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2010 Tiffany Foundation Award

Congratulations to the 2010 recipients of the Tiffany Foundation Award for the Preservation of Japanese Traditional Arts and Culture in Contemporary Society for their exemplary work preserving Japanese traditional arts at the national and regional community levels.

Kyo-machiya Revitalization Study Group—Taisho Award

Kyomachiya 1Kyomachiya, literally “Kyoto townhouses” from the Edo period (1603-1867) for the merchant class, once typified the historic landscape of Kyoto. However, with Japan’s post-war economic success, the city’s traditional architecture began rapidly disappearing in a wave of modern development. According to a study by the Kyoto Municipal Government, the number of machiya-style buildings had fallen to 28,000 by 1998, and every year about 1000 were being torn down.

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The Kyo-machiya Revitalization Study Group was formed in 1992 with the mission of preserving Kyoto’s historic machiya buildings and the traditions that have been associated with them. The group began sponsoring a diverse range of activities, hosting studies, workshops, and symposiums to explore ways to convert machiya into functional and safe residences that accommodate contemporary lifestyles; promoting policies that recognize the importance of preserving local culture; and analyzing other models for preservation programs in Japan and abroad.

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The group takes a comprehensive approach to preservation of machiya as a part of Japan’s cultural legacy, focusing not only on protecting the buildings but also more broadly on revitalizing the community as a place where people live, work, and come together. These efforts led to the establishment of several sub-organizations that carry out different activities under the umbrella of Kyo-machiya Revitalization Study Group. First, an organization of craftspeople was established, and it provides technical advice on maintaining and renovating machiya. Also, a “Friends of Kyomachiya” group was formed for Kyoto residents who share an interest in machiya culture. It organizes concerts, cultural seminars, and tours to promote understanding of machiya’s cultural importance. Most recently, in 2002, a Kyomachiya Information Center was opened to deal with the spread of vacant machiya houses. The center provides support for those interested in purchasing or renting machiya and it distributes information on individual properties and local real estate agents. In addition to finding new machiya residents, it also helps machiya owners and real estate brokers appreciate the cultural value of the buildings.

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As one of the most established groups in the field, the Kyo-machiya Revitalization Study Group has also been actively engaged in networking and exchanges with other organizations working to preserve of traditional cityscapes, inside and outside of Japan.

 





Red Brick Club Maizuru—Shinkosho Award

maizuru 1

Until the end of World War II, Maizuru served as an important navy port, and this heritage left the town with clusters of red brick buildings that had been used as military warehouses. However, after the war, many of these were left vacant, and they became to be seen as obstacles to development that needed to be razed.

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City residents only first began to recognize the potential value of the red brick buildings when a small group of young city hall employees visited Yokohama City, looking for ideas for revitalizing Maizuru. As in Maizuru, Yokohama also had shuttered old warehouses, but they were starting to be recognized as important local assets. Inspired by Yokohama’s efforts to preserve and utilize their red brick warehouses, Maizuru officials and residents began a series of activities to highlight the historical importance and architectural beauty of the red brick buildings in their city. In 1991, as a part of this movement, Red Brick Club Maizuru was established to promote red bricks, or “akarenga,” as a symbol of Maizuru and to make the warehouse district into a center for community activities.

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Since 1991, the group has annually hosted “Summer Jazz in Maizuru,” which has become one of the highlights of the year in the region. A large audience from around Japan travels to Maizuru for this outside concert, where nationally renowned jazz musicians perform amidst the red brick warehouses. More recently, the group launched a “red brick road” project through which local students and residents excavate historic roadways that had been used to transport red bricks through the town to construct warehouses, bridges, and other structures. In addition to the projects directly organized by the Red Brick Club, local residents, business, and the city government have started organizing a host of related activities around Maizuru that have helped to make the red brick warehouses a center of cultural activities for area residents. A Red Brick Museum was opened in 1993; a vacant warehouse donated by a local business was turned into a cultural center with exhibit, study, and event facilities; and other community events have been launched, including an “Akarenga Festa” arts and food fair and efforts to illuminate the warehouses.

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The experience of Maizuru is shared with other communities that have similar red brick structures through the national “Akarenga Network,” which was established in 1991 after Maizuru hosted the first national symposium to study the preservation and utilization of red brick buildings. These efforts bore fruit in recent years, and in 2008, seven red brick buildings in Maizuru were designated by the national government as Important Cultural Properties of Japan.