Kumamoto University
The Memorial Museum of the Fifth High School

The Fifth High School Structures


The three red brick structures of the old Fifth High School (main building, chemistry laboratory and front gate built in 1889) are the pride of Kumamoto University. They are Kumamoto University's greatest treasures, and should be treated with respect and preserved for the future. The three structures have been honored and were designated as an important National Cultural Property in 1969.

Main Building

The main building is a dignified two-story brick building symmetrically balanced in form, and the central part and right and left wings both project forward to emphasize this symmetry. Although made of brick, white stone in used to accent the corners and for horizontal layers in the center of the wall surface. Because the general purpose of the building is for education, it is simple with little decoration.

Inside the main building, classrooms are arranged on the north side of each floor, five to the right and left of the entrance. The south side of each floor is a corridor. Behind the entrance is a stairwell an exquisite staircase with decorative main pillars of the handrail. This staircase is the most unique part of the main building, and gives the feel of its overall character. Inside, the lower part of the wall is wainscotted, and the part above this stuccoed.

Chemical Laboratory

The one-story chemistry laboratory built to the east of the main building houses a tiered lecture hall, preparation room and three laboratories in a row from south to north, with a corridor on the west side. In the tiered lecture hall, there are six rows of built-in benches and long desks, with a platform and podium and a movable blackboard in front on the north side. With this arrangement, the teacher could display his labware on the front desk for demonstrations, and the students observed the experiments from the tiered seats.

Main Gate (Akamon)

The Main gate is made of red brick and commonly nicknamed as "akamon" or the Main gate being loved by students and staff even Today. The gate columns connected with side walls on either side are made from alternating layers of stone and brick.


The Education Ministry architects Hanroku Yamaguchi and Masamichi Kuru designed the Fifth High School building. Both were born in the final days of the Edo era. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Yamaguchi went to Paris at age 18 and studied there for three years, learning building techniques at the Ecole Polytechnique. followed by two more years of internship study before returning to Japan.

Kuru studied architecture at the College of Engineering, the forerunner of the present Tokyo University department of engineering. Together as the first two architects in Japan, they established the architecture section of the Ministry of Education and designed the First to Fifth High Schools when they about 30 years old.


  • History of High School System Before 1949
  • Timeline
  • Prominent Professors
  • Prominent Alumni
  • The Fifth High School Structures