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Controversy surrounding Nagoya Castle accessibility continues [Yomiuri Editorial]

“Although there is great significance to restoring the tower to its original condition, making buildings accessible to people with disabilities, among others, is appropriate for the era we are in. It is essential to accommodate the wishes of various people while seeking to preserve the keep’s historic value. Efforts should be made to find common ground.”

Written with extracts from The Japan News

September 23rd 2019

Castles in Japan enjoy high popularity, serving as symbols of the communities that host them. It is important to ensure that reconstruction and restoration projects proceed with widespread support.

Movements aimed at promoting the reconstruction of castle buildings have been spreading nationwide. There have also been efforts to restore castles as faithfully as possible. Among other things, people strongly wish to see castle keeps in their areas repaired and improved, as such structures serve as centerpieces for the promotion of local tourism.

Controversy has surrounded the reconstruction of Nagoya Castle, which is often referred to as “the castle that makes Nagoya what it is.”

The castle’s wooden keep was destroyed by fire in World War II, and it was rebuilt as a concrete structure in the postwar period. The Nagoya city government is proceeding with a plan to rebuild the keep using wood. Last month, however, the municipal government abandoned the goal of completing the new castle keep by the end of December 2022.

Castle experts have opposed the plan citing concerns that the project could damage the castle’s stone wall, which has stood since the Edo period (1603-1867). The Cultural Affairs Agency has not given permission to demolish the keep, either.

Another issue in question is the appropriateness of building an elevator as part of castle restoration work. Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura has said an elevator will not likely be installed from the standpoint of restoring the castle in a faithful manner, and this has antagonized a disability association.

Although there is great significance to restoring the tower to its original condition, making buildings accessible to people with disabilities, among others, is appropriate for the era we are in. It is essential to accommodate the wishes of various people while seeking to preserve the keep’s historic value. Efforts should be made to find common ground.

Restoration work on Kumamoto Castle is also drawing attention as a large-scale project. The Kumamoto Earthquake in 2016 damaged the castle’s large and small keeps and a large section of its stone wall collapsed. The completion of restoration work is expected to take about 20 years.

The castle will be open to the public next month for a special exhibition by utilizing passageways for construction work. A pathway will be built for visitors next spring so they can inspect the site even on weekdays. Restoration work that is viewable by the public is expected to provide visitors with opportunities to actually feel the progress of post-quake reconstruction.

For a long time, Kumamoto Castle has served as a source of emotional support for local citizens, and many people will be encouraged by the step-by-step progress of the castle’s restoration.

It is hoped that people will develop pride in their hometowns through castle reconstruction and restoration.

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