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Tile association argues against Taketomi imports

Date Posted: 2008-03-21

Taketomi Town, located on a small island of the same name off Ishigaki Island in the southern region of Okinawa, is famous for its red roof tiles.

The tiles on local buildings have such scenic and historic value, the town is designated a National Traditional Structures Preservation District. The designation is so strong, only the local Board of Education can determine what is permissible, and what is not, in all construction and renovations. And that’s where the Okinawa Prefecture Tile Works Association jumps in, angry at a long term board policy on tiles allowed on buildings.

Since designation a Traditional Structures Preservation District in 1987, buildings have been construction based upon strict planning rules by Taketomi Town, where each house repair is eligible for ¥6 million in subsidies. The problem, the Prefecture Tile Works Association says, is that the Board of Education has been permitting use of cheap imported tiles from China, instead of using genuine Okinawan tiles.

“There aren’t enough Okinawan tiles available to buy,” the Board of Education contends, “and the Chinese tiles are as good as Okinawan, and the cost is cheaper.” The Board has permitted use of imported Chinese tiles for ten years, but the Prefecture Tile Works Association says the practice must stop.

It disagrees with the board on the effectiveness of Chinese tiles, saying that while tile costs are cheaper, it’s because Chinese tiles are thinner and lighter than the Okinawan variety. “If stronger, good looking and long lasting strong tiles are required,” the Association notes, “Okinawan tiles are the best.” The Association concedes locally produced tiles are more expensive.

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