The Watch

Iwamatsu District

Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, Japan

Iwamatsu, a port town on the island of Shikoku, grew 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 sake brewing industry of Iwamatsu survive to make up a historic cityscape, representative of many small towns in Japan. Today, approximately 50 historic buildings from the Meiji period (1868–1911) or earlier survive in Iwamatsu, including 20 historic 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 is being sought that would revitalize Iwamatsu, along with government subsidies from designation as one of Japan’s Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings. The 2020 World Monuments Watch seeks to lend support to these efforts, through the restoration of the house of the Konishi family—an iconic merchant house of Iwamatsu, now in public ownership. Community residents have rallied behind the campaign for historic designation and have formed an association seeking to promote tourism to the area.

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