Iwada-bukeyashiki was built around 1800 and has a thick straw thatched roof, and a guest parlour and reception room. These rooms have ceilings but if you exit the patriarch's quarters into the kitchen or store room, the ceiling disappears and you can see the roof supports above. It's not inconceivable that a stealthy enemy could drop down from here or the residents could use it as a place of temporary concealment, but that was just a whimsical thought I had. This is one of the best preserved samurai residences in Hirosaki, an important window into the past.
Like the other bukeyashiki open to the public in Hirosaki, the Iwada Residence was a middle-class residence. Here are my thoughts on the prevalence of middle-class homes amongst extant bukeyashiki. An observation of extant samurai residences: many of the extant samurai homes of the Edo Period belonged to "chūkyū" middle-ranking samurai. There are notable exceptions, of course. Kakunodate contains many lavish residences which belonged to high-ranking retainers, and Shibata has a preserved row house for ashigaru, the lowest-ranking bushi. But why are most of the extant bukeyashiki (samurai homes) we see today built for middle-ranking bushi? Or, more properly, why did many higher and lower class bukeyashiki class homes succumb to history and time? I've put a little thought into this. Firstly, lower-ranking homes were more shoddily built and were never expected to last too long. They were surrounded by farming plots used by the inhabitants to augment their meagre stipends. These homes were soon rebuilt after the Edo Period and became undistinguished from their commoner neighbours. Naturally higher-ranking samurai residences were, although fewer, built on a grander scale. Their geography ultimately points to their downfall in this case. The higher ranking the retainer the closer his home would be to the lord, and so the castle. Many higher ranking bushi homes then shared the fate of castles, many of which were destroyed in wars or simply demolished. Whilst the core of many castles have been preserved today as either parks of landmarks, usually their outer environs were swallowed up by subsequent development in the modern period. This is so for many Edo Period castles because they became economic hubs and are responsible for defining the urban landscape of Japan today because most cities were built originally around castles, including Tōkyō. Outer moats of castles were filled in and their outer baileys farmed or built over, whilst the suburban / rural mid-ranking samurai homes further away from the castle were more likely to be left alone and continued to be lived in. Additionally whilst castle structures with plastered walls and ceramic tiling proved somewhat more enduring, the primary materials used in the construction of bukeyashiki were wood and straw thatching, which if left to nature quickly become dilapidated (especially, thatching is preserved for longer by absorbing the smoke of hearths which drives insects out). Most bukeyashiki still around today were lived in up until fairly recently, and indeed some are still inhabited by the descendants of samurai today.
|Iwada Residence Profile|
|English Name||Iwada Residence|
|Residence Type||Middle Class|
|Features||Gates, Garden, House|
|Visitor Information||From July to Oct. open everyday except Mon. & Fri., and Aug. 13th; from Nov. to March only open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, except year's end; 10am-4pm|
|Location||Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture|
|Coordinates||40° 36' 44.96" N, 140° 28' 15.78" E|
|Hirosaki Castle and nearby Samurai Homes|