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Castle restoration plan with no elevators causing controversy

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I’m with mayor Kawamura on this. Historical buildings should remain true to their original design as far as reasonably possible.

As far as wheelchair access goes, do wheelchair users complain that there is no elevator taking them to the summit of Mt. Fuji?

3 ( +12 / -9 )

With chronic back problems and unable to make the climb myself, I wouldn't want the beauty of Japanese cultural sites be modernized for me. Keep it as it was originally built.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

As an American living in Nagoya, I'm enthusiastic about the remodeling as I've never been impressed with castles with elevators. Castles at Inuyama, Matsumoto, Himeji, etc., are terrific to visit. But after realizing that some people with physical disabilities will not be able to fully enjoy visiting Nagoya castle. The elevator issue is very important. What should also be considered that is that elevators allow anyone who can't walk/climb to the upper areas. Elderly people, my Japanese grandmother can barely walk and frequently uses a wheelchair, people with very young children or babies, etc.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

There must be some discreet way of incorporating an elevator into the design. The current one, and Osaka castle too, have elevators situated in very conspicuous shafts on the outside of the tower, which rob them of their historic look. In both those cases the elevator was retrofitted years after construction. Surely given the chance to rebuild they can come up with something that is both reasonably true to the original and accessible to eve.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

I agree that effort should be made to enable people with disabilities to be able to access as many things as possible, however there needs to be limit for everything, there is no such thing as unlimited access to things, having lived in Japan for over 30 years, I still am meet with limits on things I would like to do, not because i have a disability but because I am not Japanese, so people need to be realistic about this sense of a unlimited world.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is a tricky one. I can't say I'm bothered either way. The new castle will be funded and constructed in modern ways and is being built for tourism, not defence. So it's hardly "historically accurate". If it is just going to be a history theme park, part of me thinks you might as well put an elevator in so more people can enjoy the views from the top and go home thinking they got their money's worth.

On the subject of traditional architecture, I would just like to point out that we live in a renovated farmhouse, which A. we paid for with our own money and B. we use in its original role as a house and workplace, not a museum.

Like Kumamoto Castle, I think this is going to cost a lot more than 450 million USD. 1 billion USD of national taxpayer money on two castles for visitors to kill time and local people to thump their chests with pride strikes me as a waste of money. The average public system school in both cities will be a complete dump.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Historical buildings should remain true to their original design as far as reasonably possible.

I agree, and wish more castles did as well.

As far as wheelchair access goes, do wheelchair users complain that there is no elevator taking them to the summit of Mt. Fuji?

That is actually a very fair point.

Having said that, rainyday brings up a good point-

Surely given the chance to rebuild they can come up with something that is both reasonably true to the original and accessible to eve.

I have an idea: For those that need assistance, instead of an elevator, provide a Sankin-kōtai 参勤交代 service.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Im with Mayor. Nagoya Castle is pretty aweful as it is now. There are two pretty big famous ones that when you step inside it all feels super fake. Is it Nogoya or Osaka castle that has a shop at the top playing pop music through speakers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

When the Honmaru Goten was rebuilt at Kumamoto Castle some 140 years after it was burnt in the Seinan War, I was fortunate to be tasked with translating the visitors guide to English. Finding appropriate terminology for its many traditional features was a challenge. I thank my predecessors, who prepared similar guides for other unreconstructed castles, for their vocabulary. Honmaru Goten was built with materials and methods as close to the original as possible and is not accessible to handicapped.

I appreciate both sides of the argument and the thoughtfulness of the comments above. Me, I'd go traditional, though I also wonder if it's possible to install an elevator in such a wooden building, even if single-occupancy (wheelchair + aid) and if not to the top stories.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Dont worry about claimers, Mayor Kawamura. Rebuild the castle in original style, that means no concrete, no western toilet and NO elevators. Then after 2022 Nagoya can apply for the World Heritage Award. If disabled people cant go in, direct them to a modern concrete remake of a castle like Osaka castle.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Surely given the chance to rebuild they can come up with something that is both reasonably true to the original and accessible to eve.

Agreed...surely in 21st centrury the architects and designers can come up with a solution that would be acceptable to both parties. Disabled face a lot of challenges in Japan as it is, their opinion should not be  ignored - especially in light of the below quote.

Yoshihiro Senda, a castle archeologist and professor at Nara University, said that even if the wooden tenshu is restored without elevators there must be countless other features that the original structure did not have, such as a concrete foundation to ensure quake resistance and electrical wiring.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It is (hopefully) supposed to be a historically accurate reconstruction of the donjon, not Disneyland. It was originally made to difficult to access in order to deter would-be invaders so that is how it should be.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

While I value authenticity, as marcelito points out it is impossible to build a "historically accurate" castle. It is merely a best effort exercise already full of compromises. The Shinkansen actually rolls past that site every minute or two, and may be the main thing visitors look out for in the view from the top. Its that or a load of grey buildings with big adverts on top.

fwiw, there is a way to build something historically accurate that still has universal access for all physical disabilities, but it is to rebuild the castle and indeed Edo-period Nagoya using immersive VR. By the time any proposed rebuild is completed, I suspect that VR will already be capable of producing something much more impressive than a crowded site full of modern-day tourists.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree that effort should be made to enable people with disabilities to be able to access as many things as possible, however there needs to be limit for everything, there is no such thing as unlimited access to things, having lived in Japan for over 30 years, I still am meet with limits on things I would like to do, not because i have a disability but because I am not Japanese, so people need to be realistic about this sense of a unlimited world.

Great post Dean, couldn't agree more.

"I felt helpless before the stairs many times," said a member of a wheelchair users' group. 

