Small details tell some big stories.

Today, we’re headed to the Chiba samurai residence. If you know much about Japanese geography, you might think that means we’re going east from Tokyo to the capital’s neighbor, Chiba Prefecture. Actually, though, we’re going west, almost all the way to the opposite side of Japan’s main island of Honshu, to Hiroshima Prefecture.

▼ The Chiba family crest

The Chiba Family Residence (technically the Former Chiba Family Residence, since they don’t live there anymore) is located in Kaita, a town on the east side of Hiroshima Bay. Back in the days of the shogunate, Kaita was a flourishing settlement on one of the region’s post roads, and the Chiba were one of its most prominent families. The tatami-floor building of their beautiful hillside estate was most recently reconstructed in 1774, and its architecture has been preserved through to the present day.

It’s been decades since the Chiba family lived here, and the house is now a historical site and free museum that’s open to the general public to visit. The gardens are beautiful, and stepping inside the building feels like stepping back in time. On display are artifacts such as stately samurai helmets, exquisitely illustrated wall scrolls, and pieces of fine ceramic and lacquerware.

▼ Plus some adorable rabbit-themed latticework above the window here

Following the end of Japan’s Sengoku civil war period, the Chiba family made its peacetime living by producing and selling sake under the brand Jinboya.

However, that doesn’t mean life was all easy for the family, and one example of that can be found in the house’s bathroom.

▼ A bathroom which predates Japan’s high-tech washlet toilets

The first thing that we noticed was that the bathroom had tatami reed flooring, which we imagine must have been a serious pain to scrub clean if someone had poor aim while dropping a deuce into the hole in the center of the floor. But the even more startling feature is up on the wall…

…where there’s a rack to hold a katana, because apparently even while taking a poop, the family felt the need to stay diligent against possible attacks by assassins.

▼ The rack is even situated so that the weapon can be quickly drawn with the right hand without having to rotate the scabbard or blade in order to have the sword in a proper fighting grip.

There’s one more sign of how it wasn’t always easy being a samurai back out in the garden, where there’s a shrine.

Remember how we said the name of the family that lived here, Chiba, is also the name of a prefecture on the other side of Japan? That’s not a coincidence. The Chiba family originally did hail from Chiba Prefecture. The family aligned itself with the Mori samurai clan, whose power base was in what’s now Hiroshima Prefecture. At the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, the decisive clash that brought an end to the Sengoku period that took place in central Japan, both the Chiba and the Mori fought on the side of the Western Army. With the Western Army’s defeat, the surviving members of the Chiba family, cut off from their homelands, fell back to the formerly Mori-controlled lands of Hiroshima Prefecture, where they remained and began new lives.

Originally, “Chiba” wasn’t even the family’s official family name. Family names themselves were reserved for the nobility, which the family no longer was following their defeat at Sekigahara. Eventually, though, within the community they became referred to as the family that had come from Chiba. In 1870, when the reforms of the Meiji Restoration required even commoners to register a family name, the family chose “Chiba.”

And that shrine in the garden? It faces east, in the direction of Chiba Prefecture, so that the family wouldn7t forget where it came from.

Location information
Former Chiba Family Residence / 旧千葉家住宅
Address: Hiroshima-ken, Aki-gun, Kaita-cho, Nakamise 8-31
Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Admission free

Photos © SoraNews24
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