Hayakawa Family Residence and Whale Tomb

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Travel Vol. 002

Hayakawa Family Residence & Whale Tomb

Date taken
April 10, 2016
Hayakawa family residence seen from the sea (early Showa era?)

I am now visiting the Hayakawa family residence on Aomijima Island in Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. In the Edo period, the house survived as a chieftain of "old-style whaling" for generations, and the building is now designated as an important cultural property.

Hayakawa Family Residence as it appears today (interior)

The photo at the top is a copy of the photo in the "Hayakawa Family Repair Report," an important cultural property, but the beach is much smaller than it was.As you can see from the picture of the beach in the Edo period, it used to be quite large with three whales lined up comfortably. From this same beach, a fleet of more than a dozen whale boats, including seko-bune(whalers), taru-bune(a boat carrying a barrel), ami-bune(boat carrying a net), and mossou-bune(Two boats carrying a whale in a pair), rowed out.

Incidentally, the Hayakawa family residence is said to be one of the few remains of a whale fishing family in Japan. It was at this residence that Director Hayakawa told me about the whale tomb and the whale's death register book in Kayoi-village.

Around the whale tomb & seko-bune(Japanese old type whalers )

According to Mr. Hayakawa, the fishermen of Kayoi Village gave each whale they caught a "posthumous name," just like humans, and worshipped them with great care.It is also said that the whale tomb was built on top of a small hill so that the thoughts of the unborn babies of whales who died without ever seeing the sea would reach the sea.It is also said to have been built on a small hill overlooking the sea so that the descendants of whales who came all the way could visit the graves of their ancestors.
In any case, the fishermen of Kayoi Village seemed to regard the whales, who were fighting for their lives, as something close to human beings.

(After leaving the Hayakawa family residence, we went to the whale's grave and then to Koganji Temple where the whale's death registration was left, and I had a strange experience at Koganji Temple. You may laugh and say that there is nothing strange about that, but please listen to my story first.)




I ran up the stone steps of the temple.
After paying my respects, I was on my way down.
For some reason, I suddenly remembered the small red leaves of the saplings of the little red leaves in the crevices between the stones.
――It was as if I had seen them a long time ago.

The Slope to Kouganji-Temple and the Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

A slope of stone steps that is said to be a shortcut to Kouganjiji Temple. A poem by Misuzu Kaneko was displayed on the wall of the temple on the left side of the slope. On the side of the poem, it was introduced that Misuzu Kaneko's father was the dan-na(patron) of this Kouganji Temple. This poem suggests that Misuzu often visited this temple when she was still small.
Misuzu must have walked up and down these stone steps as a child.
I was thinking about this when I passed through the gate of the temple. I suddenly met an elegant old woman in a kimono, probably visiting a grave.

"What can I do for you at the temple?
"I've heard that this temple has the whale's death register book . ......"

She was too elegant to be called an old woman, and she had no sense of life, which was clearly different from the old ladies I had met and talked to in Ura. She may have been an elderly person, but she had a mysterious aura about her that made me not feel her age.

"The monk will be leaving soon, so you'd better hurry. Do you want me to go with you?"

I thanked her and told her I would go alone, which was the opposite of what I had in mind.
After that, I have no recollection of where she went, whether she headed to the temple or left. What I do remember, however, is that the priest refused to see me, saying that he had an urgent matter to attend to.
It was certainly my fault for visiting without an appointment.
When I had no choice but to leave, The Monk somehow came after me and allowed me to take a picture of the whale's death register book for a limited time of 20 minutes.The Monk reminded me that the lights were not allowed, told me to go up to the main hall and wait for him, and then disappeared into the kitchen door.

whale's death register book

In this way, I managed to take some pictures, but in all likelihood, it was the old lady who spoke to us that made the monk change his mind.However, it would take a very powerful patron to make the monk change his mind. Or perhaps the woman is his adoptive mother, as I have heard that the current monk is his adopted son.
Without an answer, I had to leave Aomijima Island .However, when the bus entered the town of Senzaki, I saw an announcement that the "Kaneko Misuzu Memorial Museum" had opened, and then the building of the museum jumped into the bus window.
―――It can't be. I can't imagine such a ridiculous story.
With that in mind, the lady I met at the Kouganji Temple must be someone with a close connection to Misuzu Kaneko, her grandson, or someone who is related to her? Or is she herself? For a moment, I was thinking about such tremendous things.

Kaneko Misuzu Memorial Museum and Senzaki Station