Towards the northern end of the preserved street in the Yokaichi District of Uchiko you can find the Kamihaga Residence. This property was once the house and workshop of the influential Kamihaga family, who were part of the Honhaga clan that dominated Uchiko’s politics for generations. The first part of the Kamihaga Residence that I toured was the living spaces where the Kamihaga enjoyed the lives that their wealth afforded them. All the rooms are very elegant and well maintained, and give visitors a good idea of the kind of houses that rich families in this part of Japan lived in.
Across the inner courtyard from the residential part of the Kamihaga Residence is an old building that’s been converted into a modern museum. Inside are exhibits showing how Uchiko’s famous wax was made and then marketed to both Japan and the West. In 1900 Uchiko’s fine white wax was showcased at the Paris World Expo and soon thereafter it started being sold in Europe and America. All the displays in the museum have both Japanese and English descriptions, which is very helpful for non-Japanese speakers like me.
While walking around the inner courtyard of the Kamihaga Residence you can see some of the old stations where wax would be left outside to harden as well as a couple of the smaller buildings where the wax was produced. I remember reading that in the summer the workers here would regularly sprinkle seawater on the wax to keep it from melting in summer heat. Once I finished at the Kamihaga Residence I walked around the Yokaichi District a little more before returning to the train station to catch a ride to the town of Ozu where I’d finish off the afternoon. Posts from Ozu will go live on this website next week.