JAPANESE  ENGLISH

PEOPLE

2022.02.16
Vol.42

We would like to Establish a "New Local Studies" that will be transmitted to the Outside World.

Mr.  Hideki Onodera

An Associate Professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering in Iwate University

Mr. Hideki Onodera
PROFILE

1962: Born in Sendai City

1991: Graduated from the Graduate School of Engineering of Tohoku University and became a Doctor of Engineering. In the same year, he became a Research Assistant to the Faculty of Engineering at Iwate University.

1995: He became an Assistant Professor of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Research of the same region in Iwate University.

Currently, he is an Associate Professor of the Faculty of Science and Technology

He specialized in hydraulic engineering and began research on the history of technology around 1995. Member of the “Expert Committee on Industrial Heritage including Operational Assets” of the Cabinet Secretariat and an expert member of the “Council for Cultural Affairs” of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. He is also the Chairman of the “Mechanical Engineering Heritage Committee” of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers

Finally, he is the Honorary Director of the Kamaishi City Iron and Steel History Museum 

Hideki Onodera, who is an Associate Professor at Iwate University, was one of the contributors to the inscription of the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by researching and verifying the value of the Hashino Iron Mine (located in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture), which is known for being the only component part in the Tohoku region. In the midst of the Corona disaster, this year marks the fifth anniversary of the inscription of the mine, and the question is what ought to be done to preserve, pass on, and utilize this group of valuable component parts. The most noteworthy issue addressed by Dr. Onodera was the establishment and enlightenment of “new local studies.”

■How Can We Alleviate the Burden on Local People?

--This year (2020) will be the fifth year since the World Heritage Site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. As one of the contributors to the World Heritage List, what are your thoughts now, Professor Onodera?

Onodera In a word, it all happened so fast. I was watching the meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in July 2015 via webcast all the time, and on the first day, things did not go as planned due to opposition from South Korea. However, on the second day, the chairperson swung the hammer down and finally approved the inclusion of the site on the World Heritage List. I still remember well to this day the look of relief on the face of the chairman as he swung down the hammer, and I myself was relieved as well.

 Five years have passed since then, and the “Industrial Heritage Information Center” has opened in Shinjuku City, Tokyo, which I also had an opportunity to visit the other day. I am aware that there are many issued to be addressed, but I feel that with this, the “assignment” previously given by ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) has been fulfilled and we have reached a point of closure.

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Photos: Industrial Heritage Information Center

--How do you feel in regards to the situation in the local area, Kamaishi?

Onodera Due to the disaster caused by Corona, I have not had many opportunities to visit Kamaishi or interact with the local people in the past year or so, but I have the impression that even though it is the 5th anniversary, there have not been many notable events. The local media did not even give us much coverage either. Frankly speaking, I have the impression that the local people are a bit tired of it.

--Then, what exactly do you mean by that?

Onodera The Hashino Iron Mine is located in a depopulated area, and although the local people are doing their best, they are inevitably overburdened. Of course, the city of Kamaishi is making an effort, and there are people who volunteer as guides, but there still is a tendency to rely on the local people of the Hashino area. In the future, it will be a big challenge to find a way to support and expand the activities of the city of Kamaishi as a whole, and even more broadly.

 In the case of the city of Kamaishi, only the Hashino Iron Mine was inscribed on the list, and it is also a heritage site located far away alone from the other component parts. Therefore, I feel that the position of Kamaishi in the overall story of the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution,” which has 23 component parts, and the role played by Kamaishi has not been sufficiently understood. The Hashino Iron Mine is not a World Heritage Site by itself, but is one of the component parts of World Heritage Sites addressed as the “Sites of Japan’s Industrial Revolution,” and I have the impression that there is still a lack of understanding in this area amongst people.

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--In relation to this point, Professor Onodera, you have been actively involved in the project of “Local Studies” in the city of Kamaishi. I think this is the keyword here. Please tell us again what “Local Studies” truly refers to.  

Onodera To learn more about the region where you were born, raised, and live currently. That is essentially the basis of the “Local Studies.” By learning and understanding the past, we can realize that the region we live in today was created, and that will give us pride. It is certainly becoming more difficult as the number of children declines due to the declining birthrate and aging population, but in essence, it is about rediscovering the “treasures of the region.”

In terms of the learning activities for children, in the past, they would unearth various things such as the history of the region and present the summarized results on an imitation Japanese vellum. This kind of activity was carried out in every community and school. The children painstakingly walked around the area on their own and took pictures, discovering and unearthing facts that had been buried that even the local government did not know. It was such a surprise. However, now the population is decreasing, the adults are aging, the number of children is decreasing, and the entire region has no more room for such activities. Therefore, I believe that we need to build a “new local study” in a more different way.

--Do you have any specific ideas?

Onodera For example, let the children get to know the local area better so that they can act as guides for the area. We will send out information about the local area to the outside world and let more people know about it. Up until now, we have only compiled the information on an imitation Japanese vellum and presented it to the local people as a kind of learning outcome, but we can use this as a starting point for disseminating the information to the rest of the prefecture, the nation, and even the world. I think this is the future of local studies. Take the local high school students in the Matsushima area of Miyagi Prefecture as an example, they wear volunteer guide badges on their chests and guide tourists on their days off. We are also creating such a system to a similar degree. Through such activities, children can gain a deeper insight in regards to the local treasures. In the future, even after they leave their hometown, they will be able to talk about the treasures of their hometown and their pride in it. This is the future of local studies, and I hope that Kamaishi will become like that.  

--Activities that have traditionally been completed or stayed within the local community are now being expanded to the outside world. In that process, there seems to be the benefit of deepening our knowledge more and more. Nonetheless, this will take a lot of energy to accomplish, would it not?

Onodera Yes, it may be difficult at first, but the basics are already laid down, and if we can get it going, it means it is even possible that it can be passed on from one generation to the next. I think this is similar to the activities of “storytellers” who pass on the stories of the tsunami damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake.



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