Matsumoto’s New National Treasure! The Former Kaichi School

Matsumoto is arguably most famous for its castle of the same name, which has been designated as a National Treasure of Japan over 80 years ago. For a long time, this was the only National Treasure in Matsumoto, but all of that changed in September of 2019 with the designation of another National Treasure: The Former Kaichi School.

Also designated as an Important Cultural Property, the Former Kaichi School was first built in 1873 next to the Metoba River, but was soon rebuilt in 1876. The rebuilt school differed in style from the previous one in that it was made in a quasi-Western style called giyofu, modeled after the Tokyo Kaisei School (presently University of Tokyo).

On the front of the building, you can find some sculptures of angels and a dragon. While this seems to fit in with the giyofu style, it seems to be so unique that there is apparently nothing else like it in the rest of the world.

You can enter the Former Kaichi School via the smaller building on the right. Before entering, take off your shoes and change into the slippers provided inside.

On the doors leading to the corridor, you can find more sculptures of dragons.

The school was designed by Seijyu Tateisha, a local carpenter, and his ideas regarding the architectural design received a lot of praise from the locals as it was very modern for that time (and especially for a school in Matsumoto). However, during construction, it turned out that building the school was more expensive than initially thought. The school was eventually finished with the help of the Matsumoto residents, whose generous donations covered about 70% of the remaining cost.

This is what a typical Japanese classroom looked like some 100 years ago.
On this picture, you can see photographs of school children doing their best to study.

The Former Kaichi School consists of 2 floors and has 16 rooms that you can enter. The rooms show you what it was like in the old days and showcase furniture, school equipment, photographs or other educational materials. Because the school was not only used as an elementary school, but also as a junior high school, women’s school and a technical college, the items displayed in each room vary a lot.

The lecture hall on the 2nd floors has several things on display, such as the school flag. The windows are closed off to show the beautiful colors coming from the stained glass better.
Can you guess what kind of textbook this is? Hint: the item on the right picture was often used in the same class.
In one of the rooms on the second floor, there is a small corner with a few items from the olden days that you can touch and inspect freely such as a hat, some shoes and books.

For about 90 years (until 1963) after it opened, the Former Kaichi School was used by the people of Matsumoto as a functioning school. A year after that, it was relocated to where it stands today and then opened its doors to the public as an educational museum in 1965. Nowadays, there’s a new Kaichi School where children are being educated which is located right in front of the old one.

The school also features a small souvenir shop where you can find old toys, snacks and even small models of desks and chairs used at the school.

If you’re interested in the history of Matsumoto, you cannot miss out on a visit to the Former Kaichi School. Already planning on visiting Matsumoto Castle? Swing by the Kaichi School first and walk your way down to the castle grounds (only a 10-min. walk)! It’s ideal if you want to visit both of Matsumoto’s National Treasures.

Information

Admission Price: Adults 400 JPY
Opening Hours: 9:00~17:00 (Last entry at 16:30)
Closed: Every Monday from December until February. Every 3rd Monday from March until November.
(Open if Monday falls on a national holiday and closed the following day)
Also closed during the New Year’s holiday.

You can see the Former Kaichi School immediately when you get off the bus.

How to Get There

Take the Town Sneaker (North Course) departing from the Castle Exit of Matsumoto Station and ride it for about 17 minutes before getting off at the Kyukaichigakko (Former Kaichi School) bus stop. The bus departs every 30 minutes from the station during weekdays and every 20 minutes on the weekends. The first bus leaves at 8:30 and the last at 17:15.

A one-time trip on the Town Sneaker costs 200 JPY, but there is a special Town Sneaker One-Day Bus Ticket for 500 JPY (250 JPY for children) that allows you unlimited rides on the Town Sneaker buses, as well as the Matsumoto One Day Pass for 800 JPY (400 JPY for children) which not only includes unlimited rides on the Town Sneaker, but on local buses to the Asama Onsen and Utsukushigahara areas as well.

Both of these special tickets give you discounts for several sightseeing spots in Matsumoto such as the Former Kaichi School and Matsumoto Castle. You can purchase them at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal or aboard the Town Sneaker.

To get to Matsumoto City, please check out the bus timetable of your desired route below.
Shinjuku – Matsumoto
Nagoya – Matsumoto
Osaka/Kyoto – Matsumoto
Takayama – Matsumoto
Narita Airport/Tokyo Disney Resort® – Matsumoto

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