Yamagata City, Yamagata

The Bunshokan stands proudly as a landmark of Yamagata City

The Bunshokan is the old prefectural capital of Yamagata Prefecture and was built in 1877 in accordance with the transition of Dewa Province to Yamagata Prefecture in 1869.  Today it serves as a history museum as well as an iconic sightseeing spot in Yamagata City and is a beloved landmark of the people. 

History of the Bunshokan

The Assembly hall attatched to the Bunshokan is still used today

The Meiji Restoration (1868-1889) perched Japan on a new epoch of economic, political, and cultural modernization that changed the fundamental core identity of Japan. Prefaced by an isolation period of 265 years known as Sakoku (1603-1868), the reopening of Japan led to the mass importation of goods, knowledge, and ideas that urged Japan to make significant changes to Japanese society itself in order to avoid getting left behind by the Western world. 


One of these major changes was doing away with remnants of the feudal Edo system of government that consisted of the shogunate, daimyōs, and the samurai, and restoring central power to the emperor and the oligarchy that surrounded him.


With the new wave of changes that the restoration embraced, came the need to outwardly express the Western modernization that the Meiji era represented, and henceforth a new prefectural capital was constructed in 1877 to lead the way into what would become the future of Japan.

A New Bunshokan

The bricks used for the construction of the Bunshokan were sourced all from Yamagata Prefecture

While a great fire swept through Yamagata City in 1911, devastating the town and many of the cultural landmarks, reconstruction of the new Bunshokan was completed in 1913 and the new building was built in the English Neo-Renaissance style. 


The newly erected Bunshokan was designed by Tokyo architect Shinnosuke Tahara with the help of Yonezawa architect Eiichiro Nakajo and the building was heavily inspired by modern period reconstruction style buildings around England. Local stone was used in the construction of the building for both aesthetic purposes, and to prevent another fire incident from happening.


After the construction of the building in June 1913, the newly constructed Bunshokan served as the Prefectural Government Building as well as the Prefectural Assembly Hall until 1975. From there, it was abandoned when the office moved to its current building in the Matsunami district and the building fell into despair as it was left virtually to rot and be ransacked.

Restoration of the Bunshokan

Much of the furniture and crown molding had to be refurbished by hand based only on old pictures and records
The assembly hall is still used today for town events and is the practice venue for the Yamagata Orchestra

In 1984, the citizens’ love for their local landmark brought the decaying state of the Bunshokan to the attention of the country which eventually led to it becoming designated as an official Important Cultural Property of Japan. This spurred a ten-year-long restoration project and in 1995, the Bunshokan finally reopened to the public as a free museum to preserve and protect an invaluable chapter in Yamagata’s history.

The Bunshokan lit up with a special art display during the 2021 Kizuna Festival

Yamagata City
Walking Tour

Want to learn more in-depth about the Bunshokan and other historic spots around Yamagata City? Try our guided walking tour!



Wamagata City Walking Tour

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