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The Ando family, whose ancestors acted as retainers for the Warring States period Daimyo (feudal lord), Takeda Shingen, and then for the Tokugawa Shogunate, built a magnificent family home in the year 1708. The Ando family built their new home just a year after the Hōei Earthquake and subsequent eruption of Mount Fuji which blanketed nearby Edo (modern-day Tokyo) with ash.
The Ando home has been well cared for over the centuries and you would be hard-pressed to find a structure to equal its authenticity. At the time of the home’s construction, very few local families would have had the power enjoyed by the Ando family of Kai Ken (Yamanashi Prefecture).
The head of the Ando family was responsible for collecting taxes (rice) from the peasants who worked the land in modern-day Minami-Alps City. As a landlord and tax collector, the head of the Ando family wielded considerable political and economic power over local farmers, but he had to do so with great skill, otherwise, he could find his home inundated by rioting peasants. In case of such an event, the head of the household had a purpose-built panic room to protect his family from those who would wish him harm. What is interesting about the panic room is how it was designed to make it all but impossible to swing a sword. From the panic room, the family could climb to a secret chamber and exit to safety from the other side of the house. Such elaborate preparations for home intrusions paint a very revealing picture of Japanese society during the Edo period.
If you want to visit the Ando home, bear in mind that it is closed on Tuesdays and during New Years from late December to early January.
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