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Kiryu City Modern Era Heritage

"Modern Era Heritage" refers to various forms of architecture, reflecting the influence of modernization, and dating from the end of the Edo Era (early to mid 19th century) to the period just following the end of World War II.

These buildings reveal the age of Japanese modernization to the present. During this period, Kiryu's chief industry was textile manufacturing and its related industries.

The affluence created by this prosperous industrial period can be seen not only in the technology in use at the time, but also in the lifestyle of those who lived then. Kiryu's prosperity simultaneously helped to bring about the modernization of Japan.

Because Kiryu was not bombed during the war, many of its early modern buildings still remain. The ambiance of a textile town can be felt in many parts of the city.

In 1992, Kiryu City took the forefront in the country in declaring itself "A Founding City for Modern Era Heritage," and is striving to preserve its valuable architectural legacy by reviving the use of these historic buildings.

National Cultural Asset
Former Gunma Prefecture Hygiene Office Bldg. (Kiryu Meijikan)

Date of Designation: Feb. 3, 1976
Location: 2-414-6 Aioicho, Kiryu
Date of Construction: 1878
Proprietor: Kiryu City
Dimensions: 255.74 sq. m.
Structure: 2 storey wood frame, tile roof, south-facing entrance with attached veranda
Attached structures: one building
Hours of Operation: 9 am to 5 pm
Closed: Mondays, day following holidays, New Year holidays
Entrance fee: \150 adults; \50 children

A classic example of western-style architecture, this elegant building, "The Kiryu Meijikan," was constructed in 1878. The building has a lovely western ambiance. Strolling through the interior, one can observe various distinctive features of western architecture from in a Japanese perspective, characteristic of earlier times. For further information and images of the Meijikan, please see here.
Kiryu City Cultural Asset
Nippon Textile Corporation Electric Power Generation Station and Brick Gate Remains

Date of Designation: July 17, 1969
Location: 6-1 Orihimecho, Kiryu City
Date of Construction: 1888
Proprietor: Kiryu City Board of Education
Management: Cultural Asset Preservation Division, Kiryu City Board of Education

This is the site of the electric power generator for the Nippon Textile Corporation, established in December 1886. It began operation in June 1888. By November 1900, the electric plant was supplying power for some 400 lights in the mill and surrounding buildings. Later, in November 1903, an electric company was established with an electric generating turbine to provide electric power for 1000 lights in the town of Kiryu.
The German, 320 horsepower turbine on the site now, was installed in 1924. This electric power station was used for some 58 years, providing power for the prospering textile industries of the city. In 1947, the station was closed when a flood destroyed its water channel.
Subsequent investigation has determined that the brick remains found next to the electric generating station were from the original brick column entrance to the Nippon Textile Corporation. This collection of bricks was excavated in 1990 and designated an Important Cultural Asset. For further information, see here.
Former Model Factory: Kiryu Silk Throwing Co., Ltd. Office Building
(Kennen Kinenkan)

Date of Designation: October 14, 1994
Location: 2-1832-13 Tomoecho, Kiryu City
Proprietor: Kiryu City
Dimensions: 373.16 sq. m.
Building Materials: Wood frame, stone construction; sheet iron roofing
Year of Construction: 1917
Architect: Kobayashi Rikio
Contractor: Ogawa Construction Office (present day Ogawa Construction)
Subsequent Designation: Storehouse (1933)

At one time there were many large textile mills for weaving and dyeing in Kiryu. Sadly, much information about them has been lost forever. One such historic building is the former Nippon Kennen Corporation.
This corporation was established on December 1, 1902 by the Imperial Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce as part of a program for promoting higher productivity. A large-scale mill, the Kiryu Silk Throwing Co., Ltd., was constructed for this purpose on the south side of the present-day JR Kiryu Station. Here fine silk filaments were twisted together or "thrown" to produce the silk yarn needed by textile weavers. The mills had sawtooth roofs and imported French silk throwing machines in order to mass-produce silk yarn.
In all of Japan, this was only one of six "model factories" established by the government. In 1908, the company changed its name to the Kiryu Silk Throwing Corporation, and then in 1918 it became the Nippon Silk Throwing Corporation. At that time, the company had a capital investment of \600,000, covered a total area of 14,315 tsubo (1 tsubo = 3.954 sq. yds.), and was the largest silk throwing mill in Japan. However, in 1944, it was converted to a munitions factory, never returning to its original industry once the war ended.
All that remains of the company is the original office building, constructed between the end of the Meiji Era and the beginning of the Taisho Era. This office building is constructed with "Oyaishi" stone masonry, is two stories high and has a western-style edifice of cement plaster. The interior walls are also plastered. The original roofing material was slate tile. There are few extant examples of Western-style stone buildings predating the Great Kanto Earthquake. This building is of significant historical and architectural importance in Japan and is the oldest such building in Gunma Prefecture.
At present, the building is known as the "Kiryu City Modern Era Heritage, Kennen Kinenkan" and is used for exhibitions, for the restoration of buried archeological artifacts, and as the office of the Cultural Assets Preservation Division of Kiryu City Hall.

