The Story of Moving and Reconstructing a Japanese Ancient House– Idea Sharing Conference of Cross-National Community Development

In the spring of 1995, with 80% of the houses severely damaged after the mass Osaka-Kobe earthquake, the Tibet Region, a community of Kobe, bravely trod its way to hometown reconstruction.

In the autumn of 1999, residents of that Tibet Region, feeling the same way as the victims of Taiwan’s 921 mass earthquake, flew to Taiwan with compassion and walked into Nantou villages to help. They had seen how centenary houses were renovated from scratch. They then dreamt about how nice it would be if the ancient buildings with historical memories in their community could be restored the same way.

In the summer of 2004, a couple of Taiwanese youngsters flew to Ohi Town of Fukui Prefecture in Japan, and co-worked with local volunteers to deconstruct a centenary house built in 1915. It was a priceless initiation in traditional wooden building reconstruction techniques, ranging from measuring and drawing, mold casting, beams and pillars numbering, tenon recording, dismantling, etc.

In the winter of 2008, all dismantled wooden components had been shipped to Taiwan. Volunteers from Taiwan and Japan joined the moving and reconstruction team both here and there. In the reconstructing workforce jobs included framing, putting up the main beam, roof-tiling, wall-bricking, etc. And after a year of hard work…

At the end of the summer of 2009, a centennial plain civil house, built by the father of Water Mian, an eminent Japanese writer, stood erect in the Peace Memorial Park of Dansui, with a brand-new life ahead of it. What lies behind this move of a hundred-year old Japanese house all across the ocean to the hillside of Dansui was the introspection and the gratitude people had to their hardships, the friendship across national boundaries, the respect and care towards cultural legacy, and a model of community development with international vision.

One may wonder now what new cultural elements could be added and integrated in such a graceful atmosphere and surrounding breathing antiquity, and also, what touching stories about the exchange between Japan and Taiwan might be created and circulated. You may wish to sit under the eaves and listen to the ancient house telling its story …