Real-life high school in 'K-On!' anime to be designated cultural asset

October 30, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Fans of the popular "K-On!" anime who make weekend pilgrimages to the former Toyosato Elementary School building in Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture, believed to be the model for the high school in the series, have more reason to visit.

The old school is among 155 recommendations by the Council for Cultural Affairs in a Sept. 21 report to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for designation as a tangible cultural asset.

The school building and two other structures standing on the same site that will be designated as cultural assets were designed by famed U.S. architect William Merrell Vories and built in 1937.

In particular, the school building received high marks in the report, which described it as modern architecture with tall windows placed in a symmetrical and regular manner. Locals were pleased with the news, as the school once was targeted for demolition, sparking a local campaign to save it.

"I'm happy that the building we risked our necks to save from demolition has been registered as a cultural asset. It is our blessing now," said Kiyoharu Honda, 61, who was a former student of the elementary school and led the preservation movement.

In 2001, the Toyosato town government decided to replace the school due to the building's age and other factors, but local residents asked the government to reconsider.

The Otsu District Court in December 2002 ordered an injunction to suspend demolition. But the town mayor at the time proceeded with the project, causing locals to launch a preservation campaign.

Later, the town government reversed its course and decided to preserve the building.

The old school was built by Tetsujiro Furukawa, an industrialist originally from the town, at his own expense. It was referred to as the "best elementary school in the Orient" when it was completed.

Furukawa's 65-year-old grandson, Hiroyasu Furukawa, who lives in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, said: "I hope that the building my grandfather put his heart and energy into be used to promote the benefits of the town."

The building is currently used by residents as a library and for other community engagements. In tribute to "K-On!" which follows the lives of a group of high school girls who form a band, the school serves as a venue for musical events.

As for the fact that it has earned national recognition, Toyosato Mayor Sadamu Ito said: "We'd like to make the best use (of the building) so that it will become the second home for not only people in this town, but also for those outside the town."

Buildings at least 50 years old with high architectural and historical value can be recommended for registration as tangible cultural properties. So far, 9,136 cases have been designated, including the latest recommendations.

The other structures recommended for designation include the DeForest Memorial House in Sendai, which once housed missionaries, and the Shirakawabashi bridge, a suspension bridge built in the Taisho Era (1912-1926) and is still in use in Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture. The Yoshino Ryokan inn in the Hitoyoshi-Onsen hot spring resort in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, was also recommended for designation.

The DeForest Memorial House was named after a missionary who lived in the building. It is a stylish, wooden Western-style structure built in or around 1887.

An arch-shaped roof is situated on top of the northern entrance of the house, whose white walls have horizontal, overlapping wood siding. The building is located on the campus of Tohoku Gakuin University.

The Shirakawabashi bridge stretching over the Hidagawa river is a 115-meter-long steel suspension bridge, which adds an extra touch to the scenery in the canyon.

The characteristic of the Yoshino Ryokan inn is defined by traditional elegance as the building uses old timber from boats and waterwheels for its interior.

The Hitoyoshi Ryokan inn, which operates in the same Hitoyoshi-Onsen resort with the Yoshino Ryokan inn, was also recommended for designation.

(This story was written by Kei Katagi and Naoki Kimura.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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The old Toyosato Elementary School building in the Ishibatake district of Toyosato town in Shiga Prefecture attracts young people and other visitors from across the country. (Kei Katagi)

The old Toyosato Elementary School building in the Ishibatake district of Toyosato town in Shiga Prefecture attracts young people and other visitors from across the country. (Kei Katagi)

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  • The old Toyosato Elementary School building in the Ishibatake district of Toyosato town in Shiga Prefecture attracts young people and other visitors from across the country. (Kei Katagi)
  • The DeForest Memorial House in Sendai features a stylish design including exterior walls with unique wood siding. (Photo provided by the Agency for Cultural Affairs)

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