On August 14, 2012 we went to see the Northern Culture Museum outside of Niigata. Since the mid 1800's and especially since the Meiji Restoration the Ito family became major agricultural land owners in Niigata Prefecture. But in 1946 as a result of the Land Reform Act they donated the mansion and works of art to the Museum. They were one of the largest landowners in Japan prior to this. The home and outbuildings were built not long after 1880 and provide a graphic description of how 'the other half' lived. Tourists in Japan need to enjoy gardens such as this. Today maintaining such gardens privately has become prohibitively expensive, especially the pruning required to maintain the unique tree shapes.
We had a tempura and soba (buckwheat) noodle lunch on the grounds. After we ambled over to another building and with coupons Hiroko received from a friend she met working here, we had a delicious azuki bean (zenzai) and ice cream dessert.
Click on Ito Mansion Museum to see photographs on Picasa.