• Perspectives

Work of Architect Kenzo Tange A Bridge Between Japan, North Macedonia

The Japan News
Filip Tosevski, state secretary of the North Macedonian Foreign Ministry, speaks during an interview with The Japan News in Tokyo.

Japan and North Macedonia will mark the 30th anniversary of their establishment of diplomatic relations next year, but connections between the two sides go back further than that. The world-renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange was involved in the reconstruction of what is now the capital of the country, Skopje, after a major earthquake in 1963.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Kenzo Tange

His work is still widely known by the local people and connects both countries. Filip Tosevski, state secretary of the North Macedonian Foreign Ministry, who visited Tokyo last month, said, “Everybody knows about him as part of our history.”

On July 26, 1963, a major earthquake struck Skopje, then part of Yugoslavia. It caused extensive damage and claimed more than 1,000 victims. Many buildings collapsed, and an international competition for a master plan to rebuild the city was held with the involvement of the United Nations.

The competition resulted in the adoption of Tange’s plan, and Skopje’s reconstruction was launched. Tosevski said, “The close links with Japan started after the earthquake.”

Tange gained fame in Japan and abroad for works such as the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, a major site of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office.

Tange’s achievements continue to be remembered in both countries to this day, and the connection between Tange and North Macedonia continues, as evidenced by that nation’s post office issuing a commemorative postage stamp bearing his portrait in 2020.

According to the ministry, a plan is underway in Skopje to establish a public institution for architecture and urban planning, which will be named after Tange. Its aims include raising the quality of urban planning of the city.

Paul Noritaka Tange, the son of Kenzo Tange, commented to The Japan News about the plan by the city, saying, “I’m honored that my father is still well-known in Skopje, and I’d like to continue to actively engage in exchanges with the city and the country.”

Japan and North Macedonia established diplomatic relations in 1994, after the latter achieved independence in 1991. Both countries are planning many events to mark the anniversary next year. “We intend to create a joint way of marking the anniversary and friendship between the two countries,” Tosevski said.