The house where Iwakura Tomomi, a politician of noble lineage active in Japan's transition to a modern nation-state during the mid- to late-nineteenth century, once lived in hiding. In 1932, it was designated a National Historic Site.
Japan was in a period of transition during the mid-nineteenth century, moving from the old regime of warrior rule under the Tokugawa shogunate toward becoming a modern nation. A political movement was born to fight against the Tokugawa by advancing modernization while also championing Japan's imperial house. Because Iwakura Tomomi promoted a course toward cooperation between the imperial house and the Tokugawa family, there were radicals who sought to kill him and he was temporarily exiled from Kyoto proper. It was then that he fled into hiding at this residence on the outskirts of Kyoto.
An invaluable building that conveys how common people lived in the late nineteenth century. It has been preserved in a nearly miraculous condition. The architectural style is known as "settan" and was often used for commoner houses at the time. In 1864, Iwakura Tomomi bought this simple house (later to be the property's attached house) where a local carpenter had been living. Iwakura added a main house and a connecting room when he moved here, thus forming the basis of the former retreat that exists today. After he began living here, the attached house was used as a work space for his servants. Here they supported Iwakura's political activities by looking after his everyday needs and also assisting him with clerical affairs.
■Main House "Rin'un-ken"
A building invaluable for being the house where a historical figure of the nineteenth century once lived. On the west side, there is a low platform entrance (shiki-dai) often used for the front entrance of samurai residences, with a foyer room, six-tatami mat anteroom (tsugi-no-ma), and a six-tatami mat alcove (tokonoma) lined up from east to west, as well as a veranda on the southwest side. The three memorable glass window panels are said to have been a gift from the Omiya Palace. Additionally, there is an alcove space with upper and lower shelves (known as tenbukuro and jibukuro) featuring paintings by Gankyo, a painter belonging to the Kishi school, which was active in Kyoto's art world in the late nineteenth century. The shelves are preserved in the same condition as when they were first installed.
Functions as a building connecting the attached house to the main house and is composed of a bathroom area divided into two rooms according to waste function and a bathhouse with a metal pipe heated bath. In an age when the homes of ordinary people had no bathrooms, this one was specially created upon Iwakura Tomomi's request. It was installed so that visitors coming to visit this remote location from the heart of Kyoto proper could be accommodated even during long consultations with Iwakura Tomomi.
Constructed in 1928 to exhibit and store the affects of Iwakura Tomomi and documents related to the Meiji Restoration. The interior decor, including even the exhibition display case, is excellently preserved in the same condition as when it was first created. The building's design was done by Takeda Goichi, the architect who built the main building of Kyoto City Hall and a civil servant in Japan's Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture. The name "Taigaku" is taken from Iwakura Tomomi's penname as a poet. It means one who lives on the other side of Mt. Hiei. Today this building displays exhibits about Iwakura Tomomi's life and also materials about members of the Iwakura family. It was designated a National Registered Tangible Cultural Property in 2007.
The garden was renovated together with a large-scale restoration performed in 1928. It is built around a pine tree about 150 years old said to be "planted by Iwakura Tomomi's hand" and is a work from legendary Kyoto gardener Ogawa Jihei VII's final creative period. Today, the garden continues to be managed according to the image of a simple country garden.
It is said that, because Iwakura Tomomi lived in the Iwakura region during his youth and later when facing political ruin, he had great affection for the area. A memorial was therefore built on the east side of the main house where some of his hair is interred. People pay their respects to this memorial together with one for his wife Iwakura Makiko. To the north, there are also memorials to his sons Tomosada and Tomotsune.
■Former Retreat of Iwakura Tomomi Café
Guests are greeted with a menu of hot beverages such as roasted green tea and coffee as well as baked sweets from a local patisserie. In summer, we also have ice cream available.