From Kamaishi to Yawata: The Proud Heritage of Japan's Modern Iron Industry

Mayor of Kamaishi City

Mr.Takenori Noda
Mr.Takenori Noda

A Whirlwind in a Miniskirt

 While the Kamaishi ironworks were a designated national historical site and we certainly knew they were an important heritage of our country, getting listed as a World Heritage Site had not occurred to any of us in Kamaishi. But then Ms. Koko Kato whirled into town wearing a miniskirt and announced that we should become a World Heritage Site. I still clearly remember the sight of her darting here and there in her miniskirt despite the winter cold. In 2007, she brought Stuart Smith to town to hold a World Heritage symposium. I was a member of the prefectural assembly then when I spoke with Koko for the first time. I remember her wearing a miniskirt then too. Despite her status, Koko always appeared alone without an entourage. A remarkable woman.

 Back then, there weren’t many people in the city government who were enthused about getting listed as a World Heritage site. I am told Deputy Mayor Sano supported the idea but that everyone else was against it. Yet here we are today, a bona fide World Heritage Site. I cannot express in words how this makes me feel.

Kamaishi’s History is Japan’s History

 I was among those who had never thought of making Kamaishi a World Heritage Site. But once the idea was planted in my head, I decided to set up a study group to learn more about our town’s history and the history of the iron and steel industry. It all began when iron ore was discovered in the Ohashi mines. An official named Abe Tomonoshin dispatched by the Tokugawa shogunate pronounced the iron ore to be of very high quality. As it happens, one of my ancestors was with Abe Tomonoshin at this time. To this day, there is an official document listing my ancestor as the only Kamaishi resident to accompany Abe Tomonoshin. And there is a huge magnetite boulder in Kamaishi as large as a whole house, that was, in fact, located at my home.

 Iron is an integral part of Kamaishi’s history and the only reason we were able to grow from a tiny little hamlet of only seven houses to a real town. In the Sanriku region where we are located, the towns of Otsuchi and Yamada were better off than we were. Iron made all the difference. Kamaishi traces its beginnings to when the engineer Oshima Takato built a blast furnace at the Ohashi iron mines. Not long after, a hamlet formed in Hashino that soon grew into a proper town. Our history has always been in tandem with the history of the ironworks.

 It should also be noted that the first Japanese nautical charts were drafted in Kamaishi, not Yokohama. And while the first railway line in Japan was the line from Shinbashi in Tokyo to Yokohama, and the second, between Kobe and Osaka, the third was built in Kamaishi. Japan’s emergence as a modern nation follows the exact same path as Kamaishi’s emergence as the center of Japan’s iron and steel industry. Our history is Japan’s history.

Reviving Hope in Decling Regions

 As iron and steel production increased and Japan’s modenization advanced, so did the fortunes of Kamaishi. But in the Second World War, Kamaishi was one of the first targets on the main island of Honshu and was twice bombarded to near oblivion by warships. We managed to rise out of the ashes, however, just as the whole country of Japan did in the postwar years, with companies expanding and developing and now restructuring and shrinking. Today, Kamaishi is suffering from a plummeting birth rate and dwindling population, a portend of what Japan as a whole nation will face two decades hence. Yuji Genda, a professor at the University of Tokyo famous for his study of the NEET ("Not in Education, Employment, or Training") generation, once carried out fieldwork in Kamaishi that led him to question whether there was hope for a town such as ours. He even went on to develop a whole field in the “social science of hope.” I like to think that in our many efforts Kamaishi holds a major key to a roadmap for Japan’s future

Taking Pride in Our Country

 We began with the intention of preserving the heritage of the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site, but as Ms. Koko Kato explained to us, the mines would be just one of the components in a new style of serial nomination for World Heritage listing. Each component was a proof of heritage, but the true World Heritage was the story conveyed by these components. It wasn’t until we joined the Consortium and I heard Ms. Kato’s explanations that I finally understood what this meant.

 Until then, we were only thinking of the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site. But as we listened to everyone’s stories, we came to realize that the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution represented the accumulated efforts of the people of those times as they worked to build a new Japan. To take this idea to its extreme, the question arises, do we take pride in our achievements as Japanese? The Meiji period marks the start of Japan’s modernization. If we can’t take pride in that fact, I don’t see that Japan as a nation can have a very bright future. I have heard that our schools do not cover this era of Japanese history very well. Perhaps the scars of defeat in the Second World War are too deep. I think we stand at a dangerous crossroads. One step in the wrong direction could cost us our identity as a nation. No matter how economically advanced we may be, our relationship with our neighboring countries remains precarious. How do we want to live as Japanese? What meaning can we find in our lives? I think the five decades covered by the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution tell an important story that can help us to answer these questions.

