5/16/2008

Storehouse (kura)

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Storehouse, warehouse (kura)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


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Explanation

Fire was a gread hazard in olden times and the strongly build "kura" were one way to protect one's property.


storehouse, tiled storehous, kura 蔵
dozoo 土蔵

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storehouse for ricewine, sakegura 酒蔵
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living room in a storehouse, for emergency situations, kura zashiki 蔵座敷
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storehouse for rice, komegura 米蔵


Most farm estates in my area in Okayama have a kura, a special storehouse for the family treasures.
It is used to protect things from earthquakes, fires and hurricanes.
The strong walls are fireproof and the windows are very small with fireproof shutters. The strong doors are fireproof too. The timber used for a kura was covered with clay and then with a plaster finish.


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Typical walls with tiles of a Tosa storehouse, Shikoku

The roof consists of heavy tiles to withstand storm and fire. Sometimes even the walls have a row or two of tiles to make a way for strong rain blown on the walls during a typhoon. This kind of wall is especially common along the seaside towns of Japan.


The doors had special locks to prevent thieves and burglers from their work.
Locks of the Edo Period / joomae 錠前
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joo, kusari 鎖 is a chain that can be used with a lock.

- - - - - Matsuo Basho - - - - -

朝顔や昼は鎖おろす門の垣
. asagao ya hiru wa joo orosu mon no kaki .


鎖あけて月さし入れよ浮み堂
joo akete tsuki sashireyo Ukimi Doo

let us open the lock
and have the moon shine in -
Floating Hall

Tr. Gabi Greve

Visiting the 浮御堂 Ukimido Floating Hall - the details:
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


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The walls were often strengthened with plaster, in various geometrical patterns. These "namako kabe なまこ壁" are especially beautiful in their contrast of white and black.
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The black parts of this wall are made from flat black tiles, hira gawara ( 平瓦(ひらがわら). The roofs of a storehouse were rather small in their overhang, to prevent a fire from being pressed down on the walls, and the tiles on the bottom of a wall were fireproof and also protected from the rain.
The beautiful black finish of these walls is very typical of some regions, where they get many extra layers of a special laquer 黒漆喰.


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Strong Doors of a Storehouse

Samurai Residence, buke yashiki 武家屋敷
Katsuyama, Japan

The door was built in some steps, each covered with mortar made of mud, so the fire sparks would not come in. This is called "kakego painting, kakegonuri 掛子(かけご)塗り.

Look at my collection of window shutters at a storehouse in Katsuyama !


More "plaster paintings" as decorations for storehouses, kote-e 鏝絵 (こてえ). Click on the photo.
CLICK for more photos of these paintings

CLICK for more of his work These relief works of art are made by the plasterers, usually with a pattern of good luck for the family. One of the famous masters of this kind of artwork was Irie Chohachi 入江長八
(Iri-e Choohachi)
of the town of Matsuzaka (Shizuoka prefecture), where you can see a whole museum full of his artwork.


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Kurashiki, a town with many storehouses
倉敷 Okayama Prefecture Japan

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Kurashiki and Daruma san



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Kawagoe and its storehouses

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Kawagoe's fortunes owe everything to its strategic position on the Shingashi River and Kawagoe-kaido, the ancient highway to the capital. If you wanted to get goods to Tokyo, then called Edo, they more than likely had to go via Kawagoe, thus the town's merchants prospered as a result. They accumulated the cash to build fireproof kurazukuri, the black, two-storey shophouses the town is now famous for.
At one time there were over 200 of these houses, but their earthenware walls didn't prove quite so effective against fire as hoped (nor were they much use in the face of Japan's headlong rush to modernization). Even so, some thirty still remain, with sixteen prime examples clustered together along Chuo-dori, around 1 km north of the JR and Tobu stations, protected as Important Cultural Properties.
© travel.yahoo.com


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Kuramae 倉前 in Edo
The Government Rice Granaries


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The rice storage houses (kura) in Kuramae are a well-known landmark in central Edo. The Kuramae district, on the west bank of the Sumida river, is a very busy part of the city, and a very important one as far as the government is concerned, because this is the site of the government rice granaries, where much of the grain reserves for the city are kept.

Kuramae is located on the west bank of the Sumida river, just a few kilometers upriver from the Nihonbashi area. It is also located close to the trunk road that leads from Nihonbashi to the ferry boat crossing at Senju, the junction point for all of the main roads leading north and east from Edo. The Kuramae rice trading and storage operations are an important concern of the bakufu. Government officials, and even the Shogun himself, have to keep a close eye on the operations of the official granaries, since rice is the basis of Japan's economy, and the size of the grain reserves can have an important effect on the entire country.

