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Former Kaichi School
The Former Kaichi School was opened in 1873 (6th year of the Meiji period) making it the oldest elementary school in Japan. The origins of the school grew from the formerly existing feudal school of the Matsumoto Domain, and plans for western-style education were generated by the “gonrei” (similar to modern day governor), Nagayama Moriteru of Chikuma Prefecture (area including present day Matsumoto City), and the school was built by the master carpenter, Tateishi Seiju. The school made ample use of foreign imported glass windows and so was also called, “Gyaman School.” The word, “gyaman” translates as “diamond” in the Dutch language. The school was used up until 1963 (38th year of the Showa period) and afterwards was dismantled and rebuilt to look just as it was in its original construction.
- 2-4-12 Kaichi, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano
- Contact No.
- From JR Matsumoto Station, take a Matsumoto Bus on the “Town Sneaker” Northern Course for about 12 minutes and get off at the Kyukaichi Gakkou (Former Kaichi School) Bus Stop from which it is a one-minute walk.
- Opening Hours / Holidays
- 9:00-17:00 (last entry at 16:30)
Closed: Every third Monday (every Monday from December to February), and days following national holidays.
- Time Required
- 60 minutes
- Admission fee
- Adults 300 yen, elementary and junior high school students 150 yen
※ Some information is displayed in Japanese and machine-translated English, which may not be accurate.
For the latest information, please check the official website for each spot.
Unconventional Architecture Mixing Western and Japanese
A highlight of the Former Kaichi School is its unconventional architecture. The two-storied wood building has tile roofing with white plaster walls and Chinese-styled gable eaves, and on top of the entranceway is a large octagonal tower, making for a strange blend of eastern and western styles of architecture. The elaborate wood carvings also leave a commanding impression.
Reproduction of a Meiji Classroom
The handrails and doors inside of the school are all carefully reproduced one by one. In this reconstructed Meiji era classroom, feel free to sit down in the students' seats. The flip up desks which textbooks were kept in are also faithfully restored. Instead of notebooks, there are small slate boards the students used to write on.
Catch a Glimpse of the High Level of Education
In the school, you can also find various kinds of resources used at the time like photographs, charts, and textbooks, etc. The picture below is of a word chart used to teach 1st year elementary kanji characters. Modern Japanese may have a hard time writing such characters without a dictionary revealing the high level of studies taught at the time.