Special elevators eyed for Nagoya Castle rebuild for barrier-free accessibility

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The tenshukaku main tower keep of Nagoya Castle is seen in November.

NAGOYA — The Nagoya municipal government is considering installing small, specialized elevators in the planned wooden reconstruction of the tenshukaku main tower keep of Nagoya Castle to make the structure barrier-free.

Users will be able to reach the top of the tower keep through a series of small elevators, dubbed “electric baskets,” that travel only one floor.

Utilizing the lifts will give the disabled the opportunity to access all floors of the tower keep, while faithfully reconstructing the pillars and beams from the original structure.

Expectations are high for the plan as it combines the restoration of a historical structure while making the facility accessible to everyone.

According to Nagoya city officials, lifts will be developed based on small elevators used in narrow spaces, such as inside ships. The elevators will have a capacity of four people, so wheelchair users will be able to use them with their companions.

Users will have to change elevators on each floor because the elevators serve only two floors, but they can be installed in narrow spaces surrounded by pillars and beams, whereas normal elevators require a larger space.

At first, elevators were not included in the reconstruction plan pushed by Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, who insisted that the rebuilt castle should be as faithful to the original as possible. However, the plan has faced opposition from disabled people’s groups and others.

From April to August, the municipal government asked the public for ideas to make the tower keep accessible to everyone, and a business operator came up with the idea.

The original tower keep, which was completed in 1612, became Japan’s first castle structure to be designated as a national treasure in 1930.

In 1945, the keep burned down in an air raid during World War II, but was reconstructed using concrete in 1959.

The concrete structure has problems regarding earthquake resistance, so it was decided to rebuild the castle using wood.

Initially, the municipal government set a goal of completing construction in the summer of 2020, but as it also requires permission from the Cultural Affairs Agency, the current completion date has not yet been decided.