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Isaniwa Yukiya

Isaniwa Yukiya was the first mayor of Dogo, and he transformed Dogo Onsen into the building we see today.

Isaniwa Yukiya

Name in Japanese: 伊佐庭如矢 Pronunciation: isaniwa yukiya Dates: 1828 to 1907

Isaniwa Yukiya was the first mayor of Dōgo, and he transformed Dōgo Onsen into the building we see today.

Yukiya was born in 1828 to Narukawa Kunio, a doctor in Dogo, and his wife, Maki.  He was a studious youth and he was tutored by Mikami Zean, a doctor in the Matsuyama Domain. At 17, he was adopted by a low-ranking samurai, Abe Yasuo, whose family name he took. He also married Yasuo’s daughter, Isa. At 27, Yukiya founded a private school. By the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, he had three children and when his son turned 20, Yukiya made the son the head of the Abe household while he himself took the surname Isaniwa. The name sounds the same as Dōgo’s celebrated shrine, but the kanji is slightly different.

After the Meiji Restoration, he became a functionary of the new Ehime Prefectural Office and in this capacity, he helped to save Matsuyama Castle from the destruction that befell other major castles after the end of the Edo period. He worked in various government posts around Shikoku before being appointed mayor of Dōgo Yunomachi, aged 62, in which position he served twelve years.

At that time, the Edo period bath facilities comprised a building with three bathing rooms and a separate outdoor bath that was free to use. First, Yukiya began charging for the outdoor bath to raise money for its renewal which was completed in 1892. Then he planned to renew the indoor facility. Recognising the high quality of the spring water and foreseeing its potential to attract visitors, Yukiya wanted to house it in an imposing building. He proposed a three-storey structure, unusual for Japan in those days, with European elements including Dutch style red glass. The budget for the building was astronomical and he faced such vehement opposition that he feared for his life. However, he eventually succeeded in persuading the people of Dōgo. As mayor, he accepted no pay, donating his salary to the cause of renewal.

He asked Sakamoto Hachiro, a carpenter who worked at the castle, to build the new structure. Sakamoto took twenty months to complete it in 1894. The two also cooperated on the extensions to the bathhouse that followed shortly after.

Yukiya also founded a train company in 1897 to draw visitors from Mitsuhama Port and Matsuyama. He established the former Yuzuki Castle as Dōgo Park, and devised a red and white sweet called Yuzarashi Dango, today’s Botchan Dango. In all of these developments, Yukiya faced opposition until their success became obvious.

In 1902, he retired as mayor at 74 and spent his time in tea ceremony, poetry, and Noh songs. He died in 1907 aged 80.

His grave is in Sagidani Cemetery in Dōgo with several other Matsuyama notables. A bronze bust of Yukiya gazes at Dōgo Onsen Honkan, and there’s a stone monument to him in Dōgo Park.

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