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Cultural assets badly damaged in Kumamoto Earthquake

Kumamoto Castle is seen with heavy quake damage to its roof tiles and walls, in the city of Kumamoto on April 16, 2016. (Mainichi)

KUMAMOTO -- The earthquakes that have shaken this region staring on April 14 have taken a major toll on local cultural assets, with heavy damage to the Kumamoto Castle complex and large parts of the ancient Aso Shrine collapsing in the April 16 magniture-7.3 temblor.

Two storehouses built on stone walls at Kumamoto Castle, both designated as important national cultural assets, collapsed after the April 16 earthquake. Unlike the castle keep, which was rebuilt after a fire in the Meiji era, both collapsed store houses were built in the early 1600s.

Hideo Kawata, head of the Kumamoto Castle administration office, came to the castle on the morning of April 16 to examine the damage, but "had to run away as stone walls started falling apart in aftershocks."

The Kumamoto Prefectural Government's cultural affairs division and other sources reported that the tower gate and worship hall at Aso Shrine in the prefectural city of Aso had collapsed completely. The shrine itself is believed to have been founded some 2,500 years ago, and the tower gate, which is designated as an important national cultural asset and regarded as one of Japan's three key shrine tower gates, is said to have been completed about 250 years ago.

The residence of American educator Leroy Lansing Janes in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward, a designated important prefectural cultural asset built in the Meiji period, was also damaged in the earthquakes.

According to the Yatsushiro Municipal Government in Kumamoto Prefecture, a 2-by-3-meter area of the stone walls at the ruins of Yatsushiro Castle -- a designated national historic site -- also collapsed.

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