A Japanese expert in restoring damaged temples and shrines to their former glory was a true asset when an earthquake struck Nepal.
When an earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, it toppled the historic buildings and gates at Kathmandu’s royal palace, Hanuman Dhoka. Within months, Tadatsugu Tai was at the site, along with a delegation of experts from Japan, to assess the damage to one of Nepal’s cultural treasures. A senior conservation architect at the Wakayama Prefecture Centre for Cultural Properties and an expert at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Tai knows about the challenges of working on old buildings. Over nearly two decades, he has restored temples and shrines around western Japan.
In Nepal, Tai worked closely with archaeologists, engineers and photographers at Nepal’s department of archaeology (DOA) to come up with a preservation plan that was worthy of a building that has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. With support from JICA, Tai and the DOA team focused on two 17th-century brick-and-wood temples, Agamchhen Temple and Shiva Temple.
They studied traditional building techniques and spent months taking meticulous measurements, notes and photographs in order to create an archive for conservation architects and scholars in Nepal. The priority now, says Tai, is to fortify the temples for future disasters and to finish the work by 2021. “As a result of the surveys, plans and updates, the Nepalese now have high expectations for the restoration work that Japan is assisting with,” says Tai.
Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties led the effort to help Nepal document and rebuild its historical sites in the Kathmandu Valley. Japanese experts applied more than a century of experience working on ancient wooden structures to the project in Nepal. Their work was thorough, and ultimately their objective was to give Nepal the expertise to preserve its own cultural heritage.