sawara is the ride on the kotatsu boat along the lovely Ono River. The canal is crossed by several bridges, the most interesting of which is the Ja Ja Bridge (ジャージャー橋) that spouts a waterfall from its span into the canal below every thirty minutes. The name "Ja Ja" was derived from the sound of the overflowing water from the bridge from the agriculture activities during the Edo period. This spot, just in front of the former residence of Itoh Tadataka, also happens to be the place to board the boat.

Visitors will get to enjoy viewing important traditional shops and houses, often called machiya (町家), which were first designated in Kanto region, from the boat along the Ono River. The view from the boat may be different from the view you see if you walk. In winter, passengers enjoy the boat ride with their feet under a kotatsu, which is a Japanese heated table with an attached blanket.


The group from Course A, looking great with their bright and colourful kimonos (photo credit: Ishizaki Masataka).


Half of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors were the first batch to hop onto the kotatsu boat.


We were the next to get to ride on the boat. Here's Kei from China and Laura from the United States.


Breathtaking willow trees that line up along the river bank.


One of the boat lady, who was on our boat. When I was taking this shot, she said to me, "Are you taking my photo? *hehe*"


This location was used for the filming of several local dramas before this.

Sailing on the tour boat through Sawara town, we were guided to the wonderful site of the old streets from the Edo Period. The ride was indeed pleasant and relaxing. That elderly lady, who is already 77-years-old, shared with us some brief history of this old world charm. All of us were very surprised when she told us her age, but according to her, she enjoys this job a lot and that is the simple secret that keeps her young and happy. I was pretty impressed by her vast knowledge of almost every tiny details of the buildings along the river and the general history of this centuries-old town.

Not only that, she also proudly shared the story of her family with us. We were told that she has a child and three grandchildren, all in university now. Her smile on her face, when she told us about her grandchildren, still remain vividly in my memory. A proud grandma who wishes to share the success of her grandchildren with every new people she meets every day.


Everyone's smiling after a fantastic ride on the boat (photo credit: Ishizaki Masataka).


Had a photo taken with the boat lady.


Another photo, this time on the Ja Ja Bridge.

Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov); 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (May~Sept); 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Dec, Jan, Feb); everyday, except on bad weather days.
Duration: 30-40 minutes     Capacity: 13 people per boat
Admission: 1,200 yen (adults), 600 yen (children under 14-year-old), free
(children under six-year-old).
Bure-Kimera Co., 1730-3, Sawara-i, Katori-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 287-0003 Japan.
0478-55-9380    Fax: 0478-55-9390
Access: Car: 5 minutes from Sawara Katori IC on Higashi-Kanto Expressway; Train: 15 minutes on foot from Sawara Stn. on JR Narita Line

Time to refuel ourselves at Mougins.

Our next stop was to have our lunch at Mougins, a French bistro housed in a converted machiya right on the bank of the Ono River. We had Italian food Japanese style. You might wonder why we went for French food in the middle of "Little Edo", but I guess there's no particular reason, as our seats have been reserved by the staff from the Chiba Prefectural Office.

We had a set menu, which included a starter, some home-made bread rolls, a main and dessert. It appears that the bread rolls were a specialty of the house. And they indeed tasted good! They were soft and fresh and I could have eaten them all day!

The starter was a salad of delicate greens that were so fresh that they tasted like they have just been plucked from the garden. Underneath the greens were the hidden gems - smoked salmon, marinated clams and conch. Our main was a simple pasta topped with some crab meat, shrimp, scallops and hams. Dessert was a mango-flavoured ice cream and peach. It was finished with a cup of hot coffee.


Starters and the bread rolls.


Italian pasta with seafood toppings.


Wonderful dessert to complete a satisfying meal.


The members from the Course B, during our lunch (photo credit: Ishizaki Masataka).

Sawara's heritage district is centered around Chukeibashi Bridge (忠敬橋), which is within walking distance from the Sawara train station. The machiya in Sawara typically comprise a storefront, a residence and a storehouse to the side or in the back. The machiya lining both sides of the Ono River formerly housed rice traders, shoyu breweries and sake breweries. The scene is very much alike the old shop houses around the Jonker area and along the Malacca River in Malacca.

The original stone steps leading down the embankment still exist in many instances. These days, the machiya have been converted into museums, shops, restaurants and tea houses. The best machiya were the ones built in the dozo-zukuri (土蔵作り) style or earthen-walled storehouse style which were effective in fire-prevention. Some of the houses built in this style had a series of huge hooks on the facade. These hooks were used to hold in place wooden slats, which could be removed in case of fire. The window of most machiya has distinctive stepped edges which were also effective in fire prevention.


There are three types of buildings seen in this photo, the typical wooden one (front left), the greyish dozo-zukuri storehouse next to the wooden one, 
and the European-style two-storey Mitsubishi-kan (三菱館), which was built in 1914 using bricks imported from Britain and had its roof covered with copper sheets.


Kobori-ya Honten (小堀屋本店), built in 1900 and was initially used as a soba restaurant.


Besides the traditional wooden shop houses, there are also several concrete buildings, which were build during the Meiji era.


This is another one, while you can see some older buildings (covered in green nets) are currently undergoing some repair works due to the earthquake early this year.

We took a stroll along the banks of the Ono River. It was a nice day; the weather was very kind to us and the place was not really crowded. The antique streetlights along the banks carry metalwork depicting different float festivals in Sawara. The intricate pieces were truly works of art. As we walk along the heritage zone of the town, we noticed that there were some parts, where the streetlights were removed to preserve the original setting of the town centuries ago.
Speaking about festivals, there is a festival called the "Grand Festival of Sawara"(佐原の大祭) which is one of the three major float festivals in the Kanto region and has a tradition of more than 300 years. It is held in summer and autumn every year, where a gigantic 4-meter tall doll is placed on the float.


We went into one of the shops which sells dolls made of paper, called daruma.


A Chiba Kun daruma. However, due to copyrights matter, the doll is not for sale.


They even have daruma neatly arrange on the platform used during the hinamatsuri or the doll festival.


Here is a comparison of the current map of Japan and the one drawn by Itoh Tadataka 200 years ago.


Our next stop was to this shop, a mini factory which produces hand-made wooden ear-pick.


Customers can custom-make their personal ear-picks, according to their ear size, designs, etc. Cool, isn't it?


Not very cool when you look at the prices, ranging from 20,000 to 40,000 yen (approximately RM800 to RM1,600)


It seems that I need a XXL-sized ear-pick to fit my ear haha wtf!

Thanks for reading. Next up will be a trip to see animals. Stay tuned!

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