 Hashino was just a collection of iron mines. At least that was what I though initially. But not anymore. The incorporation of the mines into a World Heritage speaks of Japanese pride. This is different than our feelings for Mount Fuji or even Hiraizumi which are places to be viewed and admired. The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution speak to our inner core, to the Japanese DNA. There is a critical learning process here for the Japanese people. These sites are to be viewed, but they also teach us something important, something that is long-lasting.

 Among the people of those times, the Choshu Five are perhaps the most impressive. These young men from the Choshu domain (now Yamaguchi, the westernmost prefecture on Honshu) were in their early twenties when they secretly left Japan to study abroad. The stayed in England and attended University College London only a few months but managed to master English in that short period of time and later returned to become leaders of a new Japan. They were really incredible. I often compare the Shokasonjuku Academy, a private school in the Choshu domain, to the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site. If you visit the Shokasonjuku Academy today, all you will find is an old house with only one 8-tatami room. But this is where such greats as Hirobumi Ito studied history. Ito and the students of this little school were to be the makers of a new Japan. The building itself may be old and unimpressive, but what took place in that building was phenomenal. It is the same for the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site. There isn’t much to see, just a pile of stones, really. But there is a story in those ruins, a story that Kamaishi must tell. I hope, with the help of the Consortium, we can create the story that needs to be told.

 Other towns with World Heritage sites, like the cities of Kitakyushu or Hagi, have strong foundations on which to build their stories. But it is different for Kamaishi. You cannot judge the value of the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site just by looking at them. Who is going to even bother to make their way into the mountains where the ruins are to be found? And when those who do venture that way come back and complain, “There was nothing but a pile of stones,” how should we respond?

 Ms. Koko Kato is no less a powerhouse than the Choshu Five. It is thanks to her energy and drive that we have come as far as we are today. I cannot thank her enough.

What is the secret plan to make the Port of Miike, an operational asset of a World Heritage site?

Former Mayor of Omuta City

Mr. Michio Koga
Vol. 49
Why Conservation Management of Japan's Meiji Industrial Sites is needed?

Archaeologist and Heritage Conservation Specialist

Dr. Michael Pearson AO
The Truth of Industrial History Unraveled from the Perspective of Metallurgy: the Mission of the Heritage of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution is to Pass on the Intelligence, Diligence, and Fortitude of the Japanese People to Future Generations

A fellow of the Japan Federation of Engineering Societies

Professor Tadahiro Inazumi
The Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution is a Great Teaching Aid, and Various World Revealed by Looking Into It

Team Member of the Industrial Project Team Office for the Promotion of World Heritage Listing under Cabinet Secretariat

Mr. Kazuhiko Suga
The History of Iron that Began in Kagoshima has Dramatically Advanced Japan's Modernization~I Want to Pass on the Vitality of the People of Satsuma to the Younger Generations Whom Will Live in the Future~

Governor of Kagoshima Prefecture

Koichi Shiota
Yoshida Shoin preached the Theory of Engineering Education and produced the Choshu Five who risked their lives to go to England--to pass on the proud Hagi spirit to future generations

Mayor of Hagi City

Mr. Fumio Tanaka
I wish to pass on to my children's generation the wisdom, technology, and energy of our ancestors who built Misumi West Port - I will do my very best to do what I can at this moment by looking ahead to the future that will surely come after COVID-19.

Mayor of Uki City, Kumamoto Prefecture

Mr. Kenshi Morita
Vol. 43
An Imperial Company named the Yawata Steel Works became a World Heritage Site from a Single Old Photo!

The Former Employee of Nippon Steel Corporation

Mr. Masayoshi Minakuchi
We would like to Establish a "New Local Studies" that will be transmitted to the Outside World.

An Associate Professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering in Iwate University

Mr. Hideki Onodera
18 Years History of a Tourist Guide Business and an Outpouring of "Love for Misumi West Port." ~"Registration for World Heritage is Not Simply a Goal, but a New Starting Point."~

Chairman of the Tourist Guide Association of Misumi West Port

Mr. Manpo Saito
To Mark the Passage of "Time" Together with Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace ~To increase the attractiveness of "reverberatory furnace tourism" through the use of commercial museum and restaurant business~

President of Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd.

