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Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Museum in Hirakata invokes echoes of Edo

Staff writer

HIRAKATA, Osaka Pref. -- A five-minute walk starting from Hirakata-kouen Station on the Keihan Line can take you back several hundred years to the Edo Period (1600-1867), when this Kansai city once thrived.

A life-size replica of a merchant boat used to sell food and drinks to passenger boats on the Yodo River is displayed at the Hirakata-Shuku Kagiya Museum

At the Hirakata-Shuku Kagiya Museum, which opened here on July 3, visitors can get a detailed view of ancient Japanese lifestyles.

Situated between its larger neighbor cities of Kyoto and Osaka, Hirakata prospered during the Edo Period as a post town, serving as a key relay point on a major travel route.

The Yodo River, which runs through the town, also contributed to Hirakata's wealth as a large thoroughfare for transporting people and goods between Kyoto and Osaka and between Lake Biwa and the Seto Inland Sea.

Of the many inns, restaurants and tea houses that dotted the area, one inn, Kagiya, grew popular with those who traveled by boat.

Kagiya, said to have been built between 1573 and 1592, was designated as a cultural asset by the city in 1998. Following major restoration work, Kagiya was turned into a museum, one that Hirakata officials hope will attract tourists and help reinvigorate the city.

A parade depicting the procession of a daimyo in the Edo Period moves from Hirakata-kouen Station to the Hirakata-Shuku Kagiya Museum to commemorate the museum's opening.

The museum consists of two buildings. The main building displays the special features of the inns, such as an entrance with a door that slides open vertically instead of horizontally, as well as a long corridor that connects straight to a dock.

In the annex, a two-story building, several panels depict the history of Kagiya and the inns of Hirakata in general. A miniature model of a "sanju-koku sen," a boat that could hold 30 "koku" (181,085 liters of rice) is also on display.

The passenger boat, which normally carried four crew members and 28 passengers, offered regular service between Kyoto's Fushimi and Osaka.

Merchants sold food and drink to the passengers from small boats called "kurawanka fune."

A full-scale model of one of the boats is also on display. Kurawanka, which literally means "Would you like to eat?" was a colloquial expression used by the merchants on the boat when they hawked their food and drinks.

Hirakata still sells local goods called kurawanka.

The museum is open between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day except Tuesday.

Admission is 200 yen for adults and 100 yen for elementary and junior high school students.

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