OUV:outstanding universal value

Executive Summary

Emergence of Industrial Japan

Japan built the foundation of industrial nation from the mid 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century.

Meiji Japan’s transformation into an industrial nation in the second half of the 19th century was a phenomenon at that time unique in the history. In the mid 19th century Japan was a secluded island archipelago in the Far East, geographically remote from the economic and industrial dynamism of Europe and North America. The influence of Western science and technology was limited due to the strict control of foreign information, contact with the West, and particularly the ban to build large vessels to sail the high seas under the Tokugawa seclusion policy. Alerted by the sudden appearance of the United States Far Eastern Squadron in Edo Bay in 1853, the Tokugawa Shogunate responded by lifting its two centuries-old seclusion policy. Soon afterwards, amid major social and political turmoil, the Shogunate conceded its power to the Samurais in Clans led by the Western and Southern domains. Following the opening of the nation, the new Meiji government went through the pains and the social reform of the Meiji Restoration and adopted a policy to promote industry as a national goal. This transfer of Western industrialization to Asia was unique in not being controlled by external colonial or economic powers, with foreign advisors hired on contract and who trained Japanese to build the infrastructure needed to industrialise. In just 50 years traditional Japan, little changed for centuries, was rapidly transformed into an industrial society on its own terms. “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” is testimony to the change wrought during this transformation to heavy industry from the mid 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century.

Japan is the first non-Western nation to industrialise through a self-determined strategy. Through industrialisation Japan was able to profoundly influence the nation’s social, economic and strategic prospects. This established Japan’s position irrevocably in its own geo-political orbit and ultimately its place on the world stage. In a little over half a century, Japan was universally recognised as an industrial nation. The extraordinary achievement was characterised by a forthright process of adopting and adapting Western industrial technologies, especially in the heavy industrial sectors of iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining. The component sites demonstrate all key historical phases in this unique process.

List of 23 Component Parts

Area Site Component Part
Hagi Hagi proto-industrial Heritage
Kagoshima Shuseikan
Nirayama Nirayama Reverberatory Furnaces Nirayama Reverberatory Furnaces
Kamaishi Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site
Saga Mietsu Naval Dock Mietsu Naval Dock
Nagasaki Nagasaki Shipyard
Takashima Coal Mine
Glover House and Office Glover House and Office
Miike Miike Coal Mine and Miike Port Miike Coal Mine and Miike Port
Misumi West Port Misumi West Port
Yawata The Imperial Steel Works, Japan