Chairman of Izunokuni City Tourism Association

Mr. Hironori Inamura
The Establishment of the Gunkanjima Digital Museum Were Led by Fate: I want to start, continue, and finish what I can do to convey the value of the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution to a wide audience

Director and General Manager of Gunkanjima Concierge

Producer of the Gunkanjima Digital Museum

Ms. Yuko Kuon
In Industrial Heritage, It's the "People" Who Play the Central Role: How World Heritage Inscription Casts a Fresh Light on Hometown Splendors

Owner at Tōge Chaya

Ms. Shizuko Ogasawara
Everything is for the Economic Development of Nagasaki--Expanding Beyond the Shipping Business to Pass on Nagasaki's Culture and Industrial Heritage

Chairman: Mr. Hidenori Date
President: Mr. Masahiro Date

Yamasa Kaiun Co., Ltd.
Kamaishi's "Miracles" and Overcoming Disaster: The Huge Opportunity Provided by World Heritage Site Inscription

Proprietor, Houraikan Inn

Ms. Akiko Iwasaki
"850 years of historical records" along with Nirayama reverberatory furnace that ought to be passed down to future generations. ~The long-awaited new storage warehouse is completed and it has encouraged preservation, restoration, and utilization~

Representative Director of Egawa Bunko non-profit incorporated foundation

The 42nd head of the Egawa Family

Mr. Hiroshi Egawa
The History of an Era Opened by an Indomitable Pioneering Spirit and the Power of Our Forefathers

Democratic Party for the People (DPP) Representative for Nagasaki Prefecture

Mr. Yoshiaki Takaki
Gunkanjima Is a Warning Message for the Future of Earth and Humanity ~The Thoughts and Pleas of a Guide and Former Resident~

President of the NPO, Way to World Heritage Gunkanjima

Mr. Dotoku Sakamoto
Synchronicity Yields the Miracle of World Heritage Site Inscription: Strong Aspirations Inspire Support among Like-Minded Individuals

Representative Director

MI Consulting Group

Mr. Fumio Ohue
Power to the People of Japan The Mission of Meiji Japan's Industrial Revolutionary Heritage

President of Watanabe Production Group and Honorary Chair of Watanabe Productions Co., Ltd.

Ms. Misa Watanabe
Turning Our Industrial Heritage into Hope for Those 100 Years From Now

Member of the House of Councillors

Mr.Tatsuo Hirano
Calling on 21st Century Satsuma Students to Build the Future! Shuseikan Serves as a Source of Information about Sightseeing in Kagoshima

Kagoshima Prefecture

Mr. Satoshi Mitazono
Awareness of "Stories with Connections" is steadily spreading throughout each region~There are also challenges for conservation management and interpretation~

World Heritage Consultant

Ms. Sarah Jane Brazil
Where There Is a Will, There Is a Way: Connecting with People Takes Courage and Initiative

Director and Dean, The Kyushu-Asia Institute of Leadership
Representative Director, SUMIDA, Inc.

Mr. Koichi Hashida
Taking Pride in Japan's Latest World Heritage Sites~A Journalist's Perspective~

Journalist, founder of the Shimomura Mitsuko Ikikata Juku School

Ms. Mitsuko Shimomura
Classic Cars and the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution~Rally Nippon 2019 in Kyushu~

Representative, Rally Nippon

Mr.Yusuke Kobayashi
Preparations Proceed for the Development of Exciting Touring Routes to See the World Heritage Sites - The Promotion Council Conveys their Attractions to the World through Various Promotions!

