Taking Pride in Japan's Latest World Heritage Sites~A Journalist's Perspective~

Ms. Mitsuko Shimomura

Journalist, founder of the Shimomura Mitsuko Ikikata Juku School

Ms. Mitsuko Shimomura

Mitsuko Shimomura has an MA in Economics from New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science and a BA in Economics from Keio University in Tokyo.

She joined the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s leading national newspapers, in 1965 and has written articles for the Shukan Asahi, the newspaper’s weekly journal, served as the Asahi Shimbun’s New York correspondent and on its editorial board, and was also chief editor of the Asahi Journal, another of the newspaper’s major publications. During her time at the Asahi Shimbun, she reported from such places as the Middle East, the United States, Europe, China, and the former Soviet Union. In 1982, she became the first woman to be awarded the Vaughn-Uyeda Memorial International Journalistic Prize. In 1987, she was awarded the JST (Japan Society of Translators) prize for excellence in translation. That same year, she was invited to study at Harvard for one year as a Nieman Fellow.

She has been working as a freelance journalist since 1994. At one point she took over her parents’ business concerns to serve as chair of the Tokyo Kenbikyo-In Foundation and later established the Genki Plaza, a medical foundation promoting mental and physical health care which she now chairs. She has held numerous other prestigious positions including Vice Chair of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), President of the Fukushima Gender Equality Center, and an outside board member of the Renaissance Corporation.

In 2002, she was presented with the Athena Award by the Partnership for Women’s Health at Columbia University for her contributions to women’s health and gender-specific medicine.

Immediately after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear plant accident, she established the Shimomura Mitsuko Ikikata Juku School and the Seiwajyuku, a private management school headed by Kazuo Inamori, founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera Corporation, with the objective of “rejuvenating the Japanese heart and mind.” Shimomura has also regularly sponsored a Fukushima memorial event held every year in the city of Iwaki.

Currently, she holds numerous executive positions, including: head of the Shimomura Mitsuko Ikikata Juku School, representative director and president of the Human Plaza Corporation, JAL Foundation councilor, Shiseido Social Welfare Foundation councilor, medical association Hanatsubaki-kai chair, Team Smile board member, East Nippon Expressway Company compliance committee member, Vaughn-Uyeda Memorial International Journalistic Prize selection committee member, Butaigeijutsu Center (performing arts center) trustee, Characters Culture Promotion Organization trustee, and Seiwajyuku board member.

Her writings include: Made in Japan - Akio Morita and Sony (PHP), Inochi to wa Nanika, Ikiru to wa Nanika (What Is Life, What Does It Mean to Live; KK Longsellers), Zaikaijin Toppu Intabyu, Gensoku Keizai wo Ikiru (Japan’s Outstanding Business Leaders; Asahi Shimbun), Sekai no Dai-keieishatachi (The World’s Outstanding Business Leaders; Asahi Shimbun), Amerika no Otokotachi wa Ima (The Men of America Now; Asahi Shimbun), Shimomura Mitsuko no Dai-kokishin (Shimomura Mitsuko’s Great Curiosity; Asahi Shimbun), and Harvard Memories (PHP). Her numerous translations include, among others, Sugu Wasureru Otoko, Keshite Wasurenai Onna (Why Men Never Remember,Women Never Forget by Marianne J. Legato), published by Asahi Shimbun Publications.

Ms. Mitsuko Shimomura was a passionate advocate for the World Heritage registration of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution. Says Ms. Koko Kato, Managing Director of the National Congress of Industrial Heritage, “She was a great benefactor to us, guiding us at every step of the way on the long road to getting these places inscribed as World Heritage sites, encouraging us and backing us up.” Ms. Koko Kato also joined an interview of Ms. Mitsuko Shimomura, asking her about her involvement in the process of securing World Heritage designation of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.

■ The three reasons for the World Heritage inscription

Ms. Koko Kato says you played a major role in getting the application process going and guiding everyone along the way. What, specifically, did you do?

Ms. Shimomura: I didn’t do anything special (laughter).

Ms. Kato: Now, now. In 2012, the Cabinet Secretariat formed a committee of experts to deliberate the selection of industrial heritage sites, including those still in operation, to be recommended to UNESCO as Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution. Ms. Shimomura made a comment at a committee meeting held in 2013 that got the process going.

Ms. Shimomura: Oh, yes, I remember. It was August 27, 2013, the day of the committee’s last meeting. It was an important meeting because we were going to decide the recommendations the Japanese government would be making to UNESCO. But the meeting dragged on and we hadn’t decided anything even though it was getting close to the time to end. I hadn’t spoken much at our previous meetings. There were so many experts in all the different fields we were covering. I had learned a lot, but though I did ask some questions, I didn’t feel qualified to give an opinion. Yet here we were going around in circles and not getting anywhere. I had another appointment and needed to leave soon. To tell the truth, I was getting irritated. So I spoke up. That’s what you are referring to, right?

Ms. Kato: Right. The atmosphere in the room changed completely with your words (laughs). The committee had two proposals on the table and couldn’t decide on which should be recommended first. One was the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution, which was strongly supported by the Cabinet Secretariat, and the other was the Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki (later renamed “Hidden Christian Sites in Nagasaki and Amakusa”) proposed by the Council for Cultural Affairs. It was imperative, therefore, that the committee of experts unanimously agree on the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, not everyone on the committee was in agreement, and concerns were raised about pushing a proposal that was different from that being made by the Coucil for Cultural Affiairs. There were arguments and objections on both sides.

