Miyagi Network News vol.140

—Preservation Activity of the old structures built in Modern Times ~in Shiogama City, Sendai City

This is Daisuke Sato, as a secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. There has been an interval in the updated News sent by the secretariat office because we have been carrying out the rescue operation 3 times every week these days.

This report is about the preservation activity of the old structures which were built in the early 20th century from 1st to 2nd of July by the architect team of the Miyagi Network.

1.The residence structure which is preserved by the local people, Shiogama City

On 1st July, we investigated the extent of damage to Kamei House which was called the “Sea Trader’s Residence” in Shiogama City. This residence was completed in 1924 as the chairman’s house, who founded the general trading company based in Shiogama. This structure which combines Western and Japanese styles of architecture has a Japanese style main house and a detached house which was built as a stone-made-like Western building but actually was a mortared wooden house. Its interior decorations displayed ingenuity, so it can be said that the structure conveyed the craftsmen’s extraordinary skills. It has been opened to the public since 2009, and the local people and tourists have made good use of it as a cultural communication facility.

This structure was also damaged by the East Japan Earthquake and the damage amounted to 27 places on the white-plaster of both the outside and inside of the walls of the western-style house. According to the preliminary investigation, the basic structure wasn’t affected. Next, so as to discuss whether it can be restored by the traditional construction methods, the architectural team of the Miyagi Network decided to carry out the inspection in another way due to the request from the NPO ‘Minatoshihogama’, which manages this structure. Mr Toshihiro Sato who was the leader of this team and Mr Kazuya Morita who was invited from Kyoto surveyed it. Mr Morita is a specialist of white-plastered structures, and has had abundant success engaging in the conservation of Kinkakuji Temple or Daikakuji Temple as an technical expert.

The meeting was full of enthusiasm

In the investigation which was carried out on 1st July, they discovered that the East Japan Earthquake didn’t cause this damage to the structure, and it was inherent age-related deterioration which was typically seen in such old structures made more prominent by the quake. That night, the meeting for discussing about the course of upcoming action was held, so I also attended it as a secretariat officer. The meeting was full of enthusiasm and had a positive atmosphere, and I was moved that the citizens sincerely tried to respond to this disaster by themselves. I could understand this structure had been protected by many people. As the architectural team, we would also like to try to continuously support such a movement.

Mr Morita told us that people had to have more confidence in their structures which they were protecting, without comparing them with the famous old structures in Kyoto. I think that this is a sentiment which we, who try to preserve the historical heritage in the Tohoku area, should keep it in mind.

2.The Traditional Shop Structure was disappearing – Sendai City

On 2nd July, we carried out the investigative operation of the traditional shop structure in the old city of Sendai. This structure was built in 1915, and it was actually used until few years ago when the shop was closed. Due to this quake, the structure was widely slanted to the south, and the wooden framework was also likely to become unfastened, therefore the owner decided to let it be removed. Mr Kazushi Nomura, who was a member of the Miyagi Network and had investigated this structure before contacted us, so we determined to survey the structure measuring its dimensions and sketch if before its removal.

Sketching out the structure

This survey was carried out by 4 members. Although 3 of them, including me, didn’t have any experience of the architectural surveying, we engaged in the operation under Mr Sato’s orders. There were some difficulties draw the straight lines accurately by freehand, although we could gather the basic data for the plan.

According to the owner, this structure had been about to collapse, so he was worried every time the aftershocks occurred. We have to say that he had tried to preserve this structure for a long time, however, this inspection made him breathe a sigh of relief because he could remove it at last. We again recognised that there was a limit to what the private owners could protect in regards to the old structure by themselves.

In this disaster, many old structures were affected, and the various activities included ours have been carried out. On the other hand, even if funding was not an issue for the owners and they could restore the structures, at present almost all their original functions have already given way to other new roles or facilities.

What will decide their fate is to rediscover the new use and value of the old structures, moreover, whether they have the continued support of the people who try to preserve them or not. Through this 2 day activity, we could greater understand this key point.


NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.


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

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