Aerial photograph taken around 1945. Rows of sawtooth roof mills can be seen to the south of JR Kiryu Station. The current office building can be seen to the lower right of the photograph, next to some mills. None of these mills remain today.

Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Gunma University Faculty of Engineering Alumni Memorial Hall
(Former Kiryu Advanced Dyeing & Weaving School, Main Building and Lecture Hall)

Date of Registration: December 11, 1998
Location: 1-5-1 Tenjincho, Kiryu City
Proprietor: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
Construction Materials: Wood construction, two-storey building, tile roofing
Structure Area: 592 sq. m.
Date of Construction: 1916

This school was established in 1916 to answer the needs of the textile-manufacturing city of Kiryu for an institution specializing in the skills of dyeing and weaving. Thereafter, the school became known as the Kiryu Industrial Specialty School, and in 1949 it took on its present form as the Faculty of Engineering of Gunma University.
A part of the original school entrance and the lecture hall built in 1916, still remain as the current Alumni Memorial Hall. At the time of construction, the building was in the center of the campus, however, in 1972, during the construction of new buildings, the structure was moved to its current location.
The building was designed and constructed based on the use of Western technology which had been fully adopted by this period. In particular, the hammerbeam technique used in the interior, a special form of Gothic ceiling construction, lends the hall an air of church-like dignity and splendor.

Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Former Kiryu Advanced Dyeing and Weaving School Entrance Gate

Date of Registration: December 11, 1998
Construction Materials: Brick, Iron Gate, Height: 3.7 m, Width 16.8 m
Date of Construction: 1916

This is the entrance gate of the former Kiryu Advanced Dyeing and Weaving School. When the Main Building was moved to its current location, the gate was also moved and preserved.
There are Gothic arches sitting atop the brick columns, over which the gate lamps were located. (Currently, there are no lamps installed in the holders.)

Nationally registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Gunma Univ. Faculty of Engineering Gatehouse
(Former Kiryu Advanced Dyeing & Weaving School Gatehouse)

Date of Registration: December 11, 1998
Construction Materials: Wood construction, tile roofing
Building Area: 18 sq. m.
Date of Construction: 1916

This is the original gatehouse of the former Kiryu Advanced Dyeing and Weaving School. It is a wooden, one-room building with a gabled tile roof, constructed in a style similar to the main building. The gatehouse is somewhat simpler in design because of its size, however, its design is congruent with that of the main building.
Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Kiryu Club Building

Date of Registration: December 20, 1996
Location: 2-9-36 Nakamachi, Kiryu City
Proprietor: Kiryu Club
Construction Materials: Two-storey wood building; attached annex; tile roof
Building area: 485 sq. m.
Date of Construction: 1919

The Kiryu Konwakai (Social Club) was inaugurated in the year 1900. As the Kiryu business world was thrust into the era of exporting textiles around the year 1918, the association was renamed the "Kiryu Club." This club became the gathering place for Kiryu industry leaders.
The building is a two-storey wooden structure with a tile roof and stucco exterior. Its tile roof, windows that can be raised and lowered, small gables atop the square chimneys, and arched entrance with columns all contribute to its Spanish colonial style. This building is representative of an era in which Kiryu was prosperous and in the throes of modernization.
The businessmen and manufacturers who gathered here were fascinated by Western culture and helped to introduce it to the population at large. Their successors continue to meet in this building.

