Kumamoto Castle sustained heavy damage during a series of powerful earthquakes that struck Southern Japan in April. Work to repair stone walls and other damaged properties is expected to take several years given the buildings historic significance: it was originally built in the 1400s but reconstructed in 1960. In early June reconstruction efforts began with one of the most time-sensitive projects: restoring the Iidamaru Gokai Yagura, a five-story guard tower that was at risk of imminent collapse.
Seismic shocks caused much of the stone wall supporting the Iidamaru Gokai Yagura guard tower to collapse. As a result, only about 8 stones remained standing, supporting a corner of the 5-ton tower and preventing it from collapsing. It was truly a miracle that the tower remained standing, which earned the stones the name “miracle single stoned wall,” and were likened to the “miracle pine” that remained standing after the 2011 tsunami.
Yesterday, photos were unveiled on the Kumamoto Castle Facebook page showing the massive efforts to create a gigantic movable steel arm that would reach under the tower to keep it from falling. The arm successfully slid under the tower so that workers can now begin restoring the collapsed wall.
But believe it or not, this was the easy part. Rebuilding the stone walls will be like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle. Based on photographs and historic documents, each stone – large and small – will be assigned a number. They will then be stacked exactly the way they were in order to ensure accuracy. “Even one mistake will make it impossible to restore the walls,” said Daisaku Hayashi, the president of the local construction company in charge of restoration.