The Border Guard's House, the Ariji Family Home

Information for visitors

●Address / 59-3 Sakaida, Mogami-machi, Yamagata Prefecture

●Hours / 8:30~17:00 
●Open period
 / open everyday from April to November
●Admissions / High school students and Adults 250 yen,   
school / Junior high school students 120 yen
●Access / about 5 minutes on foot from JR Sakaida station MAP

The Border Guard’s House & Its Connection With Matsuo Basho

The houjin no ie - or roughly translated into English – the border guard’s house in Sakaida Village, was the home built by the Ariji family during the Genroku era.  As Sakaida Village was the gateway between the Sendai and Shinjo domains, the village head - generally the head of the Ariji family – was ultimately responsible for managing the border crossing.

     On May 15th the 2nd year of the Genroku era (1689) the noted haiku poet Matsuo Basho was journeying through the Tohoku Area with his disciple Sora.  While passing through the mountains from Shitomae in the Sendai Domain to Dewa (the former name for Yamagata Prefecture), he wrote the following in his diary as night was approaching.


On the day we climbed a large mountain, we found the border guard’s house and asked

for lodgings. We stayed there for three days while the wind and rain raged around us.
   Following the above entry Basho penned one of his more well–known haiku:

   Fleas and lice,
   A horse urinates,
   my head on a pillow


Basho penned these passages in his writings under the heading: “many narrow paths. ” In the heavy rains of the rainy season Basho and Sora lodged in the border guard’s house for 3 days and 2 nights until the 17th.  Basho’s disciple Sora noted in his diary:

     It is the 17th, finally the skies have cleared and we prepare to leave Sakaida.


     The border guard’s owner provided Basho and Sora with a young local who was able to safely lead them through the treacherous Natagiri Mountain Pass, to what is now known as Obanazawa City. Whereupon they paid a visit to Basho’s friend Suzuki Seifu and continued their journey through Dewa.



Sakaida Village & The Ariji Family Home

     Sakaida village was established following the 15th year of the Kan’ei era (1638) and during the Shouho era (1644-47).  Over a long period of time some 15 successive heads of the Ariji family headed the village.

     This building is typical of the designs and building techniques employed in the area during the Genroku era (1688-1704) and as such it represents over 300 years of history within its walls.

     During its heyday the Ariji home played several important roles: it was the administrative center of the village, it provided wholesaling services to the villagers, and also provided lodgings for travelers.  In addition to these functions it also was a border checkpoint – a function which resulted in the village’s population growing and prospering throughout this early period.



The Ariji Family Home

     This building is one of the few surviving example of the style of construction which was common in the north-eastern corner of Yamagata Prefecture during the Genroku era.  As such on December 28th , during the 44th year of the Showa era (1969), it was designated an Important National Cultural Asset.

     From June in the 46th year of the Showa era (1971) to March of the 48th year of the Showa era (1973), the building underwent an extensive restoration overseen by the Agency for Cultural Affairs with the intention of returning the building to its original condition.



The History Of Horse Breeding In Oguni

     Mogami Town was established on September 1st, in the 29th year of the Showa era (1954). Previous to this the region was known as Oguni, and it was the center of horse breeding and production within what is now known as Yamagata prefecture.

     The origins of horse breeding in Oguni are believed to date from the Japanese Middle Ages (1185-1573).  However horse breeding on an organized basis is believed to have begun in Oguni during the middle part of the Edo period (1603-1867).  Following this, under the protection and patronage of the Shinjo domain, the Oguni region became specialized in the breeding and production of horses for transportation purposes.  Male horses bred and produced in Oguni were especially prized and were exported to many other regions. These Oguni-produced horses came to be known as “Oguni Goma” and were exported as far as Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and Echizen Province (modern-day Fukui Prefecture).  From the 25th year of the Meiji era (1892) the region increasingly focused on the breeding and production of horses for the armed forces.  This resulted in the supply of some 836 horses to the armed forces over the 53 years preceding th19th year of the Showa era (1944).

     During the Genroku era the poet Matsuo Basho passed though Oguni and lodged in the Ariji home.  The home was constructed such that horses and humans lived together in close proximity under the same roof - as opposed to living in a separately  constructed barn. Basho immortalized this arrangement, Ariji home, and the important place that horses had in Oguni society of the time in the following haiku.


   Fleas and lice,

   A horse urinates

   my head on a pillow  

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