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The Old Town Guest Register—Waseda University Field Trip to Nara—

Jiho Kim
Assistant at the Waseda University Aizu Museum
Asami Kumagai
Master’s student at Waseda University’s Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Hiyoshi-kan was an inn in Nara prefecture where writers, painters, sculptors, historians, architectural historians, and art historians who loved Nara would stay whenever they were in town. It was a base for their professional career, and old Nara often appeared in their work. For this reason, it is commonly referred to as the “Art Academy of Nara” and “Nara Hiyoshi-kan University.” The inn was also a gathering spot for young students who were interested in Nara history and admirers of the Hyoshi-kan’s cultured guests.

In 2010 and 2014, the former inn owner, the Tamura family, donated large collections of Hiyoshi-kan items to the Aizu Museum. The collections included a signboard (Figure 1) from the inn’s roof, another signboard that was hung under the eaves, and brush writings that read Kanbutsu-Zanmai (“observation and contemplation of Buddha”) (Figure 2) and Ware omou kojin (“I contemplate thoughts and ideas of old intellectuals”). The collection was a gift from former inn owners Torazo and Kiyono Tamura to friend and Aizu Museum founder Yaichi Aizu. The Hiyoshi-kan Guest Register was also donated as part of the collection. The guest register contains guest information from 1917 when Hyioshi-kan opened during the Taisho period (1912–1926) to when it was closed in 1995. The guest book is essentially the only remaining data that tells us what cultural figures visited Nara.

Figure 1:Ryosha Hiyoshi-kan (“Hiyoshi-kan Inn”)

Figure 2: Kanbutsu-Zanmai (“observations and contemplations of Buddha”)

According to the guest register leading up until World War II, groups of students from universities such as Tokyo Imperial University and Waseda University stayed at the inn. Certain cultural figures were also guests around the same time so it is natural to assume that they interacted with students. After World War II, the number of travel groups from women’s universities increased and the owners stopped accepting individual travelers.

Although Hiyoshi-kan has already closed and no longer exists, many universities have continued the pre-war tradition of visiting Nara to see old temples and Buddha statues. The famous Hiyoshi-kan definitely played a central role in establishing such a tradition. This article briefly introduces Waseda University’s traditional Nara field trip.

The art history course at Waseda’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences has an annual tradition of traveling to Nara. It always takes place in the beginning of June when there is a special showing of the seated statue of the Buddhist Master Ganjin at Toshodai-ji. Professor Yaichi Aizu, an instructor to fine art majors, initiated this field trip. Professor Aizu believed that studying actual works of art and literature was particularly important for art history study. Professor Aizu established this annual trip to allow students to experience art history by visiting works in the old town.

Figure 3: Hiyoshi-kan layout (from Nara no Yado, Hiyoshi-kan (“Inn in Nara, Hiyoshi-kan”) edited by Hirotaro Ota)

Figure 4: At Hiyoshi-kan, August 1931 (from left: Jun Kato, Professor Aizu, Ryozaburo Nagashima, and Tomohiko Horie)

Professor Aizu stayed at Hiyoshi-kan for the first time during his sixth trip to Nara. Since then, he always chose Hiyoshi-kan whenever he was in town and stayed there with his students. Although room assignments at the inn varied depending on the size of the tour, Professor Aizu usually took the room on the right side at the back of the building while male students stayed in the second floor room facing Nobori-oj street and female students used the first floor room in the back of the building (Figure 3). Each trip lasted at least ten days. Before the trip, participants received information on Buddha statues and temples as well as an itinerary. The students seemed to have wondered about the merits of visiting all these temples. Professor Aizu wanted to give students as many opportunities as possible to experience actual works of art. Professor Aizu continued taking his students to Nara for more than twenty years. We still have access to several photos from these trips. I would like to look back on the Nara field trips, referencing these photos along the way.

