Kosaka is located in Norther Akita. This article introduces two famous locales of Kosaka: the Korakukan and the Mining Office.
According the tourist pamphlet I received, the Korakukan is Japan’s oldest wooden playlist. The outside architecture is Western, but the inside remains Edo Japanese style. During a field trip we explored the ins and outs of the theaters, and also saw a play. I have seen two plays here before with school classes which were spectacular versions of modern kabuki. Architecturally, the building was built in 1910 with a Western exterior, but an inside reflecting traditional kabuki aesthetics. A large stage was flanked by two towers with a wooden curtain separating an inner alcove. Although today a modern speaker system is used, not too many years ago musicians played their instruments from these quarters. When a student asked why the musicians were not on stage, someone made the comparison that today’s musicians remain unseen while playing in orchestra pits during modern theater. The music it seems is an accompaniment to what happens on stage.
The kabuki stage held many secrets we were enlightened to through a helpful tour guide. Small catwalks cut across where lower level audience members sit to bring the action to the audience. A trap door on one of the walkways was used to introduce demons or hoist up a prop. The backstage held more history. In the changing and makeup rooms were scribbles all over the walls. In reality, these were Japanese signatures of famous kabuki actors. Under the stage was the biggest surprise of all. There is an original man-powered revolving stage. There is no electronic equipment down there, thus we were told that the sound of someone stomping was cue to start moving. The stage must have weighed a few tons, but because it was so perfectly balanced and constructed, it took only four people to move it.
Kosaka Mine Office
Literally across the parking lot is the Kosaka mining office. Northern Akita has a long history of mining. Samurai daimyo and family clans owned and lost mines, Koreans were forced to work in them as slave labor, and underground Christians worked in the mines to avoid capture. Some of the largest gold and silver mines in Asia were once located in Kosaka. Copper, zinc, and other metals were also mined or smelted in the region. Less than four decades after the Meiji Restoration, a Western style mining office was constructed in 1905 in the region and foreign experts like Curt Netto from Germany were hired to improve mining efficiency. In 1998 the Mining Office was dismantled to allow for the extension of a smelter. A tourist packet boasts the building was reconstructed by skilled artisans using traditional methods and they recycled 90% of the original materials during construction.
Today, the mining office is mostly a tourist location. It is great to combine with a trip to the Korakukan theater. The office houses local history of the mining operations and pays homage to the kabuki theater it overshadows with a hologram miniature kabuki show in one of the exhibit rooms. The office remains a symbol of Kosaka and is doing its best to help everyone learn its history. It is home to meetings of a local international society and its English pamphlets are always appreciated (though exhibit signs are in Japanese only).
Traditional mining has dried up in the region, but a new way of mining is underway in Norther Akita. Anyone that has come to my beloved Tohoku region realizes the abundant nature and beauty the North offers residents and travelers alike. Being more tune in nature than perhaps other parts of Japan, there is a conscious effort to protect the environment and recycle. Modern day “urban mining” involves separating and selling minerals extracted from old cell phones, computers, and electronics. There is an “Eco-town” accessible by car and not far from the mine office and theater. I haven’t been there, so let me know when you go!