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How Do You Move a 320-Year-Old House Across an Ocean?

A historic structure in Japan is making its way to California. 

In the Japanese city of Marugame, the home of a former village administrator still stands where it did more than 300 years ago. The wooden structure survived the firebombing campaigns of Japanese cities during World War II and will soon be leaving its longtime home to become part of the famed Japanese Garden at California’s Huntington Library. But how exactly do you move a centuries-old home from Japan to the Golden State?

Between 1603 and 1867, Japan existed in a state of harmony and economic growth. Prior to this stretch, the country was marred by centuries of civil war known as the Sengoku Period. At the turn of the 17th century, the three unifiers—Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu—were able to restore order to the country. The country was now under a single government and feudal system that would last for two centuries. This turn of events ushered in the Tokugawa or Edo Period.

Under this new united way of life, Japan became a much more urban environment, with the city of Edo—now known as Tokyo—boasting around a million residents. Samurai began relocating to cities including Edo and Osaka, leaving villages behind. Responsibilities for governing over village life were now in the hands of shōya, or village headman, chosen by feudal lords or the shogunate government to act as village administrator.

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