"Hoanden" Buildings Pass Down Story of Prewar Education in Japan

Society Culture

Chikujo, Fukuoka Pref., Aug. 14 (Jiji Press)--In Imperial Japan, structures called "hoanden" were set up at elementary schools across the country to hold sacred photographs of the Emperor and the Empress, together with a copy of the Imperial Rescript on Education.

Some of these structures still exist although the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers mandated their removal after the end of World War II.

Experts emphasize hoanden structures' academic value, calling them a war relic that tells the story of prewar education, but the aging of people working to preserve them poses a challenge for their future. Many hoanden buildings were constructed across Japan in the 1920s and later, and also in Taiwan and the Pacific island of Saipan.

According to Ai Sakimoto, associate professor of Kyushu Sangyo University, who specializes in the history of education in Japan, the pictures of the Emperor and the Empress, and the Imperial rescript kept in hoanden were displayed for only three days every year, and students made a deep, respectful bow to the buildings upon arriving at school every day. "The photographs were sacred, and hoanden structures were used as a device to foster the formation of Emperor-centered nationalism," Sakimoto said.

Keisuke Kiyomizu, a 73-year-old member of a war remnants research group in the city of Nagoya, central Japan, who has studied hoanden for a long period, said that about 440 hoanden buildings existed as of June this year. Many of them have been relocated to temples or shrines, while some are used as war monuments.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press