Meiji period, which started in 19th century, was the turning point for the country of Japan and Japan’s history. I think if we did not have Meiji period, Japan today would not exist. In the end of Edo period, which is the period before Meiji period, some people noticed there was a huge gap between Japan and foreign countries in terms of not only the structure of country, but also army, education or something like that. This gap came from the characteristic of the Edo period where they had never opened Japan’s border to any countries the whole time. Although on the other hand, lots of cultures that symbolize Japan today started to appear too. This gap drove the government to start developing Japan into the modernized country like Europe. The foundation of the present Japan was made at this time. As one of the measures for modernizing, they issued education polices, which was based on the education system of France. And then elementary school, junior high school, high school and university were built nationwide.

Kyu-Mitsuke school

The school I am going to talk about now was built during that period. That school is called kyu-mistuke gakkou or old-mitsuke school and it is in Iwata city, Shizuoka prefecture. Now it has become a museum to show people its history.

Class scene at that time

At first, the school was not like a school. It started with temples. In other words the temples were the school. Classes were held in the temples like terakoya. Then there was a movement of creating western-style building, and it drove people to build the wooden school today with western-style structure while working hard to get funds. Even from this story, you may learn how much Japanese people at that time were affected by the mindset that Japan should keep up with Europe. They were working hard to become like Europe. In spite of the small beginning of the school, old-Mitsuke school finally became big and had five floors.

Textbook and small black board

The black board was a replacement for paper. Paper was valuable back then. And the textbook is the real one. It was actually used during the period. Not like today’s one, it was mainly written in Katakana.

Let’s try to pretend you are a student back then

You can actually sit and write on black board with chalk. On the wall of the room, there are some papers showing the history of the city where the school is.

On another floor, there are displays of things actually used in life and was donated, from textbooks, school bags to even a loom. Also there are toys that were popular back then and you can play them too. To native Japanese people like me who know a little about the past period, all of the things bring back memories.

No one knows what the room was for.

It still has not turned out what some rooms were used for. Some say it varied from period to period. In one period, there was a Taiko drum to inform people about times like lunch time, a certain time by making sounds. In another period, it was not. The sound of the wooden floor creaking is really refreshing. Today wooden building is not popular, so the sound might bring back memories. You can touch everything here in the school. Not only what the school life was like but also people’s life back then. I hope this school is a way to understand the old Japan well for you.

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