Former Kanaya Lace Manufacturing Corporation
Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Former Kanaya Lace Manufacturing Corporation Sawtooth Roof Mill

Date of Registration: December 11, 1998
Location: 1-1-15 Higashi Hisakatacho, Kiryu City
Proprietor: Takeda Toshio
Construction Materials: Brick, wood frame, one-storey building, sheet metal roof
Dimensions: 298 sq. m.
Year of Construction: 1919

The Nippon Orimono Corporation was the first to build a sawtooth roof mill in 1889. Sawtooth roof mills continued to be built in the city until 1969. There are approximately 260 such structures remaining. Kanaya Lace, however, is the only remaining brick sawtooth roof mill. The bricks were laid English style, a technique used by the Japan Brick Manufacturing Corp. of Fukaya City in Saitama Prefecture. Originally, there were 8 sawtooth gables, however, when the new mill was constructed on the north side, the number of gables was reduced to 4.

Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Kanaya Lace Manufacturing Corporation Office

Date of Registration: December 11, 1998
Location: 1-1-15 Higashi Hisakatacho, Kiryu City
Proprietor: Takeda Toshio
Construction Materials: Wood frame, two-storey building
Dimensions: 71 sq. m.
Year of Construction: early Showa Era (1920s)

This style of building was popular all over the country during the early Showa Era. In Kiryu, this sort of scratch tile building was also very popular. This office building is a two-storey wood frame structure with a scratch tile exterior. Buildings designed by F. L. Wright emphasize horizontal lines, as does this building. In particular, the windows and architectural details of the structure reveal the influence of the period. Differences in architectural trends during the two eras (Taisho and Showa) can be clearly seen by comparing the office building with the sawtooth roof mill.
Nishi Kiryu Station

Jomo Railway connects Kiryu with the prefectural capital, Maebashi, some 25 kilometers away from the city, or 40 minutes by train. The railroad began operation in 1928 and its facilities remain, for the most part, unchanged. In 1998, Nishi Kiryu Station was chosen as one of the top 100 stations in the Kanto area.
The station building has a stylish "Mansard" roof, a waiting room with windows that can be raised and lowered, giving it a small town, western appeal. The night-duty room in the back of the station, however, is a Japanese style tatami-mat room with windows that open out in the traditional fashion, and the kitchen next door to it has a dirt floor. The station is truly a combination of both western and Japanese architecture.
Kiryu Orimono Kaikan (Former Building)
Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Kiryu Orimono Kaikan Former Building
(Kiryu Orimono Kinenkan)

Date of Registration: May 7, 1997
Location: 5-1 Eirakucho, Kiryu
Proprietor: Kiryu Orimono Kaikan
Building Materials: Two-storey wood frame tiled building with a tile roof
Dimensions: 833 sq. m.
Date of Construction: 1934

Kiryu was quick to recover from the effects of the Great Depression during the early Showa Era. The city was reaching the height of its prosperity driven by textile manufacturing in and around the year 1935. The stimulating forces behind this prosperity and rapid progress were the quick development of export markets on other continents, the discovery of synthetic silk, and the production of new products from silk textiles which could be used for western clothing. In addition, Kiryu textile manufacturers took their Kyoto Nishijin counterparts by surprise by employing very aggressive advertising. The Orimono Kinenkan was constructed during the peak of this economic boom in Kiryu.
The exterior of the building is covered with scratch tiles, popular at the time and Japanese blue-green roof tiles, considered modern for that era. Kiryu citizens, energized by the strength of the economy, followed suit, building homes and offices nearby in the same style with scratch tile exteriors. As for the building itself, from approximately the end of the Meiji Era (the era ended in 1911), two-storey public buildings and business offices with high-ceilings were in vogue.
A large conference room is located on the second floor of the Kinenkan. Various textile-related guilds have their offices within the building. The Orimono Kinenkan truly served as the strategic center for the textile-manufacturing business sector of Kiryu.
Over 70 years have passed since the construction of this building, nevertheless, it continues to be actively used as office space and for events.
Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Maehara 20th (Former Iizuka Textile Mill)

Date of Registration: July 12, 2005
Location: 6-850-5 Hirosawacho, Kiryu City
Proprietor: Maehara Katsuro
Building Materials: Wood frame, stone construction, sawtooth slate tile roof, single-storey building
Date of Construction: 1932

