( Journey to Nirayama Iron Faunas part 2) Visit the “Egawa Tei Residence” Archive, highlighting Egawa’s contribution to the defense policy in the Edo period and the construction of NRF Furnace
♣ Position of “Egawa Tei” and Egawa clan
Just after visiting the Nirayama Reverberate Furnes (NRF), I decided to drop by at the former residence of Egawa Hidetatsu who had
contributed much to the construction of the NRF. The Egawa clan had belonged to the prominent Samurai class based in Izu region since the 15 century. In the Edo era,
the Egawa clan was assigned to “Daikan”, a bureaucrat of Tokugawa Shogunate, to govern the whole Izu area, Shizuoka for several generations. In this family line, Egawa Hidetatsu had taken special position to contribute for the Shogun policy regarding the Edo’s maritime defense, foreign policy, and educational activities around the end of the Tokugawa period.
This Egawa family’s former residence “Egawa Residence” building, which had built in the 15 century, is well known to be still remained as it is even after the 600 years or more. So the Residence was already nominated as an important national treasury of Japan. Recently, this Residence complex became to be owned by the NPO Institute of “Egawa Bunko“, and publicly opened. And nowit exhibits valuable materials to trace the former Egawa family’s lives and Egawa clan’s history, especially the exhibition is showing that the political and social contribution of Egawa Hidetatsu and his life.
It is said that Hidetasu was well known to have played significant role in the Edo period, such as opening of the “Ranagaku Juku” (Dutch Study), construction of a “Shinagaw Odaiba” (Defense fort), building of a refractory furnace NRF at that time while the Western military threat was rising. All the materials relating his contribution and work are exhibited in the “Egawa Residence Archive “now. These collections seem to be quite important and valuable to see the pre-modern history of Japan.
The below description is the result which I saw the current state of the house, the major exhibits in the archive, and the history of Egawa itself. It also forms the appendix to the series of NRF observation and my World Industrial Heritage tour.
See Egawa Residence Home Page http://www.egawatei.com/
♣ Overview of historic building of “Egawa Tei Archive”
The historic buildings which still remained now is a main house complex constructed in the 1600s, along with the main gate, the “Shoin Room” (study room), the “Butsuma” (pray room of Buddha ), the warehouses, the outer guarding wall, and several buildings attached to the residence. They have executed the major restoration in 1958 and 1993, and after that they came to form the present condition.
It is said that these buildings are frequently used as the background theater scene of the Japanese Samuai TV
drama, because these are well kept the old appearance of the samurai period.
Anyway, inside the house, we could find the entrance of castle called “Masu Gata” (square ground space) place, and beside it, found that a main gate named “Yakui Mon” gate (gate of pharmacy) made in 1696 is standing .( Note: Egawa residence was also used as a medial office) . In the compound, there are several historic buildings standing in row, such as armor warehouse, library, well, stock house of food and daily goods in addition to the ruins of administrative building. They have also an old historical gate “Uramon” (backside gate) which built in 1590.
We could observe the main house’s huge roof which is covered by thick thatches, and be possible to see the whole house structure which the big wooden plates and pillars are
supporting the high ceiling too. It’s also significant that the house building has a large un-floored space for the kitchen and utilities on the ground. It would be surprising thing for us that such old buildings, which experienced several hundred years, have still remained as it is in the rather isolated country area far from major cities.
♣ Historical collection of “Egawa Residence Archive”
As I mentioned the Archive displays a number of exhibits on the history and origins of the Egawa clan as well as Egawa Hidetasu’s major contribution to the Edo government in the Edo period.
For the examples, the Egawa family’s “Haori” costumes of the past, flags describing family crests, ogre tiles, ancient documents, maps, and others which had been using in the successive generation, these are systematically displayed. Regarding Hidetatsu collection, there found a lot of paintings and scientific pictures drawn by himself. Because it is said he was a genius of cultural affairs and master of painting, beside as his role of a Samurai technocrat. And as an influential Samurai clan’s tradition, the archive shows horse riding harness, Japanese sword, firearms, ammunition, crest, flags, and other historical goods Also, in the rare collection , we could find the goods like Ambro type photos, the first time in Japan, taken by John Manjiro (first Japanese to learn in the U.S.) , and artillery cart brought in by the American Admiral Perry are displayed there.
Among the collections derived from Hidetatsu, there are the minuteness portrait
animals, self-portrait, and NRF Construction map, wooden model of Odaiba. And also found also the letter documents with Sakuma Shozan and Takashima Shuhan. They are the evidence he had a strong relations with the outstanding intellectual political and social leaders around the period of Edo period.
All these materials are available in the Archives, including important national treasuries. Then, by looking at these exhibitions, we could recognize the social environment at the end of the Edo when people were experiencing the drastic political change and social revolution heading toward the modernization age from federal social framework. And also we can see how the enlightened social leaders have behaved under the pressures from of the overseas, like seeing in the social activities of Egawa Hidetatsu.
♣ Role of Hidetatsu as a political and social leader
It seems that the name of Hidetasu was not so noticeably quoted in
the history book because the Edo Shogunate was forced to collapse by the leading anti-Tokugawa political powers of Meiji Restoration.
However, the Egawa’s footprints are now beginning to be emerged concerning his contribution to the technology advancement and enlightened behavior as well as his personal character as a techno-bureaucrat at the time.
Particularly, three activities have recognized as his great performance. Firstly the matter he had led the building of defending fort “Odaiba” off the Shinagawa in the Edo bay, the second was the thing
to architect the NRF, and thirdly Hidetasu had delicately worked for restoring the wrecked Russian ship “Diana” and helped the building of a Western style sailboat at Toda bay for the first time. Regarding “Diana”, it is said that the ship carpenters who engaged restoring work in it, have played the leading role to construct the Western type sailboats in the various parts afterward , and believed to set the foundation of ship building technology in Japan at the early period Meiji.
In addition, it is famed that Hidetatsu had baked bread for the first time in Japan (The monument of bread-baking is standing in the compound), and had performed the medical treatment by vaccinating people to prevent smallpox epidemics. He is also noticed that he had trained “Farmer Infantry” contingent to try to defend the foreign invasion from the sea at that time (This is said to be a kind of training model of Meiji Japan military infantry forming ) . Egawa had also tried to disseminate Western gunnery and Western technical knowledge to the people through the “Rangaku Egawa Juku ” too.
Among them, the construction of the NRF was a major work by Hidetatsu. However, it is really regretted that he died just before its completion caused by his extreme hard work burden. The subsequent work had been handed over to his son and successfully completed. As the result the achievements of Hidetatsu are still remembered by the local people and wider citizens as a person who behaved many things in ahead the time, and gave outstanding impact to the later society.
So in order to honor the accomplishments of this Hidetatsu, a bronze statue is built
on the grounds of the NRF. More of that, the descendants of the Egawa family has established the foundation “Egawa Bunko”, and they are maintaining huge relics and managing the NPO for creation of the historical database associate with the Egawa Residence, besides performing various events to promote his contribution.
- 「江川家の至宝」 橋本敬之 (長倉書店 2015)
- 江川邸―史跡 韮山役所跡― 案内パンフレット
- 「江川邸案内」リーフレット （江川邸公開事務室）
- 伊豆韮山江川家文書データベース （財団法人江川文庫）（http://base1.nijl.ac.jp/~archicol/egawa_ke_monjo.htm）
- 静岡県韮山・江川英龍探訪 （http://tekcat.blog21.fc2.com/blog-entry-1687.html?sp）
- 重要文化財「江川邸」ホームページ （http://www.egawatei.com/）