The Shoguns have tried to restrict rice speculation many times in the past. However, since the rice merchants play an important role in ensuring that the rice market is efficient, and products are distributed to all parts of the country, it is almost impossible to completely eliminate speculative rice trading. The easiest way for the bakufu to keep rice prices steady is to maintain a large supply in kura (warehouse) districts around the country, buying and selling the rice as necessary in order to keep prices in balance. In this sense, the granaries at Kuramae could be considered as a sort of "Federal Reserve Bank of Edo."

Kuramae is a very impressive-looking place, especially when seen from the river. The long rows of kura along the river bank -- with their whitewashed walls and high, narrow windows -- are an impressive sight indeed. The basic structure of the kura in Kuramae is not that much different from the granaries that farmers maintain in their rural villages. They have thick walls of packed earth, plastered over a wooden frame and whitewashed to fill in any cracks. The doors and windows are small, and kept closed at all times except when rice is being loaded and unloaded. This keeps the inside fairly cool and dry, to prevent the grain from rotting. However, the buildings in Kuramae are many times larger than those found in local villages, and there are hundreds of them arranged in long rows along a series of narrow canals which lead inland from the river.

The rows of granaries are all concentrated in an area between the river and the main road. Facing the road, at the entrance to the district, are several large buildings where the traders and granary managers conduct rice transactions. All of the shipments into and out of the kura are recorded carefully in account books, and the summary figures telling the volume of rice in storage and the going price per koku are sent to bakufu officials once or twice a week. At harvest time the kashi (wharves), where rice is unloaded, are bustling with activity as boats from all over the country dock and unload their cargoes of rice. Usually, the jito (a low-ranking samurai who supervises production in a certain village or region) will travel to Edo with their rice shipments in order to ensure that the delivery is made safely, to get a receipt for their delivery, and to haggle with the officials at the kura in order to get the best price possible.

The dock workers carry the heavy bundles of rice off the barges and up the steps into the granary buildings. After rice is harvested and dried, the farmers who produced it bring their tax rice to the home of the jito (the word "jito" literally means "head of the land"). There, the rice is wrapped in large bundles made of straw. Since each bundle is supposed to contain exactly one-fourth of a koku of rice, it is easy for the warehouse managers to quickly tally the amount of each shipment. Each bundle bears the stamp of the region and farm that produced and bundled it, so if the managers find out later that the bundles don't contain the right amount of rice, they can easily tell who is guilty of trying to cheat the Government.

More is here

© edomatsu: Welcome to Edo!


More in the Daruma Museum:

. komedonya 米問屋 rice brokers in Kuramae .

. Kuramae Baka Monogatari 蔵前馬鹿物語 .


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External LINK
NHK: 蔵。美の壺


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Worldwide use


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Things found on the way



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HAIKU


kigo for the New Year

kurabiraki 蔵開 (くらびらき)
first opening of the store house

..... okurabiraki 御蔵開(おくらびらき)


. NEW YEAR : Work begins

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- At the party of a certain person

香を探る梅に蔵見る軒端哉
ka o saguru ume ni kura miru nokiba kana

searching for the plum fragrance
I gaze up to the eaves
of this warehouse . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

This is a greeting for his host, Boosen 防川 Bosen, a rich merchant with a large warehouse.
The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.


Oi no Kobumi 笈の小文
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


Boosen 防川 Bosen
Not much is known about this merchant. Two of his poems are in the Arano Collection あら野.

大服は去年の青葉の匂哉 
一本の葦の穂痩しゐせき哉


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蔵焼けて 障るものなき 月見哉
kura yakete sawaru mono naki tsukimi kana

My storehouse burnt down,
There is nothing to obstruct
The moon-view.
trans. Blyth

Now that my storehouse
has burned down, nothing
conceals the moon.

trans. Yoel Hoffmann

Mizuta Masahide 水田 正秀 (1657-1723)
Read the discussion of the translation here.


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Kobayashi Issa

よその蔵からすじかひに初日哉
yoso no kura kara sujikai ni hatsu hi kana

from a neighbor's storehouse
shining slantwise...
year's first sun




おち葉してけろりと立し土蔵哉
ochiba shite kerori to tateshi dozô kana

among fallen leaves
the storehouse
unconcerned



下戸の立たる蔵もなし年の暮
geko no tatetaru kura mo nashi toshi no kure

no storehouse was ever
built by a non-drinker...
the year ends



More KURA haiku by Issa
Tr. David Lanoue


The last haiku refers to a proverb
下戸(げこ)の建てたる倉も無し
geko no tateru kura mo nashi

Even if you do not drink sake, there is no promise you will get rich.
So it is better to drink a little and enjoy your life.



from Kuwagata Keisai 鍬形蕙斎『諺画苑』

This shows just the opposite, a drinker in his storehouse, enjoying his cup of sake.

