4. THE MISAWA HOUSE
An Important Cultural Property of Kanagawa Prefecture
Original location: Nishi Town (Ina), Ina City, Nagano Prefecture
Type of building: Merchant’s house (wholesale pharmacy and inn)
Built: Mid 19th century
Form: Partly 2 storeys, with a gabled roof of shingles weighted with stones and a hisashi at the rear
Length (parallel to ridge): 13.6 m
Width: 12.7 m
Pantiled gate in front & wall with shingle roof
The Misawa House was situated in the middle of Inabe Juku, a post town on the Ina Highway which branches off from the Nakasendo Highway.
The Misawa were farmers and kumigashira (aldermen) in the town for generations. They also started to produce and trade in medicine towards the end of the Edo Period, under the trade name of Tsuchiya. They were very successful in the pharmacy business and were promoted to the higher social rank of toshiyori. This house was constructed at about that time.
Viewed from outside, the house is characterized by the shallow-pitched, gabled roof of shingles weighted down with stones and the formal entrance porch with gate at the high end. The shingle roof was used because high quality wood was available from nearby mountains. The formal gate and the guest entrance reflect the high rank of the family and were probably permitted them as a reward for donations to the local government.
In Inabe Juku, where most people were engaged in both agriculture and business, the houses were generally built by the roadside like this, occupying the full width of the plot frontage with the long earth-floored passage characteristic of Japanese town houses giving access to the rear of the plot. On the other hand, the stable at the rear of the earth-floored area, and Ōe (living room) in the center of the suite of living rooms, are features associated with farmhouses in this area.
Structurally, the posts of the lower frame are braced with tenoned lintels (sashigamoi) and penetrating ties (nuki), and the roof frame is a Japanese-style truss (wagoya), with uprights (tsuka) set upon the main transverse beams and braced by nuki. Viewed from the gable ends, the contrast between the neatly fabricated timber framing and the white plastered walls creates an impressive exterior.