Former Kaichi School: Go Back to School a Century and Half in the Past

View of the Former Kaichi School from outside

View of the Former Kaichi School from outside

The Former Kaichi School was built back in the late 1800s—almost 150 years ago. When I first visited the Former Kaichi School back in the summer, I was struck by its peculiar architecture. At first glance it looked like a beautiful European building, but as I walked closer and started looking at the details, I found hints of Japanese-ness that had snuck into the design: Carved dragons along with the flying cherubs above the entrance, chandeliers hanging over bamboo flooring, and other such opposing style quirks.

Who know that cherubs and dragons got along so well?

Who know that cherubs and dragons got along so well?

Going inside was almost like going back to school a century and a half in the past. One of the classrooms was preserved as it was when the school was still in commission, complete with tiny wooden desks, black board, and teacher’s podium. The best part was that you could actually sit in the desks (if your legs fits…) and play around with everything in the room! Getting to walk through the same halls and climb the same wooden stairs as the little students did in the past also adds to the atmosphere.

Kaichi School

Former Kaichi School

Most the other rooms in the school were filled with displays of old building plans, learning materials like text books, and other school-related artifacts like writing tools and even dumbbells used for fitness. Also, the former principal’s office and a special room for the Meiji emperor were open for viewing, too.

Wooden dumbbells! I wonder how heavy they are. Notice the diagrams of exercises in the book to the left.

Wooden dumbbells! I wonder how heavy they are. Notice the diagrams of exercises in the book to the left.

Book for kids to learn katakana characters

Book for kids to learn katakana characters

Textbook with flags of the world.

Textbook with flags of the world.

My favorite artifacts were the picture textbooks for primary school kids, old toys and, check these out, old baseball cards!

Old baseball cards ! Check out the interesting shape.

Old baseball cards ! Check out the interesting shape.

Perhaps a book for learning how to count? I remember using something like this in my primary school (minus the silk worms and bamboo shoots...)

Perhaps a book for learning how to count? I remember using something like this in my primary school (minus the silk worms and bamboo shoots…)

It was also nice to see some of the cool dragon carvings and other pieces from the building design, like the “East, West, North, South” direction markers for the tower’s compass piece.

Carving with a dragon and  a wave.

Carving with a dragon and a wave.

"East, west, north, south" markers in Japanese for the school's tower.

“East, west, north, south” markers in Japanese for the school’s tower.

Overall, the Former Kaichi School was a short, but worthwhile stop. The school is beautiful and a lot of the artifacts are fun to see. Plus, it’s only a few minutes from Matsumoto Castle. My only complaint was that there aren’t enough English explanations for the interesting things on display!

For more info, check out the main page on the Former Kaichi School here.

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