I visited the former Matsuida Town Office in Annaka City, Gunma Prefecture.
The construction of the Matsuida Town Hall began in 1955 and was completed in March 1956. Matsuida Town was established in 1954 through the merger of six towns and villages: (former) Matsuida Town, Usui Town, Sakamoto Town, Nishiyokono Village, Tsukumo Village, and Hosono Village.
The new town office was built to commemorate the merger. It was designed by Shirai Seiichi.
At the time, many visitors from other towns and villages wanted to see the modern government building, and it was a symbol of the town.
It was used as the town office until 1992, and then as a community center and a cultural heritage reference room until 2017, when it was closed.
The town office was built a short distance up the hill from the road, so the lot in front of the building is not very large.
The 1975 aerial photo shows that the north side of the building was only farmland. The road slightly visible in the upper right corner is Route 18.
As I approached the building, I saw a sign rope and a sign warning visitors not to enter the building. The sign read “For Visitors," so there must be a certain number of visitors.
Since Matsuida-cho merged with Annaka City in 2006, the building is now managed by the Annaka City Board of Education.
At the entrance, there is a sign that reads, “No visitors allowed inside the building".
I wanted to read the notice on the side of the building, so I took a picture with the zoom of my camera.
The sign says that due to a lack of seismic strength, the building cannot be toured inside. Next to the sign was an explanation of the building.
“… The building was designed by Shirai Seiich called a 'philosopher of the architectural world’. The newspapers of the time described the modern building that suddenly appeared in a rural village as “the Parthenon in a field" and “stunning Greek temple style". In Gunma Prefecture, there were two buildings designed by Shirai in the old days, Chiyoi-tei (Takasaki City) and Kanko-do (Maebashi City), but neither exist anymore. So former Matsuida Town Office is the only remaining Shirai-designed building in the prefecture."
I went around to the left side.
Although I cannot go any deeper than this, I can see that the ceiling of the eaves has been torn out.
From this angle, we can see that the terrace is curved.
This is the right side of the building. I thought it might be a warehouse.
I walked to the side of the building. This is the land on the east side, which used to be a parking lot when it was used as a town office, but this time there were two persons working there, and it now seems to be private land.
As I was walking along the edge of the former parking lot taking pictures, a man working there said me “you can go into the field and take pictures." I was grateful. I walked along the edge of the field and around to the back side of the building.
Taken from the northeast side.
View of the north side. The building at the far right appears to be a separate building.
The window on the north side also has a decoration of circles arranged in rows. The circles are not evenly spaced. It seems that the spacing was intentionally shifted.
I was not aware of this when I was looking at it from the front. When I looked at it again from the front, the decorations on the front terrace are also not evenly spaced.
In 2021, the exhibition “Introduction to Shirai Seiichi" was held at the Shoto Museum of Art, Shibuya Ward. Unfortunately, I could not go there, so I only ordered the catalog. The Matsuida Town Hall is also listed.
According to the catalog, Shirai himself denied any influence from the Parthenon.
Rather, his plan was to construct a palace for the townspeople in a position directly opposite Mt. Asama in the distance and Mt. Myogi in front of it.
Also as I learned from the catalog, in 1953, the U.S. military planned to build a training area around Mount Asama and Mount Myogi in order to reinforce its military forces during the Korean War. Nagano and Gunma prefectures launched a residents’ movement against the project, and the plan was abandoned in 1955.
The catalogue says, “Shirai may have positioned the Matsuida Town Office as a palace of the people because he saw the resilience of the residents and the energy that welled up from within them as they tried to protect their lives rooted in the earth".
There are currently people requesting that the former Matsuida Town Office be preserved, but it seems that the city has not yet decided what to do with it.