Ms. Shimomura: Yes, yes. And this is what I said. “We only have five minutes until this meeting must end. We were supposed to come to a decision today, and I have been waiting for us to take a vote. But instead of a presentation of the big picture, discussion is focused on highly specialized concerns and the repetition of debates we’ve already had before. I have listened to the experts and learned a lot, and personally, my mind is made up. After participating in this committee, it would be irresponsible of me to go away without saying anything, so I would like to say something now.

“I am not an expert, but I speak as a journalist and as a Japanese. I think this is not the time for debating the finer technical points. As Japanese, do we take pride in our Meiji Industrial Revolution and do we want to tell the world about it? That is ultimately what we need to decide.” And then I said, “I am in favor of recommending the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.”

My reasons were, one, our country succeeded in modernizing on its own in the very short period from the end of the shogunate through the Meiji period. We provided an encouraging example back then for the developing countries of the world, particularly Asia, and still do today. Two, for the Japanese people, the achievements of the Meiji period are what made it possible for our country to recover later from the devastation of war to become the world’s second largest economy. The roots of modern Japan go back to the era of the Meiji Industrial Revolution. The Meiji Industrial Revolution and the postwar economic recovery are closely linked.

I ended by making one more final point. “This proposed World Heritage has a narrative and though it is counted as one item, it will actually comprise 23 components. This will have a tremendous impact on revitalizing each of the regions involved. There couldn’t be a better outcome.” In the end, my comment turned into quite a speech (laughs).

I had been so quiet throughout, but these were my honest thoughts on the matter, and I had been itching to express them for quite a while. It was our last meeting and I didn’t want to go away without saying what had to be said!

It appears your comments finally brought closure to the meeting.

Ms. Kato: The vote to recommend the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution was unanimous.

Ms. Shimomura: As I already noted, up to that point I hadn’t said a word. After all, I was no expert on World Heritage matters; I was a complete outsider. In fact, I really didn’t understand why I had been asked to serve on the committee in the first place (laughs). Still, I tried hard to learn, and my experience as a journalist and my own personal background led me to the conclusion that the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution were worthy of being named a World Heritage.

So, that was my thought as we came to our last meeting, but the discussions just wouldn’t come to an end. Instead, people were repeating points that had already been covered and turning over conclusions that had already been reached. Those against the proposal said again that properties related to modernization did not qualify as World Heritage sites. Others questioned, repeatedly, why currently operating sites should be included. The discussion just kept going around in circles all the while our time limit loomed ahead of us. It was evening, I had another appointment to go to. That’s when I finally got up the courage to announce, “I have to leave to attend to other matters and so would like to say something here” (laughs).

I finally left, but not until after Mr. Hieda of Fuji TV (Executive Managing Advisor, Fuji Television Network, Inc., Director of National Congress of Industrial Heritage) expressed his agreement with me. It was a great relief when I later heard that the vote had been unanimous (laughs).

Ms. Kato: Well, there was no precedent to follow. We were trying to make a selection in a whole new category, but there were members of the committee who just couldn’t shake off the preconception that only cultural properties qualified as World Heritage, and they kept raising objections. The fact that we were finally able to reach unanimous agreement was due to Ms. Shimomura’s bringing clarity to a muddled situation and I was so grateful for that.

Living now for the future of Japan: The mission of the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution is to raise awareness and courage that "Japan can be saved if we make use of the spirit of our predecessors."

Former General Manager, Nagasaki Shipyard and Machinery Works, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.

Dr. Kunifumi Hashimoto
Japan's Meiji Industrial Heritage is the Pride of Japan - Knowing the Steps of Our Predecessors is the Key to Reconsidering Japanese Education

Chairman, Fujisankei Group

Executive Managing Advisor, Fuji Television Network, Inc.

Executive Managing Advisor, Fuji Media Holdings, Inc.

Mr, Hisashi Hieda
The Road to World Heritage Registration was Full of its Ups and Downs ~Blessed, Saved and Paved by the Luck of Human Fate~

Advisor, Federation of Japan Port and Airport Construction Association

(Ex. Chairman of Specialists Center of Port and Airport Engineering)

Mr. Hiroshi Hayashida
The historical flow of change from "Samurai to the Company" is the pride of Japan - Nagasaki, the center of Japan's Meiji Industrial Heritage Sites, will lead the way to connect to the next generation.

Mayor of Nagasaki City

Mr. Shiro Suzuki
The Saga Clan Built Japan's First Reverberatory Furnace, and the "Mietsu Naval Station" was the Base of the Western-style Navy: Passing on the Passion That Went Into Registering the Site as a World Heritage Site to the Next Generation

Former Director of the Sano Tsunetami Memorial Museum (currently known as Sano Tsunetami and the Mietsu Naval Dock History Museum)

Mr. Yoshimi Eguchi
The Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution is a "World Cultural Heritage" and a "World Evolutionary Heritage

Director of NPO Association for Thinking about Satoyama

Director of National Congress of the Industrial Heritage

Mr. Kenji Amioka
Shoin Shrine has a mission to convey the history leading up to the Meiji Restoration properly

Honorary Chief Priest Toshinari Ueda

Mr. Toshinari Ueda
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