Two violent earthquakes and numerous strong aftershocks continue to rock the iconic 400-year-old castle, which has so far outlasted much younger structures.
On 14 April Kumamoto Prefecture was hit by a magnitude 7 earthquake, which caused widespread damage and claimed nine lives. Amidst the chaos, many looked towards the region’s cultural treasure, Kumamoto Castle, considered one of Japan’s top three castles along with Himeji and Matsumoto Castles.
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.
ＮＨＫ生活・防災 (@nhk_seikatsu) April 15, 2016
桐間oO(μ'sic Forever) (@kirima46) April 16, 2016
キニ速 気になる速報 (@kinisoku) April 16, 2016
NHKニュース (@nhk_news) April 16, 2016
Comments paid tribute to the castle’s legendary strength that appears to still hold true today.
▼ “I heard from a friend in Kumamoto who said with a strange excitement, ‘It’s crazy, Kumamoto Castle didn’t even budge after an earthquake of seismic intensity 7. The building has been there for 400 years. Crazy! Seeing it brought back my courage. Kato Kiyomasa was really something.’ It’s good to hear that the castle gives strength to the people.”
RIDDLE平野崇尋【ツアー中】 (@riddletkhr) April 14, 2016
▼ “Thankfully, the collapsed part of Kumamoto Castle was the roof of the Uto-yagura [main building] and a stone wall. After surviving 400 years of wind, snow, and wars the keep still seems safe. Kato Kiyomasa was amazing. I mean, the fortification skills of carpenters and masons 400 years ago…”
あきよ (@akiyokoyanagi) April 14, 2016
And so the castle remained as a symbol of endurance for the people of Kumamoto as aftershocks continued to rock the area. Many began picking up the pieces not knowing the worst was yet to come.
Late last night a 7.3 quake hit the same area leaving many more dead and injured and causing further damage to property including several more collapsed buildings.
Kumamoto resident Noel Vincent went over to the castle to see what additional damage was done and broadcast it on his Periscope account.
(@NoelVincent) April 15, 2016
News outlets confirmed that Kumamoto Castle’s Kita Juhachiken Tower and Higashi Juhachiken Tower structures have collapsed.
▼ Higashi Juhachiken (Kita Juhachiken is directly behind) before the earthquakes
▼ After the second major earthquake
▼ A map showing the currently damaged areas
【熊本城情報】 平成28年熊本地震 4月16日12時で判明している熊本城の被害状況です。 ヘリ中継映像（テレビ朝日）での黙視による崩壊箇所。広範囲で石垣の崩落が確認出来ます。宇土櫓に併設の二重櫓が完全に倒壊しているのが解ります。 https://t.co/km1vs8klBj—
情景師アラーキー/荒木さとし (@arakichi1969) April 16, 2016
While it is 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.