Comment by Robin Gill on facebook:
In an early 17c book, the title of which H Mack Horton translates as Laughs to Banish Sleep, Anraku Sakuden plays with the old proverb in a poem which continues that "and a heavy drinker's storehouse has a hard time standing up."
Ah, the original, literally translated is that "there are no storehouses raised by teetotalers" (i suppose that merchants need the social lubrication to sell goods and amass treasure to be stored.

A verbal war between drinkers and non-drinkers in Japan goes back to the Manyoushu where we can tell the poems in favor of drink are responding to would-be prohibitionists or, at least moralists. The most interesting debates in poetry took place in mad poems and you may find a dozen or so on both sides (where the non-drinking physician Bokuyo defends teetotalers by attacks drinkers after a drinker put down teetotalers) in Mad In Translation.

Mad poetry is probably the biggest storehouse of drinking poems. My favorite of Issa's drinking poems does not concern practical matters. It is the one where he takes a swig of sake for each stroke of his hoe or the vice-versa (my memory is of the approximate type) -- a playful take-off on the Chinese poet said to write so many poems per cup of wine . . .


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秋ざくら倉庫とともに運河古る
akizakura sooko to tomo ni unga furu

cosmos flowers -
old storehouses along with
an old canal


Akatsuka Gogyoo 赤塚五行

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my neighbour's kura ...
he closed the door
with a loud BANG

Gabi Greve, April 2006

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Related words

***** Fire (kaji) The Town of Edo is burning down ...

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

kura yakete sawaru mono naki tsukimi kana

Is the season of this haiku automatically autumn, because of the use of 'moon' without another season qualifier?

If so, then there is a pychological depth to the ku that otherwise might not be recognized. A storehouse burning down in autumn, after the harvest, would mean hard times for the family for the coming year. But instead of lamenting the loss, or overtly expressing concern for their welfare, the poet focuses attention on what Shirane calls "the vertical axis" of the
natural world--the ever returning moon.

The horizontal axis (Shirane) is reflected in the present moment, which offsets the pain of loss with the joy of moon viewing, and the hope for future harvests in the natural order of things.

At least, this is my reading, at this point in time. If I have overlooked something that would be obvious to one steeped in Japanese culture, would you kindly let me know?

I live in Arkansas, one of the Southern states in the USA that have been repeatedly hit by killer tornadoes since February. This reading of the poem above gives me a different perspective on all the recent television images of natural disasters in Myanmar, India, and China, as well as in my own region.

Thanks for sharing it, and in the different translations.

Johnye

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/simply_haiku/message/21772

Anonymous said...

Gabi san thank you greatly for your information on Kura and Kuramae.

Those show me wide guide to rice broker whose name Natsume Seibi.

As you know he was a great sponsor as well as a teacher of Issa staying in Edo.

I think Seibi is key man to understand Issa's character.

sakuo.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/translatinghaiku/message/2391

Gabi Greve said...

かはほりの代々土蔵住居哉
kawahori no dai-dai dozoo sumai kana

generations of bats
have called this storehouse
home

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

News said...

quote from the Japan Times -
These storehouses were usually built some distance from the main dwelling or shop to reduce the risk from fires caused by cooking or heating.

"One reason you see kura surrounded by modern buildings is that they were more likely than other traditional structures to survive fire and disaster," Kanai said. "It's very interesting to look at photographs taken immediately after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, and the firebombing in 1945. What you see is a lot of rubble with just the kura left standing." Even when people rebuilt by choice, they often took down the main house but left the kura intact.

"A kura was a status symbol," Kanai explained. "It told the world you had something valuable enough to need protecting, and that you had the money to build one."

In fact, the expression "kura o tateru" ("to build a storehouse") is another way of saying "to become a financial success."

Building an earthen storehouse was indeed an expensive undertaking. First you had to lay a stone foundation to support the wooden frame, which was usually built with massive logs. Then you would affix bamboo or palm lathing to the frame, and apply layer after layer of clay to form the interior walls. When all that was dry, you would finish the walls by meticulously applying thin layers of a plaster called shikkui. It's shikkui that gives dozō storehouses their distinctive white exterior.
.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/ek20120515wh.html

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

joo 鎖 chain, used to lock
.
鎖あけて月さし入れよ浮み堂
鎖 ( じやう ) 明けて月さし入れよ 浮御堂
joo akete tsuki sashireyo Ukimi Doo

let us open the lock
and have the moon shine in -
Floating Hall

Matsuo Basho
Tr. Gabi Greve
.
MORE
about this hokku and the situation

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

香を探る梅に蔵見る軒端哉 
ka o saguru / ume ni kura miru / nokiba kana

Matsuo Basho

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa and his storhouse hurned down . . .


焼跡やほかりほかりと蚤さわぐ
yake ato ya hokari-hokari to nomi sawagu

yake-tsuchi no hokari-hokari ya nomi sawagu
.
with a photo
.

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

kura zashiki, kurazashiki 蔵座敷 living room in a storehouse

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