How has the Parthenon in Athens managed to retain its magnificent structure and survive several major earthquakes since it was built in the fifth century B.C.?
Mie University Prof. Toshikazu Hanazato hopes to find answers to this question through a joint seismic resistance study on the ancient Greek temple set to begin in September in collaboration with the Greek Culture Ministry, Athens Technical College and his university in Tsu.
The entasis of the columns that bulge slightly in the middle at the Parthenon is achieved by stacking 90-centimeter-high cylindrical stones cut with slightly varying diameters on top of one another, with small slivers of wood sandwiched between them.
The 52-year-old professor will pay special attention to the flexible structure of the columns that can withstand quakes.
Hanazato, who is known as a leading researcher into the seismic resistance of five-story pagodas, has concluded that pagodas are not destroyed in quakes because the stories are stacked on top of one another with only wooden dowels known as dabo holding them together.
He began focusing on the seismic resistance of the Parthenon when he was a research associate at Tokyo Metropolitan University 20 years ago. Since he later began working for a major construction firm, he was unable to continue his research.
But three years after being invited to become a professor at Mie University, his dream will finally come true.
During the next three years of research, he will shuttle back and forth between Japan and Greece. His wife and two children will remain in Japan.
"I've given up on spending more time with my family because I've been traveling all around the world and Japan on business since my days working at the construction firm," he said, with a wry grin.
His grin then turned into a beaming smile as he said, "I'd like to make a contribution to the conservation and restoration of the world's heritage."