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Kumamoto Castle Damaged but Standing

Castles Earthquake Kumamoto Earthquake Kumamoto

On April 14, 2016, Kumamoto Prefecture was hit by a magnitude 7 earthquake, which caused widespread damage and claimed nine lives. Amid the chaos, many looked to the region’s cultural treasure, Kumamoto Castle, considered one of Japan’s top three castles along with Himeji and Matsumoto.

Originally constructed in the late 15th century, with further expansions built in the 17th century by the daimyo Kato Kiyomasa, many of the structures continue to stand in the same place today thanks to quality engineering, regular upkeep, and a bit of luck.

After the initial quake hit, rumors quickly began to circulate that Kumamoto Castle had collapsed. However, news reports reassured the nation that aside from some damage to a stone wall, displacement of roof tiles, and loss of the shachihoko (tiger-headed, fish-shaped statues on the roof) the castle had held up.

The next day, a magnitude 7.3 quake hit the same area, leaving many more dead and injured and causing further damage to property, including several more collapsed buildings. These included Kumamoto Castle’s Kita Juhachiken Tower and Higashi Juhachiken Tower structures.

Above is a picture of the Higashi Juhachiken Tower taken in March 2015.

Unfortunately, the tower collapsed after the second major earthquake.

While it's a sad cultural loss, the residents can hopefully still draw strength from the remaining 11 structures that make up the Kumamoto Castle complex. This disaster is far from over, though. With more aftershocks and possibly worse looming for those in Kumamoto, we hope that, like their castle, the people of Kumamoto continue to stand strong and proud.

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