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Hiyamizu Elementary School – Part 1

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Lost Schools of Setana, Japan

Hiyamizu Elementary School: Organized in 1902, closed in 1985

Hiyamizu Elementary School

Hiyamizu Elementary School (June 2009)

Hiyamizu School History

Hiyamizu Elementary School is located in the Matsuoka district in the northern part of Kitahiyama Ward in Setana. The Matsuoka district was first opened for settlement in the late 19th century. A small school was organized there in 1902, with classes beginning in 1903. In 1908 it was given the name “Hiyamizu,” which means “cold water.” In its peak year during the height of the post-Word War Two baby boom, Hiyamizu Elementary School had over 100 students. The number declined during the 1970s and 80s, and when the school closed in 1985 there were only four students left – and two of them were in sixth grade, about to move on to junior high. During its 83 years of existence, a total of 632 students graduated from Hiyamizu Elementary.

Sources: “History of Kitahiyama” document from the Setana town website (Japanese only), and a Matsuoka district history book at the Kitahiyama Public Library. (What was I thinking? I got the information I needed from the book but forgot to write down the title.)

Historical markers

Historical markers at the far end of the athletic field. The one on the left commemmorates the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Matsuoka disctrict for settlement.

Historical marker

Historical marker. I’ll need to do some research to know what this one is for, but the inscription is a reference to the Buddhist deity Kanon.

First visit – June 2009

I remember seeing a picture of what I think was Hiyamizu Elementary School on the old Kitahiyama town website, before the town merger in 2005, but I had no idea where it was. I found the location later, on a 20-year old topographic map at one of the junior highs that I visited for my English classes.

On June 13, 2009, I made my first attempt to visit the school. I had no idea what to expect when I got there. Did the building still exist? Would there be a historical marker? Would there be anything to see at all?

School gatepost

School gatepost

The map showed the school as being located on a small side road branching off from the highway going out toward Makomanai Dam, about ten kilometers north of town. I had driven out to the dam before without seeing anything to indicate that there was a school nearby, and this time was no exception. But then, it had been almost 25 years since the school closed, so I wasn’t really expecting any signs or anything to show the way. It was entirely possible that the road itself was no longer open, but there should at least be some traces of it somewhere. On the map it looked like the school shouldn’t be more than a 20 or 30-minute walk from the parking area near the dam, so I left the car there and set out on foot.

After about twenty minutes of walking, during which I noticed several cow paths, entrances to fields, and a couple private driveways leading to farmhouses, I finally found something promising – the remains of a bus stop. The bus stop had a small shelter, overgrown with weeds, with the remains of a bench inside, and a broken sign on the floor giving the distances to local points of interest. On the outside was a sign, and in the faded printing I could make out the characters for “School Bus” and “Hiyamizu Elementary School.” It looked like I was on the right track.

Hiyamizu bus stop

Hiyamizu bus stop. It’s been years since any buses have stopped here.

Sign on floor of bus stop

Sign on the floor of the bus stop, giving the distance to the dam, to the Mt. Kariba trail head, and to one place that’s covered up.

At the bus stop, there was a small road going off to the left. Looking down that road, I couldn’t see anything that looked like a school, but there was a row of trees blocking the view in one spot. Hmm… I wonder what’s on the other side of those trees?

A couple minutes walking brought me to the trees, but even before I reached them I could tell – this was it! The building was still there (or mostly there). A sign in the driveway confirmed it: “Emergency Evacuation Site: Former Hiyamizu Elementary School Grounds.”

The building itself was surrounded by waist-high grass which was dripping wet from the morning’s rain, and inhabited by biting and stinging insects, so I had to content myself with just looking around the school grounds and admiring the building from a distance. For a closer look at the building, I decided to come back later, at a time of year when conditions were a little more explorer-friendly.

Road in front of the school

Road going to the school. The school is on the right. On the left are four or five houses and a small community center. It looks like about half of the houses are inhabited.

Emergency evacuation sign

The school may be closed, but the grounds are an official emergency evacuation site. This sign directs people to gather here in the event of a natural disaster.

School with flowers

The front of the school, with flowers

Main entrance

Hiyamizu Elementary School main entrance

North side of school

The north side (rear) of the school

Looking north from the school

Looking north from the school. On a clear day you can see mountains in the distance.

Hole in north side of building

North side (rear) of the school. I think there used to be a door or window here.

West end of building

The west end of the building

It looks like they had a pretty nice bit of landscaping around the west end of the building. I wish I could go back in time and see what it looked like when it was still in use.

That’s about it for the first visit. I really wanted to see what the building looks like on the inside, but I decided to save that for later, when the weather was better and the biting and stinging insects were gone.

That opportunity came on October 31, 2010.

Go on to Hiyamizu Part Two.

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Written by hobara09

2010-12-20 at 11:00 pm