‘Shachihoko’ Return to Kumamoto Castle After 2 YearsCeremony held to mark installation of 2 shachihoko for large tower

Kumamoto Castle, a regional symbol and source of pride for Kumamoto residents, was severely damaged by the series of earthquakes that struck Kumamoto Prefecture in April 2016. After the earthquakes, The Nippon Foundation announced that it would provide support totaling roughly three billion yen to repair the castle. Part of that work has been to replace the castle’s four shachihoko, ornamental objects attached to the top roofs of the two main towers, which fell off and broke apart. The replacement of the two shachihoko on the roof of the castle’s main tower was completed on April 28, roughly two years after the earthquakes struck (the first of the two was installed on April 6, and the second was installed on April 28). The two shachihoko for the smaller tower are scheduled to be attached in August 2019.

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A close-up of one of the new shachihoko attached to the roof of Kumamoto Castle’s main tower

Kumamoto Castle is considered one of Japan’s three greatest castles, and was built by the feudal lord Kato Kiyomasa in 1607, during the Sengoku (Warring States) period. The castle’s main tower is approximately 30 meters high and has six stories. The structure suffered extensive damage from the earthquakes, with the shachihoko and many roof tiles falling off. Since then, a temporary roof covering was installed and restoration work proceeded, with the new roof completed on April 3, 2018. This repair work is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2019, and Kumamoto City aims to reopen the castle interior to tourists in 2021.

A ceremony to mark the attachment of the new shachihoko was held in Ninomaru Park on the castle grounds on the morning of April 28. The ceremony began with a taiko drum performance by Taishi Takami, an award-winning player of very large taiko drums and resident of Kumamoto Prefecture. Representing the event’s organizers, Kumamoto City Mayor Kazufumi Onishi welcomed the guests, noting, “Today is a historic day that the residents of Kumamoto City and Kumamoto Prefecture have been anticipating, as we celebrate the restoration and reattachment of the shachihoko to the main tower of Kumamoto Castle. I hope that today’s event will be an opportunity for all of you to be re-energized.”
Mayor Onishi was followed by Shinya Kutsuki, speaker of the Kumamoto City Assembly, who said, “I would like to offer my sincere thanks to The Nippon Foundation and everyone else involved. The fact that we have been able to recover this far in the two years since those unprecedented earthquakes has made a profound impression on the residents of Kumamoto City.
Next, Jumpei Sasakawa, Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation, spoke, “After the earthquakes, The Nippon Foundation quickly promised assistance in the amount of three billion yen. Since then, with the cooperation of the people of Kumamoto Prefecture, today we are marking the reattachment of the shachihoko, which are a symbol of Kumamoto’s recovery, to the main tower. From this starting point we will continue to move forward with reconstruction.”

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Jumpei Sasakawa (standing) addressing the guests, Kumamoto Mayor Kazufumi Onishi (seated)

Taking the stage next was Kousuke Fujimoto, who made the new shachihoko. Mr. Fujimoto described his concern that an aftershock could damage the new shachihoko while they were being made, so he made them on a cart with wheels to absorb shocks. He added that when he had finished he was so happy he felt like dancing.
Mr. Fujimoto was followed by children from a local nursery school and kindergarten, who performed a song and dance to everyone’s great enjoyment. Next, members of the Kumamoto Castle Omotenashi Bushotai gave a dance performance dressed as samurai from the Sengoku period.

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Local children and event guests pose for a commemorative photograph

Finally, the children and Omotenashi Bushotai performers helped to move the shachihoko from the stage to a nearby road to see it off, and everyone shouted, “Keep up the good work Kumamoto!” as they released balloons into the air.

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Children and guests release balloons into the air

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