The Honma-bukeyashiki, the residence of the Honma family, was constructed in 1768 for the reception of an official shogunal entourage who were inspecting the Shōnai Domain which belonged to the Sakai Clan. The Honma, vassals of the Sakai, were then allowed to live in the residence, which they did so until 1945. The Honma family were originally merchants, not samurai, but they were promoted to bushi status following services rendered to the domain (which means they paid their way up, and the financing of the yashiki for the occasion of the Shogunal officiate’s inspection was likely part of this). Sakata was an important port and commercial hub within the domain, and the Honma were very influential in the town. From burghers to bushi, the transitional history of the Honma family is reflected in their residence, the Honma-bukeyashiki, with its unique combination of mercantile and bushi residential architecture.
The residential complex contains the main residential halls, storehouses, pocket gardens and gates, including a nagayamon (rowhouse-gate) which serves as the main entrance, indicative of bushi status. An annex is also located over the road which looks like a shop, again reflective of the mercantile activities of the caste-straddling clan. The main hall’s genkan (entry parlour) is conjoined with a beautiful red pine which hugs its elegant gable, a delicate arrangement of nature and artifice centuries in the making.
I like the idea of this family whose ancestors had never shed blood, lording it as samurai. In the Edo period, known for its rigid caste system, status was more fluid than many have been led to believe. In particular, the samurai were often sorely short on funds, and relied on generous contributions to domain coffers from local wealthy merchants. Between favours and strategic marriages, a successful merchant family could become bushi.
Interior photography of what is commonly called the Honma Family Main Villa’s main halls is prohibited.
According to Yogo’s blog, the Honma Clan was originally the dominant clan in Sado (Yogo-sensei is from Sado), an island and province off of Echigo, today part of Niigata, and it was raided by the Uesugi Clan in the late 16th century which forced the Honma to flee to Sakata and set up shop there.
|Honma Residence Profile|
|English Name||Honma Residence|
|Residence Type||Upper Class|
|Designations||Important Cultural Property, Prefectural Treasure|
|Features||Gates, Garden, House, Warehouses|
|Visitor Information||9:30-16:30; 900円|
|Location||Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture|
|Coordinates||38° 54' 52.45" N, 139° 50' 22.27" E|
|Kamegasaki Castle and nearby Samurai Homes|