The Breaking News of the present condition of Ibaraki Prefecture (1)

~Extracts from an e-mail from a member living in Ibaraki prefecture~

 –The situation about damaged historical materials and cultural properties and present rescuing activities

 The Ibaraki Shinbun (Newspaper of Ibaraki) on 20th March and the Asahi Shimbun (Newspaper of Asahi) on 23rd March published the articles which integrated the information about how cultural properties from the whole prefecture had been damaged. Many nationally designated structures such as Kodokan, Rokkakudo, the main structure of Kashimajingu Shrine, and the structures in Makabe a traditional architectural preservation district, have suffered from the quake and Tsunami. The considerable number of prefecturally and municipally designated properties were also damaged, so that each Board of Education which has jurisdiction over cultural properties are treating these designated materials. In addition, museums and archives are also tied up in rescuing their own properties. According to the reconstructing process after the Hanshin Earthquake and other natural disasters, as for the urgent rescue of the non-designated historical materials, there is no choice but for the researchers who live in each affected area to have to cooperate in facing these problems.

 As for my personal activity, at the beginning I searched around the communities in Kasama City near my house by bicycle for gathering accurate information about the present condition of historical materials. There were many cracks on the road, and the damage which occurred in the old city area stood out from the other places in the city. The subsidence on the road was obvious here and there, and an innumerable number of roof tiles which had fallen from decrepit houses were scattered from place to place, although there were no houses destroyed completely. Some specific examples of damaged structures are as follows; The Torii gate of Inarisha which is the auxiliary shrine in Kashima-Inari Shrine had collapsed. The old sake brewer “Matsumidori” ‘s sake-brewery was destroyed. The Torii gate of Oobuchi-Tenjinsha Shrine has fallen down, its front shrine was slanted, and its stone walls were loosened. Those research activities for confirming the present condition might already have been done by each researcher in Ibaraki Prefecture, so it will be necessary to integrate all their information.

 Therefore, I tried to gather them by using phone and internet, simultaneously I sought the way how we could do our best under such a difficult situation.

 Because there was no evidence to suggest activity from any Ibaraki area, the Study Group for Medieval History in Ibaraki University whose members consist of postgraduate students and alma-mater of my research seminar decided to be the conduit through which information about rescuing non-designated properties in the devastated area would be sent. We of course recognised that we were not proper members who could tackle those problems only by referring to our expertise of medieval periods, as almost all of the damaged material belonged to modern times. We rewrote the appeal which had already published by the Network for Historical Materials, and asked property owners to preserve historical documents and artefacts. At present, we are trying to send our appeal to the stricken area through the prefectural and each municipal Boards of Education and researchers living in the Ibaraki area. Tetsuya Shirai, Associate Professor in Tsukuba University, whose area of expertise is archives gave us his cooperation from the start, he will lead us in rescuing historical materials hereafter. Moreover, we have already gotten some positive responses from the disaster-stricken communities.

 On the other hand, for example, Ibaraki universities are also elaborating on the plan for researching the East Japan Earthquake, and an inter-departmental project team incorporating various research fields has already been set up. However, it will be necessary for this team to try to do their activities whilst widely cooperate with associations which are working in the devastated area now.

 In Ibaraki Prefecture, because we have not yet had any institutions which have assembled the researchers who have interests in regional history across the eras or fields, this situation was an obstacle in integrating and sending information. From now on, it will be necessary to cooperate with the researchers in adjacent prefectures for rescuing historical materials in the Tohoku area. Although we cannot change this situation immediately, we still strongly feel that it will be necessary to establish the network which brings them up to one institution. 

(to be continued)

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

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