Chairman, Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution World Heritage Route Promotion Council Director, National Congress of Industrial Heritage

Mr. Susumu Ishihara
Giving Greater Force to the Preparation of Routes toward Promoting "Heritage Tourism" - Recollections of the Unforgettable Bombing of Hometown Kure City and the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb

Representative Director, General Incorporated Foundation National Congress of Industrial Heritage (Advisor, Public Interest Incorporated Foundation Capital Markets Research Institute)

Mr. Hiroshi Yasuda
The City Connected to the World: Making the "Treasure of Nagasaki" the "Treasure of the World"

Mayor of Nagasaki City

Mr.Tomihisa Taue
"The World's Experimental Facility" that Questions of the True Value of the "ICOMOS-TICCIH Cooperative Principles" New Conservation Challenges Promoted by the Japanese Government

Policy Director at Heritage Montreal

Mr. Dinu Bumbaru
Days of Heated Argument with the Unforgettable Stuart Smith~A Cross-Cultural Encounter with Familiar 19th-Century Industrial Heritage~

World Heritage Consultant

Mr. Barry Gamble
The next generation of technological innovation is born from carrying forward history and culture. - Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution open the way to "conserving while using"

Executive Director of Kogakuin University

Dr.Osamu Goto
Blazing a New Trail for Serial Inscription-Format Conservation and Management with the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution: Training Personnel to Pass on Memory and Understanding as a Major Challenge in the Future

Heritage Architect and International Consultant

Mr. Duncan Marshall
3D Digital Documentation of the Giant Cantilever Crane and Kosuge Dock

Head of Data Acquisition at The Glasgow School of Art’s School of Simulation and Visualisation

Mr. Alastair Rawlinson
Japan's Uplifting Industrial Heritage

Head of Industrial Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh

Dr. Miles Oglethorpe
The Scottish Ten Project

Scottish Ten Project Manager, Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh

Dr. Lyn Wilson
The Tea Plantation Hill Where You Can See Two World Heritage Sites at Once, Mt. Fuji and the Nirayama Reverberatory Furnaces--The Next Dream Is a "Mini Reverberatory Furnace for Children" to Provide Experiential Learning

Mayor of Izunokuni City, Shizuoka Prefecture

Ms.Toshiko Ono
Path to becoming a World Heritage Site

Pro-Provost and Chairman of Council of the Royal College of Art. Heritage advisor of Canal & River Trust for England and Wales.

Sir Neil Cossons
In the midst of accurate information dissemination, it created a chance to truly look at history

Dean of Tokyo Rissho Junior College

Professor emeritus of Keio University

Dr. Kudo Norikazu
World Heritage Inscription Spurs Renewed Civic Pride in Kitakyushu's Industrial Heritage

Mayor of Kitakyushu City

Mr. Kenji Kitahashi
World Heritage Inscription: Report on the 2015 Celebratory Party Held in Bonn, Germany

At the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee convened in Bonn, Germany, from June 28 to July 8, 2015, the decision was approved to inscribe the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution on the World Heritage list.

At a celebratory party held to mark the occasion, some of the primary promoters of the project spoke of their joy in achieving their goal and of the trials and tribulations to getting there.

Background of World Heritage Inscription
Conserve and Use: Pioneering New Approaches for Operational Heritage Assets

Director and Managing Executive Officer, Hanshin Expressway Company Limited

Member, Board of Directors, National Congress of Industrial Heritage

Mr. Hiroshi Okamoto
Applying Port and Harbor Act Provisions to Conserve Operating World Heritage Sites

Vice-Governor of Shizuoka Prefecture

Mr. Takashi Namba
The Choshu Five: Pioneers of Modernization and Hagi's Heritage of Trial and Error

Mayor of Hagi City

Mr. Koji Nomura
The Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution: The Roots of Japanese Craftsmanship and Industry

Chairman, Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd.

Mr.Masafumi Yasutomi
The Miike Area: How Coal Contributed to Japan's Modern Industrialization

Mayor of Omuta City

Mr.Michio Koga
The Meiji Industrial Revolution: A Story of Broad Vision and a Strong Sense of Mission to Undertake New Challenges for the Good of the Nation and its People

Deputy Director-General, Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau, MEXT

Former Counsellor, Cabinet Secretariat

Mr. Kengo Iwamoto
From Kamaishi to Yawata: The Proud Heritage of Japan's Modern Iron Industry

Mayor of Kamaishi City

Mr.Takenori Noda
Lord Nariakira Shimadzu's Shuseikan and the Efforts to Build a Strong and Affluent Nation

Member, Board of Directors, National Congress of Industrial Heritage Counselor, Shimadzu Limited

Mr.Kimiyasu Shimadzu
The Genesis of Japan's Rise as an Industrial Nation: Preserving the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution for Future Generations

Chairman of the Consortium for the World Heritage Inscription of Modern Industrial Heritage (Kyushu-Yamaguchi) and governor of Kagoshima Prefecture (as of 2015)

Mr.Yuichiro Ito