Meiji Japan (1868-1912) experienced profound social, institutional, and political changes. The following documents reveal how people adopted a range of professions, assumed new roles, and were governed by new institutional frameworks during its tumultuous years.
These records were once owned by Suzuki Gentoku, a craftsman who specialized in a style of roofing known as hiwadabuki, which was made from cypress (hinoki) bark. These hiwadabuki roofs could only be found on the imperial palace and the most prestigious shrines and temples. Gentoku was affiliated with the Kamo mioya shrine, known more commonly today as the Shimogamo shrine, which is located close to Kyoto’s imperial palace but was technically located outside of the official boundaries of the city. It is the “First Shrine” (Ichinomiya) of Yamashiro province, and thus among the most prestigious in Kyoto.
A craftsman of Kamo mioya shrine, Suzuki Gentoku was governed by its officials until at least 1872. By 1876 he was registered as a resident of Kyoto, and for seven years, he oversaw Matsugasaki and Shimogamo. We know little of when he was born, or when he died, save for these records, which show how a hiwadabuki roofer affiliated with Shimogamo shrine went on to become the head of the Matsugasaki and Shimogamo region. These “villages,” encompassed the Kamo mioya shrine (Shimogamo) and its immediate north (Matsugasaki) and were incorporated into the city proper in 1890.