By Daisuke Kawase / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterThe thatched-roof building of Buaiso is located behind a bamboo stand that blocks out the noise of a residential area of the Tokyo suburban city of Machida. This is the final home of Jiro Shirasu (1902-85). As Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida’s right-hand man, he devoted himself to achieving Japan’s independence at the earliest possible date and to economic reconstruction in the postwar period. Yoshida led the government from 1946 to 1947 and again from 1948 to 1954.
Buaiso, where Shirasu lived with his wife, the essayist Masako Shirasu (1910-98), has been open to the public since 2001.
During World War II, the couple purchased a 150-year-old farmhouse in what was then Tsurukawa village, in anticipation of Japan’s defeat in the war and subsequent food shortages. They moved there in 1943. Jiro was engaged in agriculture, but he also became a councillor of the Central Liaison Office, which was responsible for negotiations with GHQ. He is famous for negotiating with GHQ by saying, “We were defeated in war, but that doesn’t mean we became slaves.”
In several of the buildings, materials showing how Jiro was involved in this part of history are on display, such as the outline of the draft of the revised Constitution of Japan, with the words “Strict Secrecy” written on it in red ink. GHQ had urged Japan to create a constitution as early as possible, prompting Jiro to write in a letter: “Your way is so American in the way that it is straight and direct. Their way must be Japanese in the way that it is round about, twisted and narrow. Your way may be called an Airway and their way the Jeep way over bumpy roads.” The document is called the “Jeep way” letter, and a copy of it is also exhibited in the main building, together with his favorite typewriter.
When entering the entrance of the main building, you will first find a white-tiled, Western-style living room fitted out with sofas. It was in this room that Jiro Shirasu had discussions over drinks with Yoshida and other visitors. At the back of the building, there is a study where Masako wrote essays and other works. In between these rooms, there are exhibits such as a document from the former Imperial Household Ministry allowing the marriage between Jiro and Masako, who was the daughter of a count, and also his testament saying, “I don’t need a funeral or posthumous Buddhist name.”
In addition, pottery collected by Masako, who was well versed in antiques, and her favorite kimono are also on display. The furniture has been preserved in its original state from the time when the couple lived there, so visitors can get a sense of their personalities and lives.
In his later years, Jiro burned most of the documents related to postwar settlements in the garden, so only a limited number of items are exhibited in the buildings. His eldest daughter, Katsurako, 77, and her husband Yoshio Makiyama, 79, who run Buaiso, regret that fact. At the same time, however, they say that Jiro and Masako were a selfless couple who did not call attention to what they had done, which makes them all the more attractive.
Since the residence is located on the border between the former Musashi and Sagami provinces, its name is a play on the word buaiso, which means brusqueness in Japanese. The building is designated by the Machida municipal government as a historical site and is a 15-minute walk from Tsurukawa Station on the Odakyu Line. The exhibits are changed every season. Various events are also held, such as antique fairs and pottery classes.
Address: 7-3-2 Nogaya, Machida, Tokyo
Open: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays. (Open if a national holiday falls on a Monday.)