Kumamoto Castle main tower damaged by 2016 quake reopens to public

©Kyodo News

The main tower of Kumamoto Castle in southwestern Japan reopened to the public Monday after undergoing repairs following a pair of massive earthquakes in 2016.

The old samurai fortress completed in 1607 is a popular tourist destination in Kumamoto city. It was scheduled to reopen on April 26, but the plan was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The contents of an exhibition in the main tower, rebuilt in 1960, have been updated to provide information on the extensive quake damage and repair work, according to the city government.

The six-story tower is part of Kumamoto Castle Park, which also includes a palace building and turrets.

The top floor of the tower offers a view of the entire park, where reconstruction work is continuing, as well as the landscape of Kumamoto. An elevator was newly installed.

"I was very much looking forward to the reopening of the main tower, which I have been familiar with since I was a child," said Kumamoto resident Yoshiaki Hirose, 52, who waited in line to enter the park Monday morning.

The earthquakes, measuring the highest reading of 7 on the country's seismic intensity scale, caused roof tiles and decorative ornaments to fall off and other structures in the park such as stone walls to crumble or completely collapse.

The restoration of the whole castle park is expected to be completed around 2037.

Kumamoto Castle Park was partially reopened around the time of Rugby World Cup in 2019 when Kumamoto hosted two World Cup games.