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The Edo Period in Japan was an era of "small government." In the central government, local government, in the towns, and farm villages, the citizens bore part of the responsibility of administration. Much of the administrative execution was performed by citizens, and most societal projects and enterprises such as festivals and collaborative work was carried out by the citizens. These benefactors were referred to as "Danna,"usually wealthy business owners, merchants and farmers, spread far and wide.

There wasn't a strict model for "Danna bunka" (bunka=culture) which flourished and varied by region and person. Politics, administration, economy, education, and culture fell into the domain of Danna culture. This way of life continued through the Meiji Period to early Showa period, when it became ever so rare. But it was completely obliterated after WW II. Now as the need for corporate citizenship and a small, efficient government increases, we should rediscover that there is a historical precedent that should be followed in the traditional values and ways of "Danna bunka."

Not only did Sakuzaemon (Takai Kozan's grandfather), the 10th generation Ichimura provide food after the fated famine, he also had a library constructed afterwards over the course of several years. In those days, such things were not uncommon, and many structures and gardens were constructed in the same way from Shinshu towards the Tohoku region. In the "small government" time of the Edo Period, citizens launched not only fire fighting and recovery strategies, but also reconstruction plans as well. In this way, the people's wealth became a tool to help others. This is one part of Patron Culture.

In the second or third year of the Tempo Era, Hokusai came to Obuse because of the reconstruction of the Ganshoin main temple which had been lost in a fire earlier.  After that, he visited several more times. Kozan called Hokusai sensei (teacher), and Hokusai called Kozan danna (master/patron). The ceiling paintings at Ganshoin and on festival floats which still remain in Obuse were born from the relationship between those two. The motifs of the Kanmachi festival float wave edge paintings are proof of this relationship and at the same time also continue to present mysteries to us in the present. Patrons not only provided funds but also culture and sensibility.
Afterwards, Hekiiken, the place which hosted the exchange with Hokusai, became the site of political activists Sakuma Shozan, Fujimoto Tesseki, and Kusaka Genzui's heated debates, as well as a space for intellectual exchanges between writers and artists such as Kawanabe Kyosai, Kikakudo Eiki (Haiku poet), and Yanagawa Seigan's widow Koran. Most likely many local people also attended. In other words, it was also an important role of a patron to provide a salon to create intellectual stimuli and bring about societal change.

Hekiiken served as Hokusai's atelier as well as his place of residence while he stayed in Obuse. "Hekii" was taken from a verse of a poem that the Chinese poet Li He read at the peak of the Tang Dynasty about the spring in Jiangnan, and since the flowery scenery of the Chikuma River and Obuse at the time was reminiscent of that in the poem, the name "Hekii" was used by Hokusai. However, most likely there were other residences besides Hekiiken. The Sato estate in front of the Masuichi-Ichimura Sake Brewery Main Store was one of these others. Artisans on long-term visits would set up temporary residences, but to the people already living in Obuse, having people from outside always around provided a great opportunity for culture exchange or an influx of other types of culture.

The Taisho Era was the time of Taisho Democracy and Taisho Romance. The feelings of this era drifted to Obuse, and the current premises of the Masuichi-Ichimura Sake Brewery were a club, a hangout for young people. Meetings of people watching "magic lanterns", precursors to modern movies were held as well, and the club functioned as a place for entertainment and discussion, however unfortunately since the club faced the main street, at the end of the Taisho Era the store was remodeled, and the club's brief life ended. Then the boom of imported bicycles took place in Obuse, and the competition between Raleigh fans and Triumph fans became a thing of that era.
Obuse during the Edo period was much smaller than it is now, filling the place that is now known as Oaza Obuse. It was commonly called Go-cho, and in that place communal tenant farms survived until the agrarian reforms after World War II. Even after the Meiji period it seems separate funds were maintained at the town hall for the tenant farms in Go-cho and distributed for things like the traditional "Yasuichi" festival. There was a separate "public" that differed from the town hall in this way, and managing them was the duty of the patrons.

During the Edo Period, aside from the Samurai families (only 7% of the population), society wasn't always centered on men. For example, in Obuse during the Bunkyu (1861-64) and Keio (1865-68) eras, the village head was chosen by a vote among the landed farmers. When examining all the signatures of the people that voted, it was found that about one tenth of the names were of women. In other words, it was not that uncommon for a woman to represent a household (though most are thought to have been widows). It than thus be said that women's suffrage existed since the Edo period.

There are seven festival floats in Obuse. The floats of Higashi-machi and Kan-machi are famous for their ceiling paintings by Hokusai, but it seems that in the Edo period the "Glass Float" of Naka-machi was even fancier. With its walls and ceiling made of blinds constructed out of glass poles, and considering the cost of glass at the time, it is natural to think of it that way. However if you consider that all the festival floats were made using donations, you can feel the spirit of the people back then, and in contrast, well, we have a lot to ponder about ourselves.
The Oaza Obuse (Go-cho) area, out of all of Obuse, was reborn as a market town during the start of the 17th century. Originally, Obuse merchants focused on selling local products, but gradually began to move items on a national scale, and by the end of the Edo period wealthy merchants who established centers in Edo, Osaka, and Echigo Takada had emerged. This sort of national pattern of information and sensibilities had a favorable effect not only on politics and economics, but culture and education as well. We can say that Hokusai's visit to Obuse is a result of that trend.

Hokusai came to Obuse to paint festival float and temple ceiling pictures (Gansho-in). Why he was willing to travel all the way on a road over 60-li long when he was already older than 80 is a mystery. However it is worth noting that they are all public spaces. In other words, would Hokusai really have answered even if the request simply was "I'll give you money, so please come to Obuse?" We think that the 12th generation Takai Kohzan's request to have the ceilings of the festival floats owned by the people of Kan-machi and Higashi-machi as well as the ceiling of a temple painted, where they could be seen by everyone, moved Hokusai's heart.

Approaching the Meiji era, 12th generation Kohzan felt keenly aware of the importance of education, so he established a village school on his property during the period leading up to the school system promulgation in the 5th year of Meiji. On the other hand, after going to the capital and working for the Ministry of Education and the Tokyo government, founded the Takai Private School at Shiba no Nishikubotomoe-cho in the 9th year of Meiji, and in the 12th year founded the Takai Private School in Nagano and poured his heart into educating the youth.
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