The Meiji Government made the decision to build the Imperial Steel Works in the small village in Yawata, next to the sea and close to the coal-rich Chikuho area. After Japan gained the capacity of building large ships, factory machines and railways, the demand for iron and steel rose dramatically. It was essential for both military and domestic use. The inauguration of the Imperial Steel Works in 1901 marked the beginning of a major phase in Japanese iron and steel technology.
Engineers and foremen from Germany were recruited for the construction and inauguration of operations, together with Japanese skilled workers from Kamaishi Ironwroks.
In February 1901, No.1 Blast Furnace was blown-in, followed by open-hearth furnaces, Bessemer converters and mills for the manufacturer of steel sheets, small and medium sections, rails and other rolled products. The main equipment supplier was Gutehoffnungshütte Co (GHH). In the beginning, the Blast Furnace was not successful. Japanese engineers modified the design and successful operation followed in 1904. Yawata established a solid technological foundation and launched a three-phase expansion programme. Their initial annual steel production target was 60,000 tons per year. In 1901, Yawata's annual output exceeded 150,000 tons.
As the first successful fully integrated iron and steel mill in Japan, the Imperial Steel Works exhibits a turning point in the transition to heavy industry, from its time of establishment through its developmental period. This marked the beginning of a major phase in the history of iron and steel making in Japan, Asia, and the wider industrial world. The large-scale steelworks, founded by the State, embodies the successful transplant (with Japanese adaptation) of large-scale German blast furnace and steel-making technology to Japan at the end of the nineteenth century.
First Head Office
The First Head Office of the Imperial Steel Works was built in 1899, ahead of production facilities. It is an architectural fusion of Japanese and European design, a two storey red brick building with bilateral symmetry and a central dome set in a Japanese tile roof. It was a place where strategic decision-making took place during the establishment of Japan’s first integrated iron and steel mill.
The steel-framed repair workshop was built by GHH in 1900. It was used for the fabrication and assembly of all parts and the repair of machinery used at the Steel Works. It is the oldest existing steel-structured building in Japan and, more than 100 years later, is still a repair shop. The facility houses its original travelling crane and it is still in use for maintenance work. The steel frame used in the earlier sections of the workshop were rolled with the mark of the German steel manufacturer GHH, whilst the later sections of the expansion phases used the steel products made by the Imperial Steel Works in Yawata - a testimony to the rapid technology transfer from Germany to Japan.
Former Forge Shop
The Former Forge Shop was built in 1900 using designs and steel products from the German steel manufacturer, GHH for the purpose of manufacturing forgings such as large scaled spanners, chisels, hammers and stands for machine mounting needed for the construction of the steelworks. The structure of the building is steel framing. The building is 55m long (the initial 25m was expanded to 55m), a 15m span, and a 7.4m eaves height. The building was doubled in size with an addition that mirrored the original section, in 1909. Though built originally to the north of the Repair Shop, it was moved to its present location in 1917 and thereafter utilized as a product testing station. Because of changes in its use over time, no original equipment from its smithy or testing station phases exist intact, though the tiled floor of the testing era survives.
Photos: Yawata Works, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation
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|Designation||Structure of Landscape Importance|
|Address:||Ogura,etc Yahatahigashi, Kitakyushu city, Fukuoka|
|Tel:||093-582-2922 (Kitakyushu city government)|