Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Wonderful Kura • すばらしい蔵

One interesting thing I have noticed living in Inakadate is the very large number of kura that are to be found throughout the village. A kura is an old kind of storehouse. They are usually made with a large stone foundation, mud walls and a metal or tile roof.

With their thick walls of mud (then painted white), kura stay cool long into the summer. These same thick walls were also (in theory anyway) designed to deter rodents. And in a land of thatched roofs, the metal or tile roofs provided added protection against fire.

With a design in many ways stronger than the average house, it seems obvious that Kura were originally built to provide protection for something. Throughout history, people have kept their food, often rice (or here in Aomori, apples) in their kura to protect them from the weather, thieves, rodents and fire. In addition to food, it seems that people often put family treasures into their kuras to provide them extra protection.
何かを守るために作られた建物なので、蔵は普通の民家より丈夫に作られているようです。昔から、人々は最も大事な食べ物 (特に米、そしてここの青森ではりんご )を蔵に入れて保管しました。蔵は悪天候や、どろぼう、ネズミや火事から大事なものを守ってきたようです。食べ物の他に、より安全に守れるように、蔵を持つ人は代々受け継がれてきた家族の宝物も蔵に入れていたようです。

In other communities I have seen one or two kura, but everywhere you look in Inakadate there seems to be a kura. In the farmsteads of many of the village's older homes the kura often occupies a prominent piece of land within that plot. I think that probably this speaks best to the prosperity of the farmers and productivity of the land.

Of course, these days if you want to keep something cool you put it in the refrigerator and if you want to keep it safe you put it in a bank or other safe place. As a result, it seems that kura have lost a lot of their utility. My guess is that no one has probably build a kura in 35 or 40 years. Also I don't think you can say that the existence of kura today means that farmers are still prosperous.
もちろん、この頃何か涼しいところで保存したければ、冷蔵庫に入れるし、貴重品などは銀行に預けるかどこか安全な所に入れておきます。というわけで、ある意味では蔵の使い道がなくなってしまったようです。よく分かりませんが、おそらくこの35 ~40年間にはこの村で誰も蔵を建てていないのではないでしょうか。この蔵の存在は昔の農家の繁栄を表しているように思えます。
When I ask people what are in the village's kura, they most often answer, 'junk, stuff people don't want to throw away.' According to my coworkers, some might put a few apples or maybe some rice in them, but for most people they are just another storage shed, place to keep tools, fertilizer, furniture and other stuff they don't want to leave outside.
「今は蔵の中に何が入っていますか」と聞くと、一番よく聞く答えは「モノ。 捨てたくないモノ」です。同僚によると、自分の家で食べる米を少し保管している人もいるでしょうが、多くの場合、蔵には農業用品や道具、古くなった家具など外に放置しておきたくない物を入れる物置になっているそうです。

For the most part, most of the kura in Inakadate are very well maintained. Once in a while you see a very old one where the mud walls are starting to erode, but for the most part they are beautiful buildings. Hopefully they will stay that way. According to one person I spoke with, there are very few people left in Japan who have the knowledge and skill to build or repair the mud walls of the kura. But letting them deteriorate would be a waste. They are a unique gift from generations past.

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