Denchu Hirakushi House and Atelier
2012 World Monuments Watch
Denchu Hirakushi (1872–1979) was a modern Japanese sculptor who brought renewed vitality to the 1,500-year-old tradition of Japanese woodcarving in the twentieth century. Born at the beginning of the Meiji Period, Denchu sought training as a sculptor, first in Osaka and then in Tokyo. In Tokyo, he settled on Ueno Hill, an area of cultural institutions popular with artists, where he constructed his atelier in 1919 and the adjoining house a few years later. The two-story buildings are fine examples of traditional Japanese construction and artistry, with timber framing, earthen walls, and a roof of traditional kawara tiles. Denchu lived, worked, and taught in this house until 1970. In 1973 he donated the house to Ibara city, where the Denchu Art Museum is located, but the distance between Tokyo and Ibara has made it challenging to manage the site. The house has been vacant since the 1990s after its last caretaker moved out, and only small repairs have recently taken place. Meanwhile, rapid urban development has been threatening to erase the last pre-war remains of this area, which contains many machiya and grander yashiki residences. The house is open to the public and managed by volunteers from the Taitō Cultural and Historic Society, who are seeking to ensure its preservation with advice from Tokyo University of the Arts and support from the local community.