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From Japan: “CASA BLANCA”

January 24, 2017

As we begin 2017, we would like to share with you the article below which was published originally in Japanese in the December 25 issue of the CATHOLIC WEEKLY, the national newspaper of the Catholic Church in Japan. The “Old Building of Hayama Convent of the Daughters of Jesus” or more well known as “Casa Blanca” or “Candida Maria House” was our very first convent in Japan. Here, we share with you part of our history and our vision for its future. The translation was done by John T. Kawakami-sensei. Casa Blanca was also featured in a documentary produced by a well-known Japanese television network shown nationwide January of this year.

Old Building of Hayama Convent of Daughters Of Jesus is registered as National Cultural Property —Furniture and Furnishings still in use now—

On November 18, the old building of Hayama Convent of Daughters of Jesus (Hayama Town, Kanagawa Prefecture) was reported to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as a registered tangible cultural property by the national Council for Cultural Affairs. The sisters have had some burdened feeling in maintaining the old building, but some new projects are reported to have started as well by the citizens.
The said building of the convent was constructed in 1914 as a villa of Imperial Prince, Prince Higashi-Fushimi-Miya Yorihito(1867-1922).    
Even after the death of the prince, the building had been in use as a villa, but in 1952, after the Second World War, it became the property of the congregation. The congregation was given the asset from the Yokohama Diocese who had bought it, and it served as a key base of the congregation in Japan. Though the congregation had been engaged in ministry work in China, the members had been expatriated.
The characteristics of the building are white outer-walls of wooden board and the basements of stonework. Interiors are reformed for the use of retreats and the statue of Mother Mary is set, but the furniture and furnishings from the ‘villa period’ are still in use with their Chrysanthemum family insignia of the imperial family.
On weekdays, the parents of the annexed kinder garden meet there and learn the bible or Spanish language, and on weekends, it 1s open for the use of the church or local events.
The town authority of Hayama and neighbors expressed their hope to register the building as a national tangible cultural property. Upon this request, the congregation started its procedure. Sr. Yolanda Brandolin of the congregation says the procedure went smoothly because the building had already been chosen as one of the ‘One Hundred Buildings of Kanagawa Prefecture’, but at the same time its maintenance had been somewhat burdensome to them.
“The community consists of 11 sisters, among them 6 are over eighty years old. Maintaining an old wooden building costs money, but we didn’t have an idea to raise fund for it. Besides, the facilities of the old building are not convenient, so even the church members use it less and less.”
However, she also adds “there’s something to learn from the building.” For example, although the building itself is in a western style, it has a Japanese traditional room at its center part. “It seems Prince Higashi-Fushimi-Miya who had studied abroad was a man of open-minded character. His own building reminds us that by treasuring your own culture, you will be able to accept the cultures of others. I hope this building helps more people to meet with others and serves as an evangelizing place by becoming a national tangible cultural property.”
In January 2016, the local residents started in this building a gathering named ‘Hayama Tertulia’ which means ‘a party bringing foods in Spain, the home country of the congregation. This was realized after the ‘Cultural Salon for Preserving the Villa of Prince Higashi-Fushimi-Miya’, which had started in May 2015 proposed to the congregation as a means to raise fund for its maintenance.
The meeting is held once a month, and consists of three parts: (1) some musical presentation or talks by the participants (2) tour of the building (3) party.
Akemi Matsuo, who started the plan, a resident of Zushi City, Kanagawa Prefecture, says, “The goal of the gatherings is to raise fund, but through the gatherings I have found the participants, almost all strangers at first, get to know each other by listening to what ‘history’ other people have to say, or are deeply touched by the sisters’ stories. Now, I feel it more important to make this a site ‘to interchange each other and enrich one’s heart’ than recruiting more people to join.”
“What’s more rewarding to me is that the sisters are pleased to share, calling this ‘wakachi-ai’. I hope this will be a chance for many people to get to know the villa”.

By Flor M. Florece fi