“Miyagi Network News” vol.99

~The conspectus report of the damage condition of historical materials and cultural properties~

This is Arata Hirakawa from the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

*The damage update of the East Japan Earthquake *

Our secretarial office is still frozen to the spot without enough petrol, so we keep gathering information by phone from the Board of Education, local historians, and the residences which we had researched once before. Simultaneously we continue to grasp the present condition and to specify the present addresses of the items of cultural heritage and the place where we will have to research, by using the satellite imagery taken after the Tsunami struck. We had already gathered information from approximately 300 cases. Today we will present a summary of them.

 1. The coastline area

On the coastline from Kesennuma City to Yamamoto town, both of which were hit by the Tsunami, more than 10 residences which possessed precious archives had disappeared. These were the old families which we had researched once, and we are terrified to see the satellite images which showed that nothing remained of the houses after the Tsunami. Some of the other structures narrowly escaped from the Tsunami, although the old warehouses were heavily dislocated by the quake. Tens of thousands of archives from the early modern ages to the post war, which are stored in corrugated boxes, are stored in those damaged warehouses. We never know how those things are now, and therefore we implore the quick rescue of such items as soon as possible.

2. The inland areaing

There was little information about the degree of inland damage, because almost all of the media concentrates on broadcasting about the Great Tsunami and the accident of the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Despite such a situation, it was broadcasted that the “Yubikan”(*1) which is a national designated cultural property located in Iwadeyama Town, Osaki City, Miyagi prefecture, had been completely destroyed.

According to our phone-interviews conducted by our secretarial office, depending on the area, we have confirmed that a considerable number of old warehouses and traditional private houses have been severely damaged.

During the Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake in 2008, although the Oshu Mountain area (including Kurikoma, Hanayama in Kurihara City, Iwadeyama and Onikobe in Osaki City) which was a seismic centre was seriously damaged, this time structures did not suffer so much in spite of the fierce quake. However, we have already grasped the information that the pillars of farmhouses which were built in early modern times were destroyed or old warehouses had been damaged and destroyed completely in the west part of Kurihara City and Osaki City.

In the Towa town area in Tome City which is located nearer the seaside than Kurihara City and Osaki City, the damage to structures was not so serious. Nevertheless, in Sako town located in Tome City, a lot of private houses were heavily damaged. Moreover, in Momoo Town in Ishinomaki City located to the south of those cities, there were some residences which had old warehouses stricken by the quake. The difference in the degree of damage depends on the land and location.

 In Sendai City, three out of six climbing kilns built in the Taisho(*2) period, which had been used for baking “Tsutsumi-Yaki”, that had originated as a side job of the Asigaru(*3) people collapsed. Although these climbing kilns were non-designated properties, they were sites of precious cultural heritage which symbolised the Tsutsumi Town’s history and tradition as a town where the Ashigaru people lived. The lady of the house who owned the kilns was perplexed at the serious damage.

Although Sendai City is one of the few old castle towns, nowadays there are only a few old merchant families who have traditional shop’s warehouses. According to the report, the facing of those warehouses’ walls have been peeling off. In Murata Town which is well-known as a warehouse town, many other warehouses are damaged. From the Fukushima area, we received information that the old residences in Kumaori Town had been destroyed.

The climbimg Kilns destroyed by the quake


*How can we save our historical heritage? *

As our research has progressed, the number of damaged items and structures is increasing more and more. There were some owners who say that they have no choice but to scrap their old warehouses because of the lack of resources to spend. Some of the structures are well-known but non-designated. Now we are facing the danger of Japanese treasures which epitomise the history and scenery of Japan disappearing as a result of the East Japan Earthquake.

We hope to establish the system which would support the property owners as much as possible, for example, by establishing a so-called fund for the historical heritage, which would protect the communities’ treasure and Japanese treasure for our nation and all over the world. If you have any good ideas, we will appreciate your suggestion.

*1 Yubikan(有備館): An old school established by the Sendai Domain in 1691. One of the oldest school structures in Japan.

*2 Taisho(大正): A Japanese era dating from AD1912 to 1926.

*3 Ashigaru(足軽): the foot-soldiers of medieval Japan. They belonged to the lowest status of Samurai soldiers, and in the Edo period rich farmers and merchants could buy their status.


About Nerwork for Historical Materials
A volunteer group for preserving Cultural Heritage suffered from natural disasters

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