Honorary Chief Priest Toshinari Ueda
The passion of the Japanese people for manufacturing and the process of evolution is something to be proud of in the world.
KATO: The Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution were inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2015, but since then, have there been more visitors to Shoin Shrine than ever before?
Ueda: Yes, that is right. NHK's historical drama 'Hanamoyu', set at the end of the Edo period, was broadcast in January of that year, and Hagi was also used as a filming location. The registration of Hagi as a World Heritage Site coincided with this, and I think the number of tourists was probably the highest ever.
Kato: Teacher Shoin's parents' house and school buildings in Shoin Shrine are collectively known as “Shokason-juku”, and I am also impressed by “Treasure House Shiseikan”. The exhibits of Teacher Shoin's teachings clearly show the direction that Japan should take in the Meiji era, such as the establishment of the policy of industrial development with the aim of achieving national prosperity and defence. And when you come into contact with the dynamic aspirations of the supporters were nurtured in the small space of the village school, you feel a sense of hope and excitement. It is also wonderful in the sense that we can study the episodes of the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate anew.
Ueda: The Shiseikan was the first major project I undertook after arriving at Shoin Shrine. The Shoin Shrine is responsible for preserving Teacher Shoin's related materials, which were previously stored in an old storehouse. It was thought that this was inadequately managed, so even before I arrived, there was talk of building a proper storehouse. Then it was decided that if we were going to build a storehouse, we might as well build an exhibition. It took five years until construction began, with monthly meetings between the design manager, the company constructing the exhibition, the construction company and ourselves.
Another circumstance was that we were convinced that the materials, mainly the calligraphy of Teacher Shoin's own handwriting, should be designated as a Prefecturally Important Cultural Property, and, for this reason, we could not simply leave them in storage.
Kato: So they were actually designated as important cultural assets by the prefecture?
Ueda: Yes. Sometime after the Shiseikan was established, we consulted with the prefecture, and 311 of the approximately 3,000 materials were designated as cultural assets by the prefecture. In 1999, Sakamoto Ryoma's autograph scrolls owned by the Kyoto National Museum of Art were designated as a nationally important cultural property. We are planning to start a campaign to have Teacher Shoin's materials designated as a nationally important cultural property in the near future as well.
Kato: I am very happy that Teacher Shoin's footprints left behind have become more widely known to the general public as a result of the creation of the Shiseikan. Furthermore, I feel that the registration of the "Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution" as a World Heritage Site has enabled us to pass on the history of Japan to the next generation with the addition of a new perspective of modernisation.
Ueda: You are absolutely right. By the way, I would like to ask you one question: at what stage did the term 'Industrial Revolution' become clear?
Kato: There was much discussion about the title when we presented it to UNESCO. First of all, there was the opinion that the 'Kyushu-Yamaguchi' part in 'Sites of Kyushu-Yamaguchi Modernisation' should be taken out. We finally settled on the idea that the entire 23 properties in 11 cities in 8 prefectures, including Izunokuni City in Shizuoka Prefecture and Kamaishi City in Iwate Prefecture, have World Heritage value as a single World Heritage Site. Some people thought that this was a bigger story. The story of Japan's isolation from the rest of the world and the creation of a mass-production industrial system is of great significance in world history. It was decided that the term 'Industrial Revolution' would be more appropriate to describe this. There were some who resisted the idea that heavy industry alone should be considered an 'industrial revolution' while the textile industry also existed, and there were objections and arguments among scholars, but there is no doubt that it was an industrial revolution.
Ueda: You mentioned the great significance of this period in world history, but I am surprised by the speed of the period from the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji era. If you were to describe the strength of conviction, diligence and energy of the Japanese people in one word, it would be 'passion'.
Kato: It really is. Even if we only look at iron manufacturing, it only took about 30 years after the iron mines at Hashino in Kamaishi started mass-producing high-quality iron using the blast furnace method; they succeeded in operating a blast furnace using coke as a reductant. In Europe, it took about three centuries. In terms of ships, the company went from a single-masted, fragile Japanese-style ship to building a large, international-standard merchant ship, the Hitachimaru, in just 30 years or so. What I find most impressive is the fact that electricity was brought to Hashima Island, which was an isolated island in the sea. It is hard to believe that the technology to supply electricity via submarine cables from power generation facilities on Takashima was established in 1900 and that no other country in the world has succeeded in modernising so quickly in the 32 years since it opened to the outside world in 1868. I think Japan is the only one.
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)