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History of Cultural Path Shumokukan

Cultural Path Shumokukan, the former residence of ceramics exporter Tamesaburo Imoto, reminds us of the time when it was built: its construction began at the end of the Taisho era and was completed at the beginning of the Showa era. Japanese- and Western-style buildings are preserved on a large block of land, plus two storehouses—one in the west and the other in the east—a tea room, and a garden. The residence was designated as a tangible cultural asset of the City of Nagoya in 1996, and a building of scenic importance in March 2008.

The area was originally a samurai district in the Edo era where houses were built on land covering 600 tsubo (approx. 2,000 square meters). With its close proximity to the main roads leading to the famous ceramics-producing areas of Seto and Tajimi, and easy access to the shipping facilities of the Horikawa waterway, the site attracted many ceramics painters and processors. At the beginning of the Showa era, there were more than 600 ceramics painting factories around Higashi ward in Nagoya, and at its peak, 70 to 80 percent of the ceramics for export were produced or painted in this area.

The Western-style building is richly decorated with stained glass and is the place where Tamesaburo is said to have invited many buyers in business negotiations to export ceramics.

While many old residences have been destroyed, Shumokukan hosted five tenants from 1996 to 2002 that organized public viewings or various cultural events. Although the residence was temporarily closed, since citizens’ groups started managing the residence in 2004, it has hosted various activities. After being bought by the City of Nagoya in 2007, it was restored and opened once again for public viewing in July, 2009.

The nostalgic atmosphere of the beginning of the Showa era can really be felt here.

The mission of Shumokukan is to pass on its history while creating new history with our hands.

Tamesaburo Imoto

Born in 1873, Tamesaburo Imoto joined a store belonging to the Arita group at the age of 16, and set up business on his own in 1897 at the age of 24. He started Imoto Shoten (currently Imoto Sangyo Ltd.) in Iida-machi, a neighboring town of Shumoku-cho. He established a trading company in San Francisco in the second decade of the twentieth century. He started business with Singapore and Burma at the beginning of the Taisho era, exporting medical and pharmaceutical products and sundries as well as pottery and porcelain. He became the chairman of the Nagoya Pottery and Porcelain Exporters Guild in 1924. He was a leading figure actively involved in the pottery and porcelain industry, and named one of the “five key people” of the processing agents.

He built his residence at the end of the Taisho era with the fortune he made from his business. With the motto “Happiness lives in my heart,” Tamesaburo lived life to the full.