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Mountain Work

Text: Satoko Shibahara


Folklore museums in various areas always have a vast array of interesting items on display. Recently I went to the Kitamisanchi Museum of Folklore located in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture in what used to be Kawai Village. The museum finds itself in a relatively undeveloped area, but is packed with a huge variety of things to see. It houses approximately 7,500 items, of which around 3,500 are on display to the public.

The museum is packed with various items

Life in the areas between mountains is tough and crops are difficult to grow. However, back in the days before oil became the primary source of energy, the mountains could grant quite a profit to those who were willing to take the risk—forestry work paid well due to being a dangerous pursuit which required the felling of trees without machinery, and charcoal was another valuable source of income being an energy source that could be exported to other regions. The cows and horses which were used in transportation were also highly valued. Traditional L-shaped houses known as magariya were supposedly very common where horses and people lived under the same roof. The museum is full of tools that are fascinating to look at even if you don’t know their exact histories. However, as I looked at these items with an understanding of the livelihoods behind them, they seemed to sparkle with life.

Before roads were built in the mountain, logs were brought down on wooden sleds 
Fabric used as clothing for cows

Miyako Kitamisanchi Museum of Folklore
2-187-1 Kawai, Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, 028-2302

Satoko Shibahara
Editor / first-class architect. After studying architecture, she worked for a design firm and museum public relations before becoming a freelance editor, writer and planner in 2015. Writing and managing projects for websites and books, primarily in the fields of art and architecture. She writes art exhibition reviews for “” (Magazine House Ltd) and will begin an art research project “Scene of new habitation” in 2021.

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