The Ota residence A Center of Tomo


A Center of Tomo

Trader's residence that represent of Tomonotsu,
the Key port of Setouchi Sea

Heading to the south of stone-paved alley toward all-night light, I saw Sugidama; a symbol of sake brewery in Japan; under a concave gable. I see air of substance from the sake brewery.

I looked up Ota residence.

Tomonoura; an international port town; had been once flourished as maritime trade during Edo period. The Ota; a high tone taste house; also invited court nobles to their place, yes, you will see its high grade from the appearance of the house. At the same time, somehow modern and open.

I placed my feet flat on the checker-floored after I entered its entrance with mystical forefeel.

Bright and Clear White walls (called Shirokabe)
were caught my eyes.

Still continue to exists Sake brewing storehouses

When I visited the Ota residence, Tomo town was just fulfilled with Hina dolls.

I received a brochure from a receptionist and had taken a look around the place.

Walk through grid dirt floor to the end; I saw a stove in a kitchen space. And Chinese zodiac-shaped cute Hina dolls were decorated next to it.

When you went through the kitchen space, it will take you to outside, and you will see very bright white walls brewing warehouse.

On the brewing warehouse walls, there was dice shaped design on it. I found numbers, one and four, there is five back there. It is really cute.

This wall is called Namako wall. The wall is made by clay. This traditional technique was developed during Edo period to protect from fire and salt breeze. The wall is very unique making. Place tiles on the walls, and insert cement plaster to joints. This looks like Namako (Sea slug).

I went into a stove room.

This room used to have a big stove. The stove steamed sticky rice; a main raw material for Houmei liquor.

The place was restored and investigated by education board in Fukuyama-city. I feel like I am able to see the brewage of the time.

After that, I went into Homei liquor warehouse.

Ota Residence of Spring Gorgeous /
Subtle and profound

Small world of Dolls in the Brewing warehouse

Inside of the brewing warehouse lighted in warm color.

On the other hand, air stroke the skin was cold yet in spring.

The warehouse was spindle from the south entrance to North side. Big black beams were lining at a regular interval on the ceiling.

Homei liquor jars, and its ladle or wooden tub were placed at the both side of the walls.

And huge numbers of Hina dolls were decorating above the jars. There were "Hakobina" or "Kamishimobina".

There was a warehouse called "Shingura" at the very east side of the property. This shingura is not really brand new. It was built in the early 19th century, so pretty historical.

And this Shingura is now used as an event space; I saw more than two hundreds gorgeous paper hina dolls were decorated at this event space.

And paper dolls diorama were a sight to see.

A scene was Kaomise (New lineup introduction) Kabuki. More than two hundreds paper hina dolls were lively lived in the small world.

However, this work was created by one craft man; in addition, the craft man is 84-years-old grandmother.

This is very amazing.

In her work, there is one scene of Mitsukuni Tokugawa; the Old Mito and its mischief make you smile.

I believed the grandmother is adorable.

A Song; "Tomo no Minato no Take no ha"

Homei liquor gave temporary relief to Seven Kugyo.

I gave back to the main building after took a walk in the property. There were number of rooms in the main building. Fresh Igusa smell took me back good old days.

I also found drawer stairs.

As it called, this stairs has drawers, and it is also took me back to good old days. Though I did not have those stairs; it made me feel it to.

This feeling always made me wonderment.

When I entered into a great hall, I saw a group of tourists were listening to a guide. The guide was telling a story of "Tomo Seven Kugyo".

Seven Kugyo were led by Sanetomi Sanjyo; the antiforeigner standard-bearer and they were driven out of Kyoto and went to Choshu after "August 18th Coup" by Koubugattai (Union of the Imperial Court and the Shogunate) occurred in 1863. Sanetomi and his group were staying at Ota residence (At the time, the place was owned by Nakamura family; the Homei liquor Brewing company) when they were re-try to go to Kyoto on July 19 and 20, 1864.

During Sanetomi was staying at the Ota residence, he made a song for Homei liquor. The song was published in "Chikuyoushu" in early Meiji era.

"Yo ni narazu Tomo no Minato no Take no ha wo, Kakute Namurumo Mezurashi no Yo ya" "Take no ha" is another name of liquor. According to historical event in China, there was expression; if you collect dews on bamboo leaves, it will turn into liquor.

He read "Homei liquor" for "Take no ha" (Bamboo leaves). I was wondering how he felt when he made this song.

Sanetomi was in midst of the incessant, however, he might have a temporary relief by drinking Homei liquor served by the Ota residence.

Vermeer Floor

A modern side of traders' houses were represent of Tomo; the international trade city.

I came back to a dirt floor of the store. And the receptionist was talking to me.

"Did you enjoy?"

"Yes, very much." I said. "I felt history but also modern, especially this Vermeer floor." "Yes, exactly. I understand what you meant. This checker board design was in Vermeer; the Dutch painter painting. From old times, there is mixture of many cultures."

Tomonoura was once flourished as marine trade.

This port town was flourished by Kitamae bune and Korean envoys.

And, I also found Vermeer floor in Tomo! When I saw this floor, I was thinking I saw this design in somewhere else.

