Photo/IllutrationMiniature models of the iconic keeps of Kumamoto Castle and the city center before the 2016 earthquakes are on display at the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto. The wall is hand-painted with the sky and clouds. (Koichi Anzai)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KUMAMOTO--Miniature models featuring special effects techniques used in Godzilla movies have recreated the beauty of Kumamoto Castle and the bustling city around it.

Up to 2 meters tall, 1:20 scale models of the castle keeps and the Uto turret have been set up at the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, behind a diorama of Kumamoto city center.

The exhibits reproduce a familiar cityscape that is obscured by scaffolding for castle restoration work following a series of powerful earthquakes in April 2016.

“I hope this exhibition will provide an opportunity for visitors to think about Kumamoto Castle and quake-hit areas once again and encourage affected citizens,” said Toshio Miike, 56, who is in charge of the project.

Miike worked on “tokusatsu” special effects art for Hideaki Anno’s “Shin Godzilla” film released in 2016, among other works.

Tokusatsu art is often used in Japanese monster or sci-fi films and dramas.

The grand keep of the Kumamoto Castle on exhibit looms in the distance between buildings. The scale of the city center is smaller than the keeps and turret so less space is needed between models to give the required depth.

The diorama also employs a forced perspective--the road is wider at the front than the back.

Visitors are invited to take photographs of the models as well as enjoying the optical illusion of tokusatsu art firsthand.

Miike is from Mifune, a town southeast of Kumamoto that also suffered from the earthquakes.

He said he was wondering what he could do for his home prefecture, when he was asked by the city-run museum if he could recreate the Kumamoto Castle before the disaster through tokusatsu art.

“I long felt a total sense of powerlessness that I could not do anything but worry at the time of the earthquakes,” he said.

Based on photos, videos and official records, the beloved castle was reproduced down to minute details.

Even the patterns of the masonry of the castle base that was famed for steep contours designed to deter intruders were faithfully represented.

Many volunteers from Kumamoto and Fukuoka helped create the models.

Kumamoto Castle was a major tourist destination in the prefecture with about 1.78 million visitors annually, but its base and other structures were severely damaged by the earthquakes.

The castle's main keep is now covered by a roofed structure for restoration, and the entire grounds are off limits to the public.

If the restoration work goes according to plan, part of the keep is expected to reopen for visitors in 2019.

Also included in the exhibition is a finely recreated miniature of the two-story “romon” gate of Asojinja shrine in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, which was flattened by the 2016 earthquakes.

The exhibition will run through March 18.