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
Ms. Yuko Kuon

――”The Industrial Revolutionary Heritage of Meiji Japan: Ironmaking, Steelmaking and Coal Industry” was registered as a World Heritage Site in July 2015. “The Gunkanjima Digital Museum” opened in September of the same year, but when did you first entertain the idea of creating a museum?

 We thought it would be great to do this from an early stage. We started the landing tour, but the area where we could land was limited, which was a problem. Nevertheless, we all want to see what the areas that are off-limits are like, don’t we? So, we wondered if we could meet the needs of our customers. And there was also a problem that we could not truly convey everything about the goodness and the beauty of Gunkanjima by just doing a tour guide. In addition, the weather can be very unpredictable on the landing tour of Gunkanjima, so even if one visits Nagasaki, there is a possibility of the boat trip being canceled. From circumstances like this, we came up with the idea of building a facility that allows visitors to experience places that are restricted areas—so that they can enjoy them regardless of weather conditions. We wanted to create something that serves as a museum where they can learn everything about Gunkanjima.

 The preparations for the project began in January 2014.

The city of Nagasaki had a catchphrase, “Let Us Take the Treasure of Nagasaki to the Treasure of the World,” but even then, there were no plans for a coal museum or World Heritage Center. I thought that they will most likely build a museum or a memorial hall after it was registered as a World Heritage Site, but when I found out that there was no plan at all, I was like, “What!?” while throwing my head back. Then I laughed out saying, “then we will have to do it at home I guess.”

Even if you have that in mind, the project would not work unless various conditions are met.

Firstly, the location. Gunkanjima Digital Museum is located just a three-minute walk from a landing spot of Gunkanjima Concierge, and the fact that we found such a large space (about 1,000 square meters) made the installation of the facility a reality. At first, we were only about to rent half of the building, but the following year the building owner let us use the space as a warehouse, and the following year, when other tenants were moving out, we secured the fourth floor, gradually expanding the space and enhancing the exhibition space.

The next step was content production. When we first requested for estimation from a well-known production company for this as well, I gave up on the museum installation for a moment (about 2 months) since it was so expensive. (Laughing out loud)

I was stunned for a while, but then I had a chance to meet a company that was willing to do it within our budget. The company is called zero-ten in Fukuoka, and the representative, Mr. Jiro Enomoto, has been expressing Gunkanjima with a great sense. It has been five years since the opening of the museum and is still providing visitors with a variety of digital techniques, including the “Gunkanjima Symphony” on a large 30-meter screen, to keep them coming back for more.


 When we opened the museum, we took a new drone photograph of Gunkanjima, but in terms of the contents, we had already gathered what we wanted to exhibit through our involvement with Gunkanjima. Hence, the only thing left to do was to find a way to cook the ingredients. Among the enthusiasts, Gunkanjima is considered a cool island, but for those who are not, the name “Gunkanjima” might remind some people of war, and the fact that it is filled with ruins might give them a negative image. Therefore, I thought about a way to dispel that negative image by turning it into digital art. Nonetheless, the important thing is to make it easy to understand in order to convey our message effectively. It is important to have a balance between “something one can understand just by looking at it” and “something one can deepen one’s understanding by listening to it” or a balance between digital and analog. So, how can we express the meaning of each building and the people who lived there, and what is the best way to display them to convey them the best? That is what we discussed with a former resident of the island. And then I started by writing down the stories of work and life in the coal mines on the island and creating a story that would serve as the basis for the museum as a whole. 

――Did things change before and after the “Industrial Revolutionary Heritage of Meiji Japan: Ironmaking, Steelmaking, and Coal Industry” was inscribed on the World Heritage List?

 The bank is now lending me money (laughing out loud). We had to pay back the money someday, so I was not able to be truly happy about it, but prior to the registration on the World Heritage List, we were in financial difficulties, and we continued to lose money. We were faced with a number of difficult times when we thought we were going to lose it, but even so, our perseverance was worth it, and after the registration, the number of tourists increased dramatically, and in 2018, 60,000 people used our “Gunkanjima Landing Tour.” Although it is not easy to manage a company with the addition of museum management to the sightseeing business using boats, I am determined to work hard and do my best.

――Lastly, please tell us about your future tasks and aspirations.

 As far as the Gunkanjima Digital Museum is concerned, we need to find ways to make people come to the museum, and then we need to make sure that people come back again and again. Of course, we need to have attractive exhibitions, but we also need to figure out how to spread the word about them. One of our biggest challenges is to develop effective PR activities.

 For example, apartment No. 30, the most iconic of the abandoned buildings on Gunkanjima, has aged badly and is a popular spot, but it is not accessible. Thus, in December 2016, we opened the “Building No. 30 Memorial Space” with a 1/30th scale model on display. This led to more repeat visitors and, ultimately, more visitors in general.

Since then, new content has been added every year, and currently, there are 30 contents on display.

We will continue to hold special exhibitions and try new things in the future to brush up our efforts.

 Efforts of our company are directly related to communicating the value of the industrial revolutionary heritage of Meiji Japan to a wider and deeper audience. Thinking this way allows the motivation to go up.

I am afraid of doing something half-heartedly and regretting that I could have done more.

I believe that we have a finite amount of time on Gunkanjima, which is breaking down every day. I think it is important to work with the city of Nagasaki on issues such as the preservation of Gunkanjima. I think it is also important to record the buildings that are transforming year by year. There is a lot of things we ought to do and can do to shine Nagasaki’s treasure of Gunkanjima. I want to start with what I can do, continue that, and complete it. That is my ambition.

Interview and writing were done by Akane Maruyama

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
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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