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2005年8月23日 (火)

Hoping for strong ceilings in future quakes


Hoping for strong ceilings in future quakes


While I am not pleased that Shinkansen bullet trains were out of service for hours in some areas, I am truly thankful that not a life was lost in Tuesday's earthquake off Miyagi Prefecture.

I imagine this good fortune was due to the preparedness and quick measures taken by people in the regions that have been repeatedly rocked by big temblors.



In contrast, there was no staying power in the ceiling of Spopark Matsumori, a sports facility in Sendai that opened in July. The jolt caused the ceiling panel to crack and fall in chunks on to an indoor swimming pool. A father who grabbed her little girl and jumped in the pool said she was hit on the head and shoulders. Many others there were also injured.


For people who felt exposed and defenseless for being clad only in swimwear, the broken ceiling panel pieces that showered on them relentlessly were just like flying weapons.

How could this have happened at this brand new facility? Obviously, the safety standards for installing the ceiling, the design and how the inspection of the facility was carried out must be closely re-examined.


A building of this style-a cavernous space with practically no pillar to support the vast ceiling-is not uncommon. But when I am in that kind of place, I do sometimes feel a bit nervous. I wonder if the ceiling is attached securely to the roof structure.


In a traditional Japanese house-raising ceremony, a card called munafuda is inscribed with the building's description and the names of its architect and carpenters, and nailed to the ridgepole above the ceiling. In the olden days, munafuda sometimes bore the owners' wishes or prayers, such as "harmony in the world," "transparency and purity always," "calm under the ground," "long life free of calamities" and "peace in the family."

According to "Tenjoura-no Bunkashi" (Cultural history of attic crawl space), a Kodansha book authored by Masahiko Sato, one old munafuda was inscribed with a short poem that read: "Cranes and tortoises do not live forever/ The only things that are permanent/ Are the mountains and the flowing waters."

 建物の棟上げなどで、工事の由緒や建築者、工匠などを記して天井裏の棟木に打ち付ける札を棟札という。古い時代の棟札にはこんな願いが書かれている。「天下和順」「日月清明」「地下安穏」「息災延命」「家族安寧」。歌を記した棟札もある。〈鶴亀は かぎりありけり いつまでも つきぬは 山と水と流れ〉(佐藤正彦『天井裏の文化史』講談社)。

People in charge of public safety must pay special attention to dark and hard-to-see places such as attic crawl spaces.


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 18(IHT/Asahi: August 19,2005)


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