Iwamatsu District

Active Project
World Monuments Watch
Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, Japan

Site History and Significance

A Major Japanese Brewing Center

Iwamatsu, a port town on the island of Shikoku, developed where the Iwamatsu River meets the Seto Inland Sea. Sake brewing allowed the town to flourish from the seventeenth century on, and to grow from a small settlement to a prosperous town. The homes of merchant families and the former storehouses associated with the brewing industry of Iwamatsu, particularly sake brewing, survive to make up a historic cityscape, representative of many small towns in Japan. Today, over 100 historic buildings, including 50 from the Meiji period (1868–1911) or earlier, survive in Iwamatsu, including 20 brewers' houses.

In the twentieth century, changes in cargo shipping caused the prosperity of river hubs like Iwamatsu to decline. The postwar era brought rapid social and institutional change to Japan, and today, a decreasing birthrate and an aging population have led to a hollowing out of the cityscape. In response, private investment in heritage was sought that would revitalize Iwamatsu, along with government subsidies from designation as one of Japan’s Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings.

Our Involvement

2020 World Monuments Watch

The site was included on the 2020 World Monuments Watch to lend support to these efforts through the restoration of the Konishi Honke, or home of the Konishi family, an iconic merchant house now in public ownership. The home once belonged to a pioneer sake brewer who spearheaded the town's development in the Edo period. Community residents have rallied behind the campaign for historic designation and have formed an association seeking to promote tourism to the area.

In May of 2021, with The Freeman Foundation's support, World Monuments Fund (WMF) successfully completed the conservation of the the Konishi Honke's main building. In October 2022, the second stage of project—involving the restoration of an adjacent traditional storehouse, or kura—was launched; this phase was successfully completed a year later. While site improvement work is being carried out by Uwajima City, the kura will function as the entry to the Konishi Honke, with an exhibition hall orienting visitors to Iwamatsu and its culturally significant structures.

In November of 2023, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs granted Iwamatsu Important Preservation District status in recognition of the national significance of its heritage. This new designation means greater financial support for the preservation of Iwamatsu’s unique history and more tourism to boost the local economy.

Learn More

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World Monuments Fund’s work at the Konishi Honke has been made possible, in part, by support from the Freeman Foundation.

Last updated: February 2024.

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