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Old house refurbished to revive community

Kaname Muto/The Yomiuri Shimbun

A visitor gets help putting on a kimono at Kominka Saryo Ichibankan in Akiruno, Tokyo, in August.

By Kaname Muto / Yomiuri Shimbun PhotographerA house more than a century old has been refurbished to serve as a hub of a community in Akiruno, Tokyo, in an effort by local people to revive the area by displaying its charms. Nearby mountains and the Akigawa river add to the appeal.

The 130-year-old house, called Kominka Saryo Ichibankan, was opened in late August. It is located on a street in the city’s Itsukaichi district, a 10-minute walk from Musashi-Itsukaichi Station. The station, the terminus of the JR Itsukaichi Line, is an hour’s ride from Shinjuku in Tokyo.

Goen Bunko, a company launched by the local community, remodeled the house using wood from the Tama area, of which Akiruno is a part. Goen means human bonds, and bunko refers to a branch school.

“It was sad to see so many shuttered shops on the streets,” Goen Bunko President Ryuki Tanaka said. “I hope this house will become a central attraction and draw lots of people [to our community].”

On the first floor are a cafe serving matcha green tea, a shop selling tenugui towels and a room offering classes on putting on kimono for those who make a reservation. The second floor is devoted to community events.

At the opening event on Aug. 21, many visitors enjoyed trying on kimono. “I’d like foreign visitors and young people to learn more about Japanese culture,” said Yoko Sawa as she selected kimono for the event’s participants.

Impressed by the house’s traditional atmosphere and enthusiasm of the local people, Sawa spends more than three hours on a round trip from her house in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, to Itsukaichi to provide kimono lessons.

About 300 local people and others gathered in the evening for a Bon Odori dance festival, organized by Goen Bunko to celebrate the opening of the house.

“Although this is part of Tokyo, it is a hometown that still has close connections with the people,” Tanaka said as he watched the dancing. “I hope we can all get together to make this community more attractive.”

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  • Kaname Muto/The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Goen Bunko members discuss how best to use the old house.

  • Kaname Muto/The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A local resident carries furniture into the house before the opening ceremony.

  • Kaname Muto/The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Goen Bunko President Ryuki Tanaka dances at the house’s opening ceremony.

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