Traditionally Japanese castles are made of wood, which made them vulnerable to fires and other natural disasters. As such, the many castles across Japan are mostly post-war reconstructions made of concrete.
These reconstructions maintain the outward look of a castle, but the insides are often museums with artifacts and information on the history of the castle, not a recreation of the castle rooms. The artificial structure makes adaptations easy and many castles are wheelchair accessible. Nagoya Castle, which was reconstructed with concrete in 1959, has an elevator inside of it allowing disabled guests to go (nearly) to the top.
However, many traditionalists want to reconstruct castles using original materials and building techniques. A few years back, the city of Nagoya approved a 50 billion yen (~US$450 million) plan to destroy the current castle in 2019 and replace it with a more faithful reconstruction set to open in 2022.
The designers want to keep the new castle faithful to the Edo Period Nagoya Castle and avoid “additional elements”… and are planning to build the castle without an elevator.
The reconstruction designs are not without any consideration for disabled visitors as they plan on using stair lifts to ferry wheelchair users up steps. However, as Naoya Tsuji of the Nagoya-based Aichi Disability Forum points out, these stair lifts cannot be used by all wheelchairs (a transfer is required and the wheelchair must be left at the bottom) and will leave the new castle out of reach for many visitors.
Since this design flaw has been found before demolition has started, there is still time to make adjustments and the mayor of Nagoya, Takashi Kawamura, says he intends to work with outside groups to come to a solution.
We sincerely hope that they come to a solution that allows everyone to enjoy Japanese history. We encourage you to contact the castle as well as the city of Nagoya to let them know that an elevator is a right and that history is for everyone.
Contact information can be found on the websites:
- Nagoya Castle: http://www.nagoyajo.city.nagoya.jp/13_english/13_01_goriyou/index.html (Mid-page)
- Nagoya City: http://www.city.nagoya.jp/en/ (Bottom of page)