Kumamoto Castle Town, known to be consisted of two periods of built environment Shinmachi-Furumachi, dates back over 400 years to the well-known Kumamoto Castle’s construction. In 1877, during the last civil war in Japan, most of the town’s Edo period structures were destroyed by fire. Several of the remaining historic structures and features of the townscape were preserved. In the wake of the destruction, the rebuilding efforts at the end of the nineteenth century led to the inclusion of traditional wooden townhouses called machiya and new buildings, which today are part of the essential character of the town. Multiple layers of historic fabrication, traditional business and diversified cultural activities continues the vibe of this castle town and attracts tourists from all over the world.
In April 2016, about 350 historic buildings essential to the town’s historic streetscape sustained earthquake damage. Some were demolished in the aftermath of the disaster, leaving many of the approximately 300 structures that remained at great risk of demolition. WMF initially joined ICOMOS Japan in an on-site field study in May 2016 to understand priorities and conservation needs, and began to support restoration efforts on site.
Restoration of an historic Castle Townscape and revitalization of the community
In the summer of 2017, with support from The Freeman Foundation and in partnership with Kumamoto Machinami Trust (KMT), World Monuments Fund launched support for local community efforts in Kumamoto Castle Town, Japan, to restore five iconic structures damaged by the Kumamoto earthquake, including Shio Kosho, Natural and Harmonic Purely, Nishimura Tei, PS Orangerie, and Kiyonaga Honten. This partnership with KMT served as a model for our work to support communities whose treasured heritage assets are devastated by natural disaster. In the end of 2019, KMT received the ICOMOS-Japan Award for its action and collaboration with WMF to save Kumamoto Castle Town.
The restoration of these endangered historic buildings not only restores cultural heritage and preserves the historic nature of the castle townscape, but also helps to rebuild sense of place for the community. The restoration of five key structures that preserve the character of the castle town was successfully completed in spring 2020.