College students using German archaeologist’s historic stay to promote suburban Tokyo city

Soka University student Yuka Shiozaki, center, and professor Takao Ito, left, who are developing a town promotion project based on Heinrich Schliemann’s visit to Hachioji, are seen in Hachioji, Tokyo. (Mainichi/Megumi Nokura)

HACHIOJI, Tokyo — Local university students are working to promote this suburban Tokyo city for having been visited at the end of the Edo period (1603-1867) by a German archaeologist known for discovering the ruins of Troy.

Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) made a fortune as a businessman and stayed in Japan for about a month starting June 1865, during his world travels after retirement. He visited Hachioji, known then as the “soto,” or sericulture capital, for its silk production and collection, from his port of call in Yokohama. Among the memories in his travel notes, the archaeologist wrote of seeing handlooms in every home in Hachioji. The excavations he began aged 49 would go on to prove the legendary city of Troy in Greek mythology had existed.

About 40 students in the “inter-seminar soto project” of the Faculty of Letters at Soka University in Hachioji, which aims to work with the local community to promote the city, focused on Schliemann’s visit and began working to energize the city this spring ahead of his 200th birthday in 2022.

Sophomore Yuka Shiozaki, 19, and her fellow students collaborated with the local confectionary Tsuruya Seika store, which manufactures and sells Miyako Manju sweet buns, to create the “Schlie Mann-ju”. Two of the Schlie Mann-ju featuring Schliemann’s face as designed by the students are included in packs of 10 Miyako Manju.

This photo shows two “Schlie Mann-ju” sweet buns designed by Shiozaki and others and made in collaboration with the shop Tsuruya Seika. (Mainichi)

The newly designed sweets have been well received. Store manager Yaeko Nagamitsu hopes the Schlie Mann-ju will promote the community, which has suffered a decline in customers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, the project’s members posted message cards with a selection of books related to Schliemann at a special corner in the Hachioji branch of a Kumazawa Shoten bookstore, and also made original book covers.

Shiozaki said, “What we have tried to create through trial and error is now taking shape and reaching the community. I feel a sense of accomplishment especially because it’s been an online-oriented university life in the pandemic. I want many people to know about the great man’s visit to Hachioji.”

Takao Ito, a professor of philosophy at the university, said, “Schliemann, who had an international perspective, paid close attention to ordinary people’s lives and accurately conveyed Japan to the world. Hachioji is one of the places that he experienced in the world which ultimately motivated him to dig for his dream.”

(Japanese original by Megumi Nokura, Hachioji Bureau)

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