World Heritage Consultant
How to overcome the dilemma between conservation and restoration
――It’s been about ten years since you visited the sites for the first time in 2006, and I’ve heard that you’re in Japan now to conduct a detailed inspection of the current state of conservation and management at each site. Could you please give your honest assessment of the status of conservation and management today as compared to time of your first visit?
Mr. Gamble: This year, I visited all twenty-three component properties over the course of two visits, but in terms of my overall impression, I’ve been very impressed with what has been achieved so far with respect to conservation, management, and succession planning in such short amount of time, which made me proud as someone involved in the project. In particular, the efforts put into creating introductory exhibits and providing guidance by local residents have been wonderful. That these efforts by local communities are firmly entrenched in the strategic framework for conservation and management by governmental agencies like the Cabinet Secretariat and the Agency for Cultural Affairs and are being steadily implemented in each community can be said to be a remarkable achievement.
We are also seeing steady results from the activities of the National Congress of Industrial Heritage, which is a private-sector booster organization tasked with the role of bringing together each component property and providing overall coordination. Something I find particularly wonderful are the initiatives making use of digital media, such as the freely available “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution Guide App Passport” for smartphones, are wonderful. This app helps to convey the conceptual basis and substance of these heritage sites to the general public in a way that is easy to understand. I feel that it offers a very accessible and visual presentation of the twenty-three geographically scattered component properties and the links between them.
Considering all of these various initiatives together, while there are still many issues remaining in the conservation plans and the like, I have the impression that Japan is doing a professional and good job, and is making confident progress.
――What would you say are some of the top issues for future conservation and management?
Mr. Gamble: While each of the twenty-three component properties has its own unique challenges, from a conservation perspective I feel that Gunkanjima presents the most challenges. Gunkanjima is an island that is protected by seawalls and has been infilled with tailings from excavated coal. However, it is located in a harsh natural environment, where it is continuously being buffeted by rough waves and being slammed by typhoons. Over the course of its abandonment after the closure of the mines, both the steel in the colliery facilities and the concrete of the buildings have deteriorated due to salt damage. For this reason, the physical conservation of the island is a paramount issue.
Gunkanjima’s World Heritage value lies in its seawall and colliery facilities. What is important here is to conserve, manage, and pass on the structures from the early period in their original form as much as possible in a long-term and sustainable way. In the case of the seawalls, for example, what will be important are measures to preserve and pass on the Meiji-era stonework techniques that form their foundation, and where necessary to work toward comprehensive solutions using the latest engineering technology. With the colliery facilities, work is already underway to reinforce the original brick buildings, and here, too, I would like to proceed with construction with the same ideas.
On the other hand, the concrete buildings like the high-rise apartment blocks where the miners lived with their families are not recognized as having World Heritage value in their own right, but they are significant as “battleship symbols” that make up the island’s silhouette. Visitors arriving to the island by sea are likely to realize they have arrived at Gunkanjima when they spy the island’s unique silhouette from afar. I think it is necessary to preserve the original appearance of the high-rise buildings as much as possible not only from a technical perspective, but also in the sense of preserving memories.
Either way, with Gunkanjima we will need to resolve the contradictory and difficult challenge of following the dictates of conservation without overdoing things.
――What about interpretive efforts to display the properties and relate their stories and histories?
Mr. Gamble: Interpretation strategies are currently being formulated, and efforts are ongoing to ensure participation by local communities at each site. With regard to displaying World Heritage value, work has only just begun, so I hope to see more of this in future. Visitor centers and parking lots have been set up at Hagi and Kagoshima, as well as other places like the Nirayama reverberatory furnace, with friendly explanations also being provided by a large number of volunteer guides. Even more surprising to me is that no matter where you go, you will see road signs and information boards placed along the main roads leading to the properties. This is a great development.
Conservation and management projects for the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution have only just begun. Overall, we are still at the research and planning stage. There are a mountain of specific tasks that need to be addressed. But Japan and the Japanese people are experiencing a very exciting and valuable moment right now. That’s something that I’d like to get across.
(Interview and Summary: Takeo Takashima; Interpreter: Minae Toya; Photograph: NCIH)
Former Mayor of Omuta City
Archaeologist and Heritage Conservation Specialist
A fellow of the Japan Federation of Engineering Societies
Team Member of the Industrial Project Team Office for the Promotion of World Heritage Listing under Cabinet Secretariat
Governor of Kagoshima Prefecture
Mayor of Hagi City
Mayor of Uki City, Kumamoto Prefecture
The Former Employee of Nippon Steel Corporation
An Associate Professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering in Iwate University
Chairman of the Tourist Guide Association of Misumi West Port
President of Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd.
Chairman of Izunokuni City Tourism Association
Director and General Manager of Gunkanjima Concierge
Producer of the Gunkanjima Digital Museum
Owner at Tōge Chaya
Chairman: Mr. Hidenori Date
President: Mr. Masahiro Date
Proprietor, Houraikan Inn
Representative Director of Egawa Bunko non-profit incorporated foundation
The 42nd head of the Egawa Family
Democratic Party for the People (DPP) Representative for Nagasaki Prefecture
President of the NPO, Way to World Heritage Gunkanjima
MI Consulting Group
President of Watanabe Production Group and Honorary Chair of Watanabe Productions Co., Ltd.
Member of the House of Councillors
World Heritage Consultant
Director and Dean, The Kyushu-Asia Institute of Leadership
Representative Director, SUMIDA, Inc.
Journalist, founder of the Shimomura Mitsuko Ikikata Juku School
Representative, Rally Nippon
Chairman, Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution World Heritage Route Promotion Council Director, National Congress of Industrial Heritage
Representative Director, General Incorporated Foundation National Congress of Industrial Heritage (Advisor, Public Interest Incorporated Foundation Capital Markets Research Institute）
Mayor of Nagasaki City
Policy Director at Heritage Montreal
World Heritage Consultant
Executive Director of Kogakuin University
Heritage Architect and International Consultant
Head of Data Acquisition at The Glasgow School of Art’s School of Simulation and Visualisation
Head of Industrial Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh
Scottish Ten Project Manager, Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh
Mayor of Izunokuni City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Pro-Provost and Chairman of Council of the Royal College of Art. Heritage advisor of Canal & River Trust for England and Wales.
Dean of Tokyo Rissho Junior College
Professor emeritus of Keio University
Mayor of Kitakyushu City
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.
Director and Managing Executive Officer, Hanshin Expressway Company Limited
Member, Board of Directors, National Congress of Industrial Heritage
Vice-Governor of Shizuoka Prefecture
Mayor of Hagi City
Chairman, Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd.
Mayor of Omuta City
Deputy Director-General, Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau, MEXT
Former Counsellor, Cabinet Secretariat
Mayor of Kamaishi City
Member, Board of Directors, National Congress of Industrial Heritage Counselor, Shimadzu Limited
Chairman of the Consortium for the World Heritage Inscription of Modern Industrial Heritage (Kyushu-Yamaguchi) and governor of Kagoshima Prefecture (as of 2015)