Proprietor, Houraikan Inn
Connections between People Generate Great Strength
Koko emphasized that in order to inscribe the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution onto UNESCO World Heritage List, it would be essential for us to really envisage what we were striving for, to take action, and above all for people to connect with others. But it was the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster that really convinced me this enthusiasm and conviction on Koko’s part was unwavering.
In the Unosumai district where Houraikan is located, approximately 580 people lost their lives. I myself was engulfed by the tsunami along with the Houraikan, which stands right by Nebama Beach, but by repeating the mantra ikippesi, ikippesi (I have to survive) to myself I just about managed to escape death. From then on it was all a blur. Houraikan had been designated as an official evacuation site, so a steady stream of local residents came to us. But the roads had caved in so not even the Self-Defense Forces could get to us, and for five whole days we were cut off from the outside world. We gathered together every grain of rice we could find, cooked it using water from the big communal bath, and gave it to the children to eat. At night we made a fire in the open space in front of the inn.
On the sixth day, even before the local government arrived, a news crew for Today’s Close-Up, a TV program by the national broadcaster NHK, turned up, and then some people from a commercial broadcasting station came. They were interviewing me, when somebody said “You have a visitor,” and when I turned round, Koko was standing there. Shocked, I said “How did you get here?” and she said “I felt compelled to drive here from Tokyo myself.” I was incredibly moved when I realized that she had spent 13 hours driving up to see us regardless of the danger. The car was packed full of all kinds of supplies that helped us more than I can say. And as a result, I was inspired by a determination to keep up the fight. I had experienced at first hand how connections between people generate great strength.
World Heritage Selection Was a Sign of Encouragement from Our Predecessors
After the disasters, I thought that an inn that couldn’t save people’s lives wasn’t worth continuing. But when I found out that people doing the construction work to rebuild Kamaishi were spending nights in their cars, I thought that Houraikan could be useful to people, so I resumed business. We finished rebuilding the inn in January 2012. Now that eight years have passed since the disasters, I feel that there’s life in every single thing that survived, whether it’s a pine tree or a building. And I see myself not as “living,” but as being allowed to live. I think that those who have been allowed to live have a duty to become storytellers and keep passing on the lessons we learned for the sake of future generations.
And there’s another duty to be fulfilled by those of us alive today. Kamaishi’s selection as one of the World Heritage locations is a sign of encouragement from our predecessors: we’ve been given a huge opportunity to move forward. We should be thankful to everybody who’s been involved in the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site as we take on new challenges and lay the foundations for rebuilding our hometown. What’s important is to just keep at it. It may be some time before we achieve tangible results, but I will be working together with everybody in the community to move forward one step at a time.
(Interview and writing: Akane Maruyama)
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)