The William Merrell Vories exhibition is being held in Omi-Hachiman until Nov. 3, 2009. For 1,000 yen, you can enter a few of the Vories-designed buildings in Omi-Hachiman normally closed to the public.
It’s an on-your-own walking tour of Vories buildings starting at Hakuunkan, a Western-style (but not designed by Vories) building across the torii near Hachimanbori. Go inside Hakuunkan and pay 1,000 yen to receive a few tickets to enter the other buildings. You also receive a map of the walking tour. The 2nd floor of the Hakuunkan also has an exhibition on Vories. However, everything is in Japanese. Exhibition hours is 9 am to 4:30 pm (enter by 4 pm). Hakuunkan is an 8-min. bus ride from JR Omi-Hachiman Station’s north exit. Go to bus stop 6 and board the bus going to Chomeiji. You can get off at Shinmachi (新町) or Osugicho (大杉町).
The walking tour map is pretty easy to follow, and the route has arrows pointing the way to the next building. Everything is within walking distance, it should take only a few hours to see everything. The buildings you can enter are the old Hachiman Post Office, Omi Brotherhood Schools’ Hyde Memorial Building which was a former kindergarten run by Vories’ wife Makiko, the former residence of Vories and Makiko, and the former Hachiman YMCA. The former Vories residence’s living room is still full of books and pictures. The house also has a Japanese-style room attached.
The former Hachiman YMCA, now the Andrews Memorial building, was the first building Vories designed. You can also enter this building. There are panel exhibitions in all the buildings you can enter. Other buildings are not open to the public, so you just have to admire them from outside.
I enjoyed the tour and was finally able to enter these buildings. Unfortunately, nothing is in English (which is strange since Vories was from America) and photography inside the buildings is not allowed. This is puzzling because photography is allowed inside all the other Vories buildings in Shiga open to the public. Official Web site: http://vories.jp/
On the same day, I also went to Toyosato to visit the old Toyosato Elementary School which reopened in May 2009 after major renovations. The old building now looks very impressive with a new coat of white paint. They spent ¥650 million to make the building earthquake resistant as well. The school was built in the 1930s and designed by Vories. If you’re interested in architecture, this is another building I highly recommend visiting.
The old school consists of three buildings. The main building, auditorium, and old library, all open to the public. The main building now has a public library occupying a few former classrooms, offices of the local board of education, a children’s playroom, and an exhibition room. The second floor has two classrooms renovated to look like as they were in the old days. The auditorium is also impressive, as well as the old library which is now used as a local tourist information office and event space. The school is within walking distance from Toyosato Station on the Omi Railway Line. Free admission.