A representative of the Mikura community in Kobe, Japan, signed an agreement on Monday in Taipei to permit the reconstruction of an antique Japanese-style building in Tamsui (淡水).
The Mikura community’s Hozan Tanaka attended the signing ceremony, which will see an antique wooden building — said to have been assembled only with mortise and tenon joints, using no nails — rebuilt in Tamsui Township.
The historic building was constructed in 1915 in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture by the father of Tsutomu Minakami, a popular and prolific Japanese author.
Tanaka lamented the fact that Minakami, who died in September 2004, had not lived to see the new structure.
The plan to rebuild the structure in Taiwan came after many twists and turns.
A couple in Fukui Prefecture, on Japan’s west coast, learned of the prefecture’s plan to tear down the antique building to make way for a park.
They first suggested that the local government donate the building to Kobe’s Mikura community and have it rebuilt there, because of the community’s experience reconstructing an antique 1870 residence after it was damaged in a powerful earthquake in 1995.
However, the Mikura community decided it wanted to rebuild the structure in Taiwan to show their compassion for victims of the 921 Earthquake. In late 1999 community residents had visited areas affected by that disaster.
The rebuilt structure will hold 200 books by Minakami, according to the initial plan by the Tamsui Township Office.
The office said it also plans to set up an exhibition zone to showcase the works of Chen Shun-chen (陳舜臣), a Taiwanese author born in Kobe who settled in Tamsui after moving back from Japan in 1999.
Tanaka said that Japan was happy to see the project move forward, since it had been stalled for four years by Taiwan’s complex building codes. In May, the construction project was finally grouped into the category of “memorial architecture,” which would allow construction to go forward without the need for a building license.
Local architect Chiu Ming-min’s (邱明民) work over the last four years was critical for gaining approval from the Taipei County Government.
Chiu said that the Japanese community in Kobe agreed to have the wooden structure rebuilt in August 2004.
He and film director Chuang Yue (莊岳) then led four architecture students on a trip to Fukui Prefecture, where they spent four weeks dismantling the wooden building and coding the parts.
Thirty Japanese volunteer architects helped them with the work. Many of them promised to come to Taiwan to help rebuild the structure, Chiu said.
In 2005, Chiu transported about 500 dismantled wooden pieces in shipping containers to Taiwan, where they were stored at a cultural foundation.
Tamsui Township Mayor Tsai Yeh-wei (蔡葉偉) said that gaining approval for the project had not been easy, because of legal restrictions on building wooden structures in Taiwan.
The wooden building will be listed in a group of historical structures in Tamsui that includes originally Dutch, Spanish and British-built landmarks.
The township will also construct a “peace park” near the wooden building to symbolize the friendship between Taiwan and Japan, Tsai said.
Japan’s help with the reconstruction project was a sign of the friendship and peace between the two countries, which have strong historical ties, he said.