On 18 May, the Architectural Heritage class had its first field trip of the semester. This year, the Heritage Studies Degree Programme, Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba was asked to develop and initiate a utilisation plan for the historical buildings in Tsuchiura City.
This project is a collaboration between a professor of the programme and professionals from Tsuchiura City. The Architectural Heritage Class with the participating students - mainly first year master’s students, with some first- and second-year PhD students and research students.
The international character of the programme was also represented, with students coming from Japan, China, Taiwan, Russia, and Hungary. The international and interdisciplinary background of the course should be beneficial to the project in the future. The main objective of the first visit to Tsuchiura was to assess and familiarise the students with the current situation of the historically significant structures and buildings, as well as to gain first-hand experience of the architectural, historical, and cultural atmosphere of the city.
In order to have a solid basis for the next steps of the project work, we visited the main sites of the project as part of the fieldwork, accompanied by local professionals who shared their insights and knowledge with the participating students. After lunch, from 13:00, we first heard about the details of the Isshiki Family Residence (一色家住宅). An hour-long discussion and lecture was held by Kamei（亀井さん）, who gave us a brief overview of how local authorities manage and supervise the cultural properties under their supervision.
Then the positioning of the use of the Isshiki Family Residence and how the reuse of this building will be an important asset in the regional and urban planning of the city. In order to understand the social and cultural significance of the cultural property, we heard the outline of the Isshiki family, focusing on their history and the biography of the building itself, so that the historical points can be included in the preparation of the use plans.
After a proper assessment of the historical situation, we had a tour inside the residence, and around 2pm we left the Isshiki Family Residence and walked to the Yaguchi Family Residence (矢口家住宅). During this 40-minute walk along the Mito Highway to the next site of the reuse project, an impromptu walking tour was held where we discussed the important structures and sites along the road and how they could be linked to the historical past of Tsuchiura City.
After arriving at 中城通り, where the second site is located, we first visited まちかど蔵大徳, which used to be a kimono shop, now serves as an information centre with souvenirs and refreshments, as well as tourist information about the local area. This historic building serves as an example of successful renovation and re-use.
The土浦まちかど蔵「野村」just on the other side of the street is another great example of how historic structures can be reused for commercial purposes. It has two distinct parts, the front with the wooden structure serves as the face of the building, currently a workshop for various activities. The rear, with its red brick structure, used to be the brewery's warehouse, but is now a café with a small historical exhibition.
After a short break we entered the next site of the project, the Yaguchi Family Residence (矢口家住宅). Here we had a short tour and the owner, the head of the Yaguchi family, kindly explained many details about the house. This was an excellent opportunity to hear from a real inhabitant of a historic building about the difficulties they have to face. We got to see a temporary reuse of the buildings, as there was an exhibition going on inside. This gave us a chance to see one possible way of using historic buildings in action.
After the very eye-opening discussion with the owner, the next site was Kijō Park (亀城公園), where many ruins of Tsuchiura Castle and related sites can be found. The main element that remains is the 旧日前川口門, and entering the castle grounds through this gate gave us the opportunity to experience the ruins in their full beauty. The available sites are the wall of the inner citadel (本丸塀), the gate through which people could pass (霞門), the east tower (東櫓) and this led us to the tower gate (櫓門), through which the west tower also became visible (西櫓). This small tour was designed to familiarise us with the environment of the ruling class and the remnants of their history.
After leaving Kijō Park (亀城公園), we went to our last site included in the utilisation project, the main gate of Ikubunkan (郁文館の正門). This site is currently located within the Tsuchiura Shiritsu Tsuchiura Daiichi Junior High School (土浦市立土浦第一中学校). The historical significance of the site lies in the fact that it used to be an educational institution for the Han School (藩校).
After saying goodbye to our guides, the architectural heritage class and field trip came to an end. This was the first of many future field visits conducted by Professor Shimoda to assess and discuss the cultural significance of Tsuchiura City and its historic environment, and to propose a utilisation plan to the Tsuchiura City Council.
Reported by Solymosi Tamas (D1)