With all due respect, so do millions of ppl (too old/overweight/unfit/claustrophobic etc) when they see the steep & narrow stairs they won't be able to climb to get to the higher levels. No one should feel entitled to see/get whatever they want.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I fully support the needs of the disabled and when we visit a castle like Himeji we don't climb to the top anymore because we are just too old. There are place such as traditional castles when its difficult to accommodate the disabled.

I think of the concrete Osaka castle with its modern external elevator but don't really care since the castle isn't authentic. Such an elevator at Himeji would be a serious outrage.

But having said that it would be possible to build an elevator that isn't modern like the one at Osaka and from the outside just looks like being part of the castle, like an additional tower.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Nobunaga Oda, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and their predecessors built these castles unfortunately without people with handicaps in mind. Like many others, I'd like to see the castle in its original state. Times change, but somethings should not change with the times due to its historic importance. If people complained about the Sistine Chapel paintings depict people with body features un-attainable by people or the nudity bothers them because they have their children there with them, would it change anything? No it wouldn't. Without elevators is just fine I believe.

I'm sure they would figure out some innovative way to also tend to the handicapped community to make and keep everyone happy.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"Does he (Kawamura) mean to give priority to accurate restoration over availability for all people to have fun visiting the castle safely?"

Personally, I would much prefer a castle that is an accurate restoration, rather than a fake castle with a modern elevator in it. (I have been to Nagoya castle once many years ago, and my impression of it wasn't great, as compared with others.)

There is an inherent trade-off here.

Yoshihiro Senda, a castle archeologist and professor at Nara University, said that even if the wooden tenshu is restored without elevators there must be countless other features that the original structure did not have, such as a concrete foundation to ensure quake resistance and electrical wiring.

Yes, but seriously. It's a frikkin elevator. There's no hiding that.

I mean what's next, should we install an elevator in the Kinkakuji too?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I would have thought it was more important to assure handicapped access because a) handicapped people are more likely to have time to spend looking at castles, b) there's not much point in trying to maintain the  environment that existed at the time the castle was built when there are crowds of tourists walking around in 21st century clothes, taking selfies and texting, c) handicapped people too would benefit from the aesthetic and historical views of an ancient structure such as a castle.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Four hundred and fifty million? What a waste!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As far as wheelchair access goes, do wheelchair users complain that there is no elevator taking them to the summit of Mt. Fuji? your comparing a cultural asset to a geographic location!? Culture do and will change, 500yrs ago most handicap children were slaughtered at birth, now theyre accepted, mostly, and are provided wheel chairs along with the elderly. Mt Fuji wont be changed for any man , well not until the next eruption anyways.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@wtf

The point I’m making isn’t about Mt. Fuji per se; wheelchair users cannot reasonably expect to enjoy the same freedoms that an able-bodied person might.

Historical sites were around long before you and I and will continue to be around long after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. For that reason, history must take precedence, and besides, castles are not designed to facilitate access: they were built to keep people out!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

With all due respect, so do millions of ppl (too old/overweight/unfit/claustrophobic etc) when they see the steep & narrow stairs they won't be able to climb to get to the higher levels. No one should feel entitled to see/get whatever they want.

That is kind of an irrelevant point though, the question isn't whether they have an entitlement to anything, its whether the city should take reasonable measures to accommodate their legitimate needs. If they were arguing that an elevator should be put into an original castle like Himeji then I would disagree with that since doing so would damage a historically important building (and I note that they aren't making such an argument, so they clearly don't feel entitled to literally get whatever they want). But in this case it seems to me it would be perfectly feasible to discreetly work an elevator into the design of what is a brand new castle while at the same time respecting the aesthetics, etc of an original.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@wtfjapan

Mt. Fuji won’t be changed for any man.

People probably thought the same about Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. But it’s had a railway running to the summit for well over a hundred years. And it’s definitely an eyesore. Brings in plenty of tourists, though....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Mt Fuji is a natural geographic feature. Nagoya castle is man-made.

Nobody paid for Mt Fuji to be built. Tax payers are providing the funds for Nagoya castle, and that includes handicapped tax-payers.

There is no question. This is a public building, and therefore should have public access. All of the public.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The original Japanese castles tenshukaku (donjons) were destroyed mostly at the time of Meiji restoration and by air raids during the W.W. II. At the time of Meiji restoration, many daimyo destroyed their own castles to show their royalty to the new powers against Tokugawa. All the good castles on the Pacific coast were destroyed by air raids. Not only that, many castles were lost by fires since they were made in woods. Edo castle donjon was lost by fire during the Edo period and it has never been rebuilt for financial reasons of Tokugawa. However, there is a move to rebuild the Edo castle's donjon in original form. They plan to build five storied donjon in wooden building. They will face the same problems.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With all due respect, so do millions of ppl (too old/overweight/unfit/claustrophobic etc) when they see the steep & narrow stairs they won't be able to climb to get to the higher levels. No one should feel entitled to see/get whatever they want.

With all due respect, applying such logic is essentially saying there should be no efforts to improve anything for the disables/disadvantaged in any way because that would just encourage their "sense of entitlement ". Why bother with improving disabled access anywhere...they should all just stay home / out of the way.

I,ll take a wild guess that you probably don,t have a disabled member in your family.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't want to climb to the top of any more castles. We've been to Matsumoto Castle many times, very nice. Hakone Castle near Biwa once in the sakura. Himeji Castle several times. Osaka Castle many times but only once inside before the elevator was installed.

If access can't be provided then cameras on the various floors could be installed and a place for disabled people to view them and VR too. Like they say, "If the Buddha can't go to the mountain, bring the mountain to the Buddha!"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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