Tomo Port Town

Completed Project
World Monuments Watch
Fukuyama, Japan

For over 1,000 years Tomo, in the city of Fukuyama, has existed as a fishing village and an active port along the Seto Nakai, or Inland Sea. The village profited from its access to the ancient maritime routes that enabled local and international coastal trade, and grew significantly during the Edo Period (1603-1868); harbor facilities, including moorings, breakwaters, and a lighthouse, built through the 19th century, catalyzed the settlement’s expansion. Long celebrated in literature, music, and painting as a place of unique natural beauty, Tomo is also home to a number of historic Buddhist temples and shrines, some of which date to the 8th century A.D. Moreover, Tomo is the only Japanese port town to retain its authentic historical character, its narrow winding streets and wooden architecture untouched by modern economic and demographic pressures.

2002 and 2004 World Monuments Watch

From 1983 to 2009, plans to modernize Tomo through large-scale transportation development brought to light how important the historic cityscape and landscape were to the local community. Watch listing in 2002 and 2004 provided an opportunity for international preservation organizations to offer their support to local efforts to bring attention to the threats facing the town. Specifically, the planned addition of a landfill and highway bridge would endanger the town’s historic waterfront, which is not included under landmark designation protecting the rest of the settlement. Responding to development threats, local groups mounted an opposition campaign challenging the prefecture’s plans in court, and successfully delayed impending redevelopment project. In June 2012, the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture halted the proposed bridge, bringing to and end some 30 years of debate. In 2004, WMF also led conservation work at Uoya-Manzo, a 19th century merchant’s house that has since become an information center and guesthouse for visitors.

Tomo is a vibrant modern community with strong connections to the waterfront and its history. By drawing attention to Tomo’s fate, WMF has emphasized the importance of what happens there, and helped stall development of the settlement that was at odds with the vision the local community held for the waterfront area. Similarly, the organization’s conservation of the Uoya-Manzo house reaffirms WMF’s commitment to the town, and its belief in the value of the settlement as a tourist destination worthy of protection and further investment. In 2009, local community efforts prevailed and any planned development will be sensitive to the historic fabric of the city and waterfront, and the 2012 decision by the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture confirmed that no highway bridge would be built through the town.

Last updated: February 2019.

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