Rescued Cultural Property Afterward – Report on Current Restoration Status of the Shochuhi memorial in Sendai
A bronze black kite spreading its wings is placed on its back. Referring to the pre-earthquake photos pinned on the board behind, the broken pieces are put back together one by one.
As repeatedly reported through this activity report, the Committee for Salvaging Cultural Properties Affected by the 2011 Earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku and Related Disasters having its secretariat in this Institute have provided rescue activities for numerous cultural properties damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. The Shochuhi memorial standing on the site of the inner citadel of Sendai Castle (Aoba Castle) is one of them. The monument was built to console the souls of war victims affiliated with the Second Division in Sendai in 1902. Due to the earthquake, a bronze black kite installed on the stone tower about 15 m in height fell to the ground. Its broken pieces were collected and the main body has been relocated as part of the Cultural Properties Rescue Operations by the Committee. Since the completion of the Operations in 2014, the Monument has been restored as the Disaster-Affected Museum Reconstruction Project in Miyagi Prefecture. In this fiscal year, the broken black kite pieces have been transferred to Bronze Studio located in Hakonegasaki, Tokyo, and joining operations are now under way. Here, I would like to report on the restoration process of the black kite based on my visit to the Studio on November 7, 2015.
The broken black kite was delivered to Tokyo twice on June 3 and July 10. First, as a step prior to the joining process, the concrete and lead inside the largest part of the broken black kite (approx. 5.1 t) was removed. The black kite was filled with these materials to fix the rail inserted as an iron core connecting the black kite and the stone tower, as well as to balance it in weight. After the three months it took to remove them, the process to join the broken bronze pieces started on a full scale. Based on the images taken during the research before the earthquake, the pieces are being put together in such a way as to return them to their original form. Since the head and wing tips of the black kite are crushed, small pieces are being assembled like a jigsaw puzzle.
The construction of the Shochuhi memorial , on which a huge black kite weighing over 5 tons was installed on a tower 15 m in height, was really a feat of strength. According to Mr. Yuji Takahashi of Bronze Studio, the on-going restoration process has revealed the painstaking craftsmanship dedicated at that time, such as fine parts that are now produced with machines were manually processed one by one. The restoration process made us recall the time-consuming endeavors undertaken by the people involved in the construction of the Monument during the Meiji period. These piecing operations will proceed on to the next fiscal year. After the completion of all processes, the black kite will go back to Sendai. On the other hand, however, the stone tower has deteriorated due to the infiltration of rainwater. Although five years have passed since the earthquake, many challenges still remain over the conservation and restoration of the Monument. Long-term initiatives are required.