And she said, "This checker pattern, the black part is tile and the white part is cement plaster. Normally, a dirt floor is made by dirt, but this house is stylish."

Some checker floor remains old before renovation, so some were dusty checker pattern.

I believed people at the time see avant-garde in their eyes for its floor work.

A woman pointed to the entrance and said, "A building cross this road by the bay is Chousoutei".

"And this is annex building where the load of the Fukuyama domain stayed".

The Chousoutei is built by Tomo bay as if to occupy on a covered alley (is stone steps designed for tidal level so ships are able to lay.).

The fact of the matter is Chousoutei has own boat slip. It was truly have a presence or some such wholesaler.

The Ota residence is front man for Tomo.

Spirit of good service

The spirit of tea ceremony; Hidden snappy formality

"The Annex building of Chousoui-tei over there is for visitors"; the receptionist said and she turned out and pointed tatami room in the main building and continued; "Look at the main building walls. Those red walls are made in mid-Edo era for its family rooms. And the rest of white walls are for visitors rooms built in later Edo period." And the visitor rooms had back doors so the visitors were able to goes in and out without see no one.

Ota residence was offering hidden rooms to visitors (The Lord or writers) while presented Homei liquor; the specialty of Tomo; to the Shogunal during Edo period. The receptionist told while she was looking up the store's dirt floor ceiling.

"This ceiling is called Ajiro ceiling. Ajiro ceiling is made by bamboo."

The ceiling was woven by light and dark brown bamboos. And we were walk toward to the end, and she looked up again.

And she said, "This is called Sudare-bari ( is used bamboo blind on the ceiling). I also looked up. Yes, it was true. I saw bamboo blind on the ceiling.

She said, "This ceiling assimilated a custom of tea ceremony. The Ajiro ceiling which is made by bamboos is entertaining ceiling for customers. And the host side of ceiling is simple; Sudare-bari ceiling. The host will offer and make a tea here for customers. This is a custom in tea ceremony".

And she transfers her gaze to Tatami room and she continued.

"And this residence has more than one tea rooms, and those tea rooms were used for business negotiations. And the innermost tea room floor plan was one tatami with three quarters tea room. It was called ‘Ichidaime Cha shitsu'. This tea room was only used to entertain the load or someone who was important, high position or noble birth. And the innermost tatami room has Irori space."

And I asked, "Irori space?"

"Yes, this irori is for making a tea. So the Irori space cut its floor in square. We do have a tea room in the second floor too. We have four tea rooms all together. And other rooms which have not Irori space also able to make a tea room because of its architect. The residence used Sukiya Kenchiku (Tea-ceremony architect). The owner was such a snappy person."

In addition, she taught me about ‘Maraido'.

Maraido is a sliding door which has thin sash bars.

"The Seven Kugyo room also has special perspective. For an example, the room has Nageshi, which was used for whole Cedar wood from Kyoto with Menkawabashira technique."

I felt like I saw what the hospitality is.

The origin of Houmei liquor

The root of Houmei liquor and the liquor was loved by many writers.

The origin of Homei liquor is date back to early Edo period.

"Now, this place is Ota residence, however, this place was used to be Nakamura residence. He was from Osaka. His full name was Kichibei Nakamura. His son who was a Chinese medicine doctor suffered damage from a flood. Then he had decided to move to Tomo from Osaka."

Then the receptionist pointed Chinese medicine display lack and continued; "We have lining up herbal here, the first, we use sticky rice, Shochu and Koji (rice malt) to make Mirin; a sweet cooking rice wine, and put herbals into Mirin to make Homei liquor. Nakamura had its idea from his son; a Chinese medicine doctor. The Nakamura was the origin of Homei liquor.

The Nakamura was applying liquor production business to the load in 1659m and have started liquor business, and in 1710, Nakamura has received an exclusive liquor production license from the lord.

"However," she said.

"When overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate in Meiji era, Nakamura no longer has exclusive to Homei liquor and increasing others in the same trade, therefore, Nakamura family was fall into decline. In 1930, Ota who was a rich trade man in Tomo purchased the residence up to the present date."

Houmei liquor made history.

Houmei liquor has been loved by Sanetomi Sanjyo and his Seven Kugyo, Rai Sanyo who was a thinker in later Edo period, or Korean envoys or many celebrities or writers. And here is the origin place.

Ota residence is continues to be loved

Thoughtful Hospitality

It seems like the receptionist truly feel proud of the Ota residence. I really could feel from the way she speaks.

The Ota residence has a presence; on the other hand, the residence has an international sensibility.

The Ota residence; the smartness; has both traditional and avant-garde- I believed its smartness will understand not only old days writers or celebrities but also modern people like us.

That is why some people love the residence and go out the Ota residence way to preserve.

The receptionist was facing to the store and said.

"Now, we are in Hina dolls festival. And when wind comes, hina dolls' hut has blown off its head. So, we closed fusuma or shoji, but normally opens, so it was like a picture in the frame."

I imagined it and gave an exclamation. It was full of visual ideas.

I guess I understood why the Ota residence has been attracted by people.

Because the residence has hospitality, it has thoughtful to entertained customers.

I felt the residence self has thoughtful with a kind heart.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful hospitality.