Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XII

Inspection of damage of traditional structures

Published on 29 April 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Hiroshi Hashimoto

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 112

The East Japan Earthquake, the inspection of the damage condition of the traditional structures

This is Hiroshi Hashimoto, a building designer in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. Working as the Assistant Professor in the Kanazawa Institute of Traditional Crafts, I am engaged to repairing the traditional farm and private houses, and the whitewashed warehouse as a repair specialist of traditional structures.

I had a chance to accompany the Miyagi Network’s preservation activity for the historical materials, and investigated the damage to the traditional structures together with Mr.Toshihiro Sato, an architect in Fukushima, Mr.Eisuke Mitsuda, a specialist for the building constructions in Kyoto, and Ms.Aya Nakamura who is my wife and works as a garden designer, from 12th to 14th of April.

On 12th April, in Ishinomaki City

First of all, we headed to the old family’s residence which possessed the ancestral documents concerned with a sort of forwarding business, or so-called “Sengokubune”. We investigated this old family’s whitewashed warehouse which miraculously remained although the field around this warehouse were full of debris transferred by the Tsunami. As for the inner construction such as the pillars and the beams, there was no problem. The ‘Shitaya’ which was the part of the entrance in the warehouse was washed away, and the damaged parts of the main body were the walls and the roof.

Confirming the damaged situation.jpg
Confirming the damaged situation

The roof tiles which had been placed seaside and the building materials such as ‘Taruki’ and ‘Moya’ which held the roof together were partially damaged by the drifted debris. That damage will is repairable without much expense. With regard to the strengthening method of the damaged building materials, I talked over with Mr.Mitsuda who rushed to the devastated area from Kyoto.

In terms of the walls, although the surface materials such as white-plasters or ‘Namako wall’(*)’ had fallen down, the mud wall which was the groundwork of the surface materials was very firm, so we judged that this structure didn’t require extensive repair. However, the small-scale repairing of white-plastered walls will be required, despite requiring some cost.

Yet this whitewashed warehouse had been strengthened using reinforced concrete last year, the adjacent warehouse which also had been strengthened in the same method was crushed by the Tsunami. Observing the surrounding circumstances, I strongly felt it was a miracle. Furthermore, when I saw that this warehouse resolutely stood in the debris, I couldn’t help think that this warehouse would become a symbol of the reconstruction. So to repair it and to pass it down for generations by any means, our activity will be very important hereafter. Our investigation will be recorded as an inspection report including the simple structures plan, and this report will be handed to the owners of the warehouse.

On 13th April, in Murata Town

Next, we headed to Murata Town. This town is well-known as a town which has a lot of whitewashed warehouses, so we mainly investigated the damage to those warehouses. The landscape in which many warehouses were lined up on the street was very valuable. I heard that this is the only one such scene in Miyagi Prefecture, simultaneously, this scenery is nominated to be nationally designated as part of the Group of Traditional Buildings.

We actually researched 9 whitewashed warehouses in this area. They were too many to investigate in detail as it takes enough time to do one by one. However, roughly speaking, while the surface white-plasters and the Namako walls were peeling off and the mud walls had fallen down, those warehouses would require a lot of money and time because they fundamental repair should be carried out, although the inner constructions had no problems at all.

Moreover, we have actually requested the local construction companies to urgently repair them, nevertheless they have refused us because they are busy until the end of May. For this reason, we may suffer from the lack of craftsmen who can repair these traditional structures.

Damaged warehouse.jpg
Damaged warehouse

There is no doubt that we have to go on in these trying times, whereas we keenly desire to steadily repair while taking a long time to avoid the thoughtless scrapping, with reference to the worth of the rows of warehouses in Miyagi Prefecture.

By the way, after our rescue operation, we made a document which recorded the damage and suggested the upcoming methods for preserving the plasters when they are be repaired. This document will be handed to the owners in Murata Town.

On 14th April, in Iwanuma City

On the last day of our inspection, because we could take relatively a long time, we researched 1 case in the morning, and another in the afternoon. In terms to our inspection on the 14th, Mr.Yuichi Ebina has already reported in detail on the Miyagi Network News vol.105, so please see it.

Broken Namako wall.jpg
Broken Namako wall

As his report said, we can’t get away from the distress of the old family who possessed a lot of traditional structures. The historical structures and their landscape which the community’s memories were condensed into would be required to pass down for the next generation. However, if the structure is more magnificent, it would require more money to maintain them, and the owners will end up giving up on them.

If so, we should consider the possibilities such as transferring the structures to other places in the same community and changing them to the community’s property, or if it would be impossible to do that, we should consider recording the structure’s plan and to leave them as the historical materials.

The investigation report of this structure in Iwanuma City will be handed to the owner through the Miyagi Network.

Before, we inspected mainly the whitewashed warehouses for three days, while we were in the situation which we couldn’t know about the financial support for the traditional structures, honestly speaking, we felt we were doctors without medicine. We strongly considered how to make repairs available to them.

Our inspection went smoothly due to the members of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. They gave us a lot of support and managed our schedule carefully. We appreciate them and the owners in welcoming us in spite of the situation in the unprecedented disaster.

[The Excursus]

Being continued from the previous issue, Mr.Hashimoto contributed his article about the inspection of the damage to traditional structures from 12th to 14th of April. Although he had already sent us his reports as soon as their inspection was finished, the secretarial office delayed updating them due to our reasons. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to him. (written by Daisuke Sato)

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials

* Namako Wall(なまこ壁): a Japanese traditional method for the construction of walls. The roof tiles are attached to the wall and entrenched with plaster.

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