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The Kodokan was a hanko domain school built by Tokugawa Nariaki, daimyo of Mito Domain, in 1841. Its structural remains are a sizable example of classic shoin-zukuri residential architecture. The Kodokan, along with its main gate and Shinzendo hall, have been nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties. The Kairakuen is a garden planted with plum trees, which carry strong associations with scholarship in Japan. People would walk among what was the greatest plum grove of the day to receive poetic inspiration or simply relax after a long day of study.
Ashikaga Gakko is Japan’s oldest surviving school. Opinions are divided on how it was established, but the prevailing view is that it was founded in the Kamakura period by Ashikaga Yoshikane. The Catholic missionary Francis Xavier sent news of the school to Europe during his stay in Japan in the mid-sixteenth century, noting that it was the largest and most famous university in the Bando (modern-day Kanto) region.
Shizutani Gakko is the oldest of Japan’s goko schools. Ikeda Mitsumasa, daimyo of the Okayama Domain, founded Shizutani Gakko in 1670 to embody the Confucian spirit of benevolent rule. The auditorium (kodo) is the only educational building to be officially designated as a National Treasure—a distinction it earned in back in 1953. The surrounding area, which includes the site of the residence of Tsuda Nagatada and the Koyotei resting place, was designated as a Special Historic Site the following year.
Kangien was a private academy built in 1817 by Hirose Tanso, a Confucian scholar famous throughout Japan for his Chinese poetry, at Tenryo Hita. In an era of strict social hierarchies, the Kangien accepted students from all walks of life. The Mameda-machi historical district is the site of the house where Tanso was born as well as boarding homes for Kangien students. Here, the town still looks much as it did in the days when it grew up alongside the Kangien.
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