This building was constructed around 1932 to serve as the Iizuka Textile Company mill by Iizuka Shuntaro, a man who contributed greatly to the Kiryu textile manufacturing world. The mill, a privately owned and operated firm in Kiryu, was installed with state-of-the-art machinery for the period, and took its place at the forefront of the city's textile manufacturing sector, producing high quality textiles for export.
The mill has a wood frame with a thick stone exterior supporting its sawtooth roof. The building serves as an example of Western architecture, and at present is considered a very valuable asset. The exterior is composed of tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) blocks, 12 layers high. Of the 8 stone sawtooth roof mills still standing in Kiryu, the Iizuka Mill is the best. The mill's exterior stone walls provide a feeling of profoundness, and the arched windows and other exterior decor add to its gravity. Because the facade on the north end of the foundation is lower, it gives the appearance of having been designed with the use of perspective, emphasizing its depth and further adding to the profoundness of the stone masonry. The two columns on the north end of the building are semi-oval, giving the visual impression of viewing the building from the northeast.
This former mill recalls the days when Kiryu prospered as a textile-manufacturing center. Today the building has been renamed "Maehara 20th" and has become a privately operated classic car museum.
Kiryu City Cultural Asset
Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Suidoyama Kinenkan
(Former Waterworks Bureau Office)

Location: the Suidoyama hillside
Date of Registration: November 5, 1997
Location: 1-5-7 Tsutsumicho, Kiryu City, Suidoyama hillside
Proprietor: Kiryu City Waterworks Bureau
Date of Construction: 1932
Style: Wood frame, tile exterior, single-storey building

Suidoyama Kinenkan is located on the Suidoyama hillside and served as a water distribution office. It was constructed around the same time as the Motojuku Water Purification Plant. The facade of the building is characterized by straight lines and is made of scratch tile. There is clear evidence in its excellent design of the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. Some of its special characteristics include its wood frame, single-storey construction and Spanish tile roof.
This building is further evidence of the prosperity Kiryu enjoyed at the beginning of the Showa Era. The Balancing Reservoir and Distribution Reservoir demonstrate the sophistication of the era's civil engineering technology. The building underwent renovation in 1986 and is now open to the public as the Suidoyama Kinenkan, and is much loved by the people of Kiryu.
Along with the Kinenkan, the Elevated Area Distribution Reservoir & Water Meter Chamber and the Lower Area Distribution Reservoir & Water Meter Chamber have also been registered as cultural assets.

Kiryu City Cultural Asset
Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Motojuku Water Purification Rapid Filtration Plant
Motojuku Water Purification Office Building

Date of Registration: November 5, 1997
Location: 14-37 Motojuku, Kiryu City, on the grounds of the Motojuku Water Purification Plant
Proprietor: Kiryu City Waterworks Bureau
Date of Construction: 1932
Style: Reinforced concrete one-storey building

This rapid filtration plant resembles the former Waterworks Bureau Office and Pump House in design, however, one major difference is that the building facade is not made of scratch tile.
Attention is drawn to the front entrance of the building because each wing becomes successively higher as they approach the front. Furthermore, the right and left wings protrude successively wider as they recede, making the center front appear even more dramatic.
Kiryu City Cultural Asset
Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Asset
Kiryu City Nishi Kominkan
(Former Waterworks Bureau)
Nishi Kominkan

Date of Registration: November 5, 1997
Location: 2-16 Eirakucho, Kiryu City
Proprietor: Kiryu City Board of Education
Date of Construction: 1932
Style: Reinforced concrete two-storey building; one section is three stories high.

Kiryu City's waterworks was established in 1930 and began to supply water on April 17, 1932. The Waterworks Bureau facilities were nearly all designed by an employee at the time by the name of Shimizu Sangoro. He skillfully combined the use of reinforced steel and metal, being one of the first to incorporate the popular Art Deco style of the day. Despite their small size, these structures are remarkable for regional public office buildings.
This former Waterworks Bureau office building was also designed by Shimizu, and, at the time of construction, was a modern art deco style two-storey building with its main entrance facing the Orimono Kinenkan across the street. Sometime later, the building underwent renovation and a third floor was added. The building now serves as a kominkan (community center).

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