Jun Kato (1907–2002), a pupil of Professor Aizu and an epigraphy researcher, left a collection of items including a photo that is believed to have been taken at Hiyoshi-kan (Figure 4). It is a photo of Professor Aizu and three students with a memo that reads “Kato, Aizu, Horie.” A look at Professor Aizu’s Hiyoshi-kan lodging record reveals that Yaichi Aizu, Jun Kato, Tomohiko Horie, and Ryozaburo Nagashima stayed at Hiyoshi-kan in August 1931. The photo was likely taken during that trip.

Masaki Kobayashi (1916–1996), a film director famous for the films The Human Condition and Harakiri, was also one of Professor Aizu’s pupils and participated in a Nara trip in October 1939. He brought his camera on the trip and took pictures of Professor Aizu and other students (Figures 5–8). One of the highlights of the Nara trip for students was buying books published in Nara. One of the photos that Masaki Kobayashi took from the second floor room facing Nobori-oji shows his classmates returning to Hiyoshi-kan in the rain with new books. To this day, similar scenes play out around the second hand bookstores in the shopping district near Kintetsu Nara Station. However, this photo is nostalgic to those who are familiar with second hand bookstores and Hiyoshi-kan.

Figure 5:Nara-Yamato field trip, October 1939 (photo by Masaki Kobayashi, and courtesy of Geiyukai)

Figure 6:Nara-Yamato field trip, October 1939 (photo by Masaki Kobayashi, and courtesy of Geiyukai)

Figure 7: Nara-Yamato field trip, October 1939 (photo by Masaki Kobayashi, and courtesy of Geiyukai)

Figure 8: Nara-Yamato field trip, October 1939 (photo by Masaki Kobayashi, and courtesy of Geiyukai)

The last Nara field trip that Professor Aizu took with his pupils was in November 1943 as World War II intensified. The inn’s guest register contains the record of this last trip. For further details, refer to the writings of participants Shigeo Ueda1 and Hiroshi Kanada2

The post-World War II record in the Hiyoshi-kan guest book teaches us about the tradition of Professor Aizu’s art history course of staying at Hiyoshi-kan. Kosei Ando (1900–1970), who visited Hiyoshi-kan with Professor Aizu on January 30, 1923, later became professor at the Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences and stayed at Hiyoshi-kan with his students between 1947 and 1959. The guest register from April 1929 shows the name Kazuo Kosugi (1908–1998). Although the guest register does include Professor Aizu, he was in Nara during this time and it is reasonable to assume that he was staying at Hiyoshi-kan with Kazuo Kosugi and other pupils. In 1960 and 1965, Kazuo Kosugi also returned to Hiyoshi-kan with his own students. Following him, Professors Gozo Sasaki, Rei Yoshimura, Yasushi Murashige, Shinya Hoshiyama, Kazuaki Ohashi, and Yasunori Tano all stayed at Hiyoshi-kan with their students. Presently, third year students in the art history course go on a field trip to Nara with their professor. They visit and observe Buddha statues and temples in the old town of Nara while thinking of their predecessors who visited the same places while staying at Hiyoshi-kan (Figures 9–12).

Figure 9: Nara field trip in June 1991 (at Hiyoshi-kan)

Figure 10: Students helping prepare dinner

Figure 11: Professor Hoshiyama leading his students on the Asuka bike path

Figure 12: Assistant professor Narayama riding with his students on the Asuka bike path

*1 Shigeo Ueda: Gakuto Shutsujin to Saigo no Nara Kengaku Ryoko (Students’ Departure for War and the Last Nara Trip) in Aizu Yaichi; Tanka to Sono Shōgai (Aizu: Yaichi; Poems and his Life), Bungeishunju Ltd., 1969; Saigo no Nara Kenkyu Ryoko (The Last Study Trip to Nara) in Shuso Dojin Yaichi Aizu no Shogai (Life of Shuso Dojin / Yaichi Aizu), Kobunsha, 1988; and Saigo no Nara Kengaku Ryoko (The Last Nara Trip) in Shuso Dojin Yaichi Aizu no Gakugei (Art of Shuso Dojin / Yaichi Aizu), Seiryu Publishing Co,. ltd., 2005.
*2 Hiroshi Kanada: the second work of literature above