Yoshida Folk House in Ogawa town, Saitama.
Yoshida Folk house has a very different atmosphere to any of the other folk / period houses I have personally visited in the past. I expected something like Toyama Memorial Museum with several rooms and a stunning garden in traditional Japanese style. However, the Yoshida home was preserved to offer a glimpse of life in former days, 300 years ago, not to bewitch the visitor with palatial grandeur.
Yoshida Folk House / Residence
The Yoshida residence is a relatively small house with only four distinct rooms and a very large doma. A doma is an entrance area, after the genkan, of compacted dirt where you keep your shoes on. The house is not stunning in the typical sense, like the former residences of wealthy diplomats or bankers, who lived in veritable mansions. Its beauty is in its earthen simplicity and the tale it tells of a time gone by.
The 300 year old house has a thatch roof which costs thousands to maintain over time as it has to be replaced cyclically. One of the ways they protect it between renovations is by lighting at least one of the two open fires (no chimney) daily. Even in the height of summer when its 30 odd degrees and more humid than a sauna.
The house was lived in until 30 years ago. The family were actually going to knock it down and build something more modern and warmer. When word got around they were going to knock it down a local official asked them to hold off until he could get someone out to examine it. He suspected, what turned out to be true, that the house was older than the family realized.
To cut a long (but wonderful) story short, eventually it was established that not only is the house older than the family realized, but it is the oldest residence in all of Saitama. Between the age, history and the architect, wood and craft used to build the house, it was qualified to be awarded the highly esteemed and prestigious title of a National Important Cultural Property of Japan.
The home has excellent reviews on Google: a 4.3 (/5) average rating from 101 visitors. I think one of the reasons it ranks highly among visitors is that you are able to enjoy the house the way the former residence’s did. It was certainly one of the reasons it appealed to me so much.
A lot of former residences are museums of kinds with restrictions on where you can enter or not. They often don’t allow you to eat or drink inside. And you certainly wouldn’t be able to play ball or roast mochi on an open fire. This is not the case in the Yoshida house and you can actually do all of those things. And none of the house is off limits.
It is very easy to relax in the house. They welcome children and they even have some books and toys out for them to play with. The gregarious Obachan certainly adds to the relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. It was her who fervently and joyously regaled us with the interesting story of how the home became an important cultural property.
Another of the big appeals of the house is interactive opportunities. They run some workshops and events over the year, but any day that the house is open you can try grilling some food the old fashioned way!…
Dango and udon are the two main meals available at Yoshida folk house any day that it is open for business. If you order the dango you get to roast them over the open fire yourself.
They are the only two food items they list on their website. But there is other food available as in the menu (sorry its not a very clear shot, the smoke inside wreaked havoc on my all ready lacking photography skills!).
Most of the food available is types of noodle dishes such as udon or soba. You can also buy a block of mochi and grill it on the fire yourself. Can you see the white block on the grill in the photo above!?
But if you are with a private party or bus tour, as we were, it is possible to have a full lunch prepared.
The lunch was a really delicious Japanese style lunch with traditional and healthy food. Some of the ingredients were fresh from nearby farms. We had seen the daikon drying in the sun outside as we approached the house:
There were also persimmons drying in the sun to draw out a sweeter flavor from the popular autumnal fare:
And red peppers too:
At the back of the house I found some Ichijuku hanging too. Here, in the back, there is also a small garden which looked particularly pretty with the colored leaves. The toilets, in typical bygone style, are outdoors. They are up a stairs past the garden.
Yoshida folk house was more engaging and impressive than I had expected. I visited on a press tour with other adults, but I will definitely go back with the kids. I know they will enjoy exploring the house, even if it is quite small, and playing with the toys they’ve left out. They will also enjoy roasting dango on the fire.
There is an alluring charm in the smokey ether and soothing embers of Yoshida folk house. The design of the house is fascinating, incredibly without a daikoku bashira (central pillar), and the wood used to build it is stunning. The location in the rolling colorful hills of Ogawa adds to the allure and the staff absolutely make it what it is; a very enjoyable,engaging and relaxing place to visit.
Yoshida Folk House Information
|Address:||423-1 Suguro, Ogawa, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0336|
|Hours:||Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 4.30 pm|
|Cost:||No entrance fee, individual prices for food / souvenirs|
The house is concealed behind a row of private homes. You can just about make out the thatch roof as you get close.
Despite its remote location the house is actually accessible by public transport. Takezawa Station on the JR Hachiko line is only a ten minute walk away. Tobu Takezawa station on the Tobu line is twice that on foot – about 20 minutes.
The nearest expressway exits are Ranzan Ogawa Interchange and Hanazono Interchange, both on the Kanetsu Expressway. There is a free car park just before the private residences. Buses are permitted, but you need to ring in advance if you want to come by bus. From the car park the home is a short uphill walk.
Information in English on the Saitama Prefecture website.
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