Turning Our Industrial Heritage into Hope for Those 100 Years From Now
Member of the House of Councillors
Born in Kitakami City, Iwate Prefecture on May 2, 1954, Tatsuo Hirano graduated from Iwate Prefectural Mizusawa High School in March 1973, and the University of Tokyo (Faculty of Agriculture) in March 1977.
He joined the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (predecessor of MAFF: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) in 1977, became Director of the Iwate Prefecture Agricultural Land and Facilities Division in 1994, Director of the Farmland Planning Division in 1995, Director of the Planning Division of the Kanto Regional Agricultural Administration Office in 1997, Deputy Director-General for Engineering Affairs of the Agricultural Structure Improvement Bureau in 2000. He resigned from MAFF in 2001.
Hirano was elected to the House of Councillors (representing Iwate Prefecture) three times (2001, 2007, and 2013). He has served as Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Chairman of the Committee on Budget; State Minister of Cabinet Office for National Policy; Minister for Reconstruction in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Minister of State for Disaster Management; and Minister for Reconstruction and Minister for Comprehensive Review of Measures in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Currently he serves as member of the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Director of the Special Committee on Reconstruction after Great East Japan Earthquake; member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan; Deputy Chairperson of the Research Commission on Agriculture, Forestry and Food Strategy; member of the Agriculture and Forestry Division, Executive Acting Chairperson of the Research Commission on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise and Small Business; Advisor of the Headquarters for Accelerating Reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake; and Chairperson of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Disaster Measures Committee.
ーーCould you tell us about when and how you started working towards getting “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” inscribed on the World Heritage List?
It was in September 2010, three days after I became State Minister of Cabinet Office when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power. Ms. Koko Kato and Mr. Takenori Noda, Kamaishi City mayor came to my office to talk to me about the “Modern Industrial Heritage Sites in Kyushu and Yamaguchi” (the former title of “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution”). That was the first time I ever met Ms. Kato, but I was impressed by her passionate presentation. Actually, if it wasn’t for her passion and energy, I doubt this project would have ever moved forward. I take my hat off to her for overcoming so many hardships and bringing it to fruition.
I was also awed by how knowledgeable she was, which she gained studying industrial heritage at Harvard university. But what struck me most was her desire to do something for Japan. She opened by saying, “Japan would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for the Meiji Industrial Revolution.” Then she went on to say, “The people who worked tirelessly on the front lines of the iron- and steel-making, shipbuilding, and coal mining industries are not in our textbooks, but I believe that if we reaffirm their accomplishments, it will provide courage and hope to the people of Japan.” After listening to her I found myself wondering why on earth Japan doesn’t have an Industrial World Heritage Site. I felt like she opened my eyes to something I hadn’t noticed before and I remember saying, “This is an amazing project” the instant she finished. The reason Mr. Noda thought of introducing her to me was that he knew I was in charge of regulatory and institutional reforms, so I thought I would do whatever was in my power to support the project.
ーーWhat specifically did they come to discuss?
At the time, the Modern Industrial Heritage Sites in Kyushu and Yamaguchi World Heritage Registration Promotion Council hit a major stumbling block. In September 2010, when the Democratic Party was in power, the government adopted the “Three-Step Economic Measures for the Realization of the New Growth Strategy” by cabinet decision. This led to the development of the “Regulatory Reform 100 to Revitalize Japan” program of economic measures that do not require financial resources. As part of this, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry proposed to reevaluate expenses related to inscribing industrial heritage sites on the World Heritage List, but it was not supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, so the government did not put it on its list of cabinet decisions.
The biggest problem was that some of the industrial heritage sites, such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki Shipyard, Yawata Imperial Steel Works, and Miike Port, are still in operation. If they were cultural or natural heritage sites, all we would have to consider is their protection, but if you apply the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties to operational properties, it will impact the company’s economic activities. Due in part to the fact this was without precedent, the Agency for Cultural Affairs made the decision that inscribing the industrial heritage sites on the World Heritage List would be impossible because the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties cannot be applied to active equipment and facilities. However, Ms. Kato refused to give up and said she was exploring possible solutions. That is what they came to discuss with me.
Ms. Kato suggested that perhaps it could be done by taking advantage of laws under the jurisdiction of relevant ministries and agencies. She said that in other countries, the government agencies that oversee development and laws on ports and landscapes manage plans, and they have industrial heritage sites where both conservation and business needs are balanced. When asked for my opinion, I responded that it is import to obtain the understanding of the company that owns the operational properties, and that it may be possible to build a new framework to inscribe operational properties on the World Heritage List. The Agency for Cultural Affairs’ view was as if it was saying that Japan had no need for heritage sites other than cultural and natural, but who decided that? The issue was not whether it can or cannot be done, but whether or not we have the will to do it. That’s what I remember talking about.
Former Director of the Sano Tsunetami Memorial Museum (currently known as Sano Tsunetami and the Mietsu Naval Dock History Museum)
Director of NPO Association for Thinking about Satoyama
Director of National Congress of the Industrial Heritage
Honorary Chief Priest Toshinari Ueda
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)