The Yomiuri ShimbunGOSHOGAWARA, Aomori — The number of visitors to Shayokan — the first home of writer Osamu Dazai (1909-1948) and a designated important national cultural property — reached 2 million in mid-August.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the writer’s death, and next year will be the 110th anniversary of his birth. With more young people and foreign tourists visiting Shayokan recently, its popularity seems likely to expand in the future.
Located in the Kanagimachi area of Goshogawara, Aomori Prefecture, Shayokan opened as a memorial hall for Dazai in April 1998.
The house was built by Dazai’s father, Genemon Tsushima, in 1907, two years before Dazai, whose real name is Shuji Tsushima, was born. Genemon was one of a handful of landowners in the prefecture.
Constructed in a semi-Western style, the house uses plenty of Aomori cypress wood. Eleven rooms fan out across the 917-square-meter first floor, and eight rooms occupy the 383-square-meter second floor. Building the house cost about ¥40,000, or the equivalent of ¥700 million ($6.3 million) to ¥800 million today.
The Tsushima family owned about 2.5 million square meters of land at one time — an area equivalent to 53 Tokyo Domes — but the family relinquished the ownership of the mansion in 1948 following Japan’s postwar agrarian reforms.
The house was then operated as a ryokan inn until 1996, when what was then the town of Kanagi purchased it to serve as a memorial hall for Dazai.
The building is filled with the refreshing aroma of Aomori cypress, and the large living room and wood-floor room from Dazai’s childhood are preserved. Items on display include Dazai’s beloved Inverness cape, the hakama skirt he wore on his wedding day, and a sofa that he sat on. The hall is popular because it offers visitors an up-close look at the way Dazai lived.
On Aug. 17, Tomi Tsushima from Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, became the 2 millionth visitor to Shayokan. Tsushima, 73, was born and grew up in the Kanagimachi area and was visiting the hall with her niece.
Shayokan curator Kazuhiro Ito and Goshogawara Mayor Takamasa Sasaki welcomed Tsushima at the hall’s entrance, and a small ceremony was held.
Tsushima received flowers and an illustrated book on the area’s history and Dazai’s life as commemorative gifts.
“I feel a connection [to Dazai] because I share the same surname as his real name,” she said.
The number of visitors this year was 45,920 as of Aug. 16.
“I felt the awesomeness of Dazai’s popularity when we achieved the unbelievably large number of 2 million visitors,” Ito said. “We want to maintain this momentum to attract 2.5 million and 3 million in the future.”Speech