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Uwa Rice Museum

Uwa Rice Museum Exhibits concerning Japan’s staple food housed in an atmospheric old school building.

Uwa Rice Museum

The Uwa Rice Museum is located a short distance from the main street of Unomachi on top of a steep concrete embankment. The buildings housing the museum are actually two separate wings of the old Uwa Elementary School, built in 1928. When the old wooden school was replaced with a concrete structure, two corridors and the gymnasium were moved up the hill and faithfully reconstructed. A gingko tree, which used to stand in the centre of the school, was also relocated.

The first building seems to go on forever—it stretches for 109 metres, which creates some interesting effects of perspective. The other end of the corridor is so far away that you can hardly see it. It’s almost surreal. Uwa is cold in winter, and to keep warm, there were coal burning stoves in each classroom. Pupils had to haul the coal to the classroom themselves. You can experience something of the life of a Showa era pupil yourself—the staff will give you a wet rag, and time you as you scuttle down the corridor, with your rag to the floor and rump in the air, swabbing the floorboards. You can get a little stamp to prove you did it.

The museum houses some very interesting exhibits about the cultivation and marketing of rice, with many real tools and machines from various periods in history. There’s also a schoolroom preserved as it was, and in a separate building, a scale model of the old primary school, showing it to be an impressively large building suitable for a time when Japan’s population was much larger. Ehime has traditionally been a prefecture which has placed a strong emphasis on education, and the old school was a veritable palace of pedagogy. The gymnasium isn’t normally open to the public, but we can arrange a visit. It’s a beautiful space with an elegantly curving ceiling and a little stage with pilasters. A staircase descends from the ceiling giving access to the amazing system of struts that holds the roof up.

Information

Name in Japanese: 宇和米博物館

Pronunciation: uwa kome hakubutsukan

Address: 2 Chome-24 Uwacho Unomachi, Seiyo, Ehime 797-0015

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