Group Strives to Restore Suzuki Clan Residence

Courtesy of the Kainan city government
Artistic rendition of the restored Suzuki residence
The Yomiuri Shimbun

KAINAN, Wakayama — A citizens group in Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture, is working to restore the old residence of the Suzuki family, believed to be the origin of the Suzuki surname, one of the most common in Japan.

During the group’s fundraising endeavors, many of the donations came from people with Suzuki as their surname nationwide. The amount raised has already exceeded ¥30 million. The group hopes that the residence will become a “sacred place” for Suzukis.

According to a 2018 survey by Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Company, an estimated 1.82 million people in Japan bear the name Suzuki. This number is second only to the surname Sato, which stands at about 1.94 million.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Fujishiro Shrine in Kainan is said to have been the hub of the Kumano pilgrimage to three Kumano Sanzan grand shrines — Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha and Nachi Taisha. The Suzuki clan served as Fujishiro Shrine priests for generations.

While the exact point at which the Suzuki residence was built remains unknown, it has been depicted in an illustration from the Edo period (1603-1867), and is believed to have been a resting place for people visiting Kumano Sanzan.

It later became the established residence of the head of the Suzuki family. After the death of the 122nd head in 1942, however, the residence became vacant. Today, the roof has fallen off and the walls have collapsed.

In 2015, people from the shrine and the local chamber of commerce and industry formed a group dedicated to restoring the residence to help revitalize the area.

Restoration plans were made for the residence with 136 square meters of floor space, a dirt floor and zashiki (tatami mat rooms), using excavation surveys and the old illustration as references.

The biggest challenge, however, was funding. Government subsidies alone would not cover the ¥180 million needed for the project. In April 2019, the group began fundraising, setting a goal of ¥80 million.

They also asked for the cooperation of influential Suzukis, such as Suzuki Motor Corp., an automobile manufacturer based in Hamamatsu. The company donated ¥2 million in a show of support for the cause.

“Knowing that my family name comes from the missionaries who made Kumano worship more widespread is a great source of pride for me,” Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki said to The Yomiuri Shimbun. “I hope this place will be forever loved as a spiritual center for Suzukis throughout Japan.”

Hisamoto Suzuki, a Suzuki living in the Tokyo metropolitan area, said, “It would make me very happy if I could restore my roots and play a role in revitalizing the town.”

However, according to the Kainan city government, there are only about 150 people with the Suzuki name out of the 50,000 living in the city — a surprisingly small number for the surname’s “birthplace.” When the residence-restoration group was first founded, it is said that none of the members at the time bore the name Suzuki.

Takeshi Suzuki, 87, joined the group after he hearing a recruitment call for Suzukis in the city. He said, “I’d like to ask for donations from my acquaintances and restore the residence as soon as possible.”

Restoration is scheduled to begin in fiscal 2021 and is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal 2022. How the building will ultimately be used has not yet been decided.

The citizens group hopes to make it a place that Suzukis from all over Japan will visit again and again.