During the Meiji Restoration, Japan established a network of special secondary schools to nurture the country’s best and brightest young minds. There were only forty-one of these ‘Higher Schools’ in Japan. Matsumoto was home to one of them. Most of these schools no longer exist, but you can still walk these halls of history right here in Matsumoto, at the Old Higher School Museum in Agata-no-Mori Park.
Life of the Higher Schools
When Japan opened its ports to the world in 1868, a deluge of western ideas came pouring in. To more deeply understand the ways of the west, Japan established a network of Imperial universities where students took science, literature and philosophy courses in foreign languages. With this came the need to prepare these university students for this novel and challenging learning environment. The forty-one Higher Schools filled this need.
Students attending higher schools lived together in dormitories. They were encouraged to explore their individual interests and follow their own chosen paths. The effect was striking as these schools produced a great number of leaders in a variety of fields.
The Remnants of History
Sadly, after World War II Japan decided to abolish these schools in favor of an education model much closer to today’s system. In time these schools, and many of the structures on the Matsumoto Higher School campus, would be torn down. To salvage the few remaining treasures from these remarkable institutions, the Matsumoto Old Higher School Museum was established.
Visiting the Old Higher School Museum and adjacent Agata-no-Mori Park is a great way to spend a bit of your time in Matsumoto. A walk through these halls of history in Matsumoto City offers an interesting glimpse into the lives of the students who attended Japan’s higher schools. Most of the explanations, however, are given only in Japanese. So if you would like to take a deeper dive into this little-known slice of Japan’s academic history, let us set you up with a personalized tour. We’d be happy to show you around!
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