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Higashimachi Hall condition ‘too dangerous’ to continue operating

Date Posted: 2007-05-11

Okinawa’s hometown theater used for traditional music, dance and ballet will close because of building inspection findings.

Highashimachi Hall, a favorite with performers but a facility the Okinawa Prefecture has wanted to close for years, has been ruled ‘too dangerous for use any more’ by inspectors from the Prefecture Administrator’s Committee. “The situation is quite dangerous,” said an inspector, and “for repairs the costs would be very high. It would be better to make a new building.”

The inspection team says the building cannot withstand an earthquake, and that conditions are not at all good. Vice Governor Zenki Nakazato echoes the cost problem for trying to make repairs. “Building specialists say it will cost about ¥50,000,000 just for the outside painting, plus another ¥280,000,000~300,000,000 to bring the building into standards to protect against an earthquake. The prefecture does not have any budget for this building.

“I feel so bad about hearing this,” says Masao Shimabukuro, Chairman of the Traditional Opera Provisional Association. “We have state owned theaters, city owned theaters, but we don’t have a prefecture owned theater. Why?” He says “it’s not fair for us, because we’re being told by the prefecture to ‘promote the traditional entertainers’ and we know to preserve the Kingdom Generation dance we need help.”

Shimabukuro asks how the prefecture wants his group, and others, to promote and preserve cultural history without a theater in which to work. The current theater is more than 30 years old, and the prefecture’s been trying to close it since 2000. Eight cultural groups have lobbied to keep the building open until now.

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