Voice of the world


Sir Neil Cossons

former Chairman of English Heritage

Sir Neil Cossons

Japan has a distinctive and distinguished industrial heritage which deserves the widest support. Commitment from Japan's industrial, corporate and financial sectors is especially important, not least because it affords an example to the wider community of the value of caring for what matters in Japan's rise as one of the World's great industrial societies.

Sir Neil Cossons

"Sir Neil Cossons has spent a lifetime in historic conservation and from 2000 to 2007 was Chairman of English Heritage, the United Kingdom Government's principal adviser on the historic environment of England. He has chaired the

Expert Advisory Committee for the Kyushu Yamaguchi World Heritage Nomination

and is currently a member of the Japan Government Advisory Committee on Industrial Heritage."

Stuart B. Smith

Secretary General, TICCIH

Stuart B. Smith

The Re-Discovery of Japan's Industrialisation

Forty years ago, in June 1973, the first international conference for those involved with industrial preservation was held in Ironbridge, Shropshire, England, under the auspices of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. Its Director was Sir Neil Cossons, and Stuart Smith was its first Curator. This inaugural conference was followed by one three years later in Bochum, Germany, where several Japanese delegates were present. Subsequently this conference became established as The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH) which has held General Assemblies every three years since, the latest being held in Taiwan in November 2012, where Stuart Smith resigned as General Secretary after 26 years. TICCIH is the only world organisation for the preservation of the industrial heritage and has a reciprocal agreement with ICOMOS whereby it advises on industrial sites on a worldwide basis and is particularly concerned with potential industrial world heritage sites.

Whilst Ironbridge is best known for the iconic symbol of the Iron Bridge, the first bridge to be built of iron in the world, it is more properly recognised as the birthplace of industrialisation as it was here in 1709 that Abraham Darby I, a Quaker Ironmaster, developed the technique of making iron with coke rather than with charcoal, which allowed the iron industry to expand dramatically. The site of this first Darby furnace is carefully preserved in Coalbrookdale, now under the protection of a modern cover building.

By 1990 Ironbridge had become a World Heritage Site and Stuart Smith was its Director, but it still came as a surprise to be invited to open the Itohara Memorial Museum of Iron, Yoshidamura, Shimane, Japan, where as part of their museum displays they had erected a full scale replica of the Darby furnace in Coalbrookdale. Stuart was amazed not only by this museum with its fabulous interpretation, but also by the strangeness of Japanese Society - he could not read anything, there were no pictograms, driving would have been impossible and the use of the telephone was extremely difficult. Despite all this he fell in love with Japan with its wonderful traditions and ceremonies. In particular, Stuart was pleased to see the Japanese method of making iron in a Tatara furnace which is unique to Japan.

In 1992 Stuart moved from Ironbridge to Cornwall, the most south westerly peninsular of England, to help Cornwall County Council and the National Trust to develop this area as a world heritage site of Cornish Mining, establishing The Trevithick Trust – named after Cornwall’s most famous engineer. Shortly after Stuart arrived in Cornwall, a young Japanese student – Koko Kato, a postgraduate in town planning from Harvard – arrived to research a book about industrial preservation throughout the world.

Koko’s book was finally published in 1999 entitled The Industrial Heritage – historical voyage through the life of the everyday man, with descriptions of many sites in the UK, Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland the USA. It had taken her many years to finalise the book, but in the meantime she had two babies and the Trans-Pacific Group which she built up had developed from two members of staff to 40. Such was Koko’s enthusiasm, which continues to this day.

Later in 1999 Stuart was invited to Japan to attend a conference in Kitakyushi, after which he toured for a few days with Koko. Similar progress was made in 2002 with an extended tour of Kyushu, where Stuart and Koko first encountered Nagasaki, staying on the Hotel Ship Victoria and for the first time visiting Gunkanjima by boat, although not being allowed to land there which only happened some eight years later.

A more extensive tour took place in 2002 after Stuart had attended another conference, this time taking in Beshii copper mine and Niihama. By this time Stuart had met Kimiyasu Shimazu the head of the Satsuma Clan at the fabulous Castle Hotel overlooking Kagoshima Bay, the most southerly city in Japan, had viewed the Shuseikan Museum in Kagoshima and was gradually coming to the conclusion that there were sufficient sites surviving in Japan to warrant Japan putting forward a nomination for a World Heritage Site based on its industrial heritage. This was further confirmed in 2003, the year that Stuart left The Trevithick Trust, where a world forum on industrial heritage vitalisation was held as part of the International Mining History Congress in Akabira, Hokkaido. The supporting programme for the Congress was organised by Koko Kato and featured speakers from several countries with a long mining heritage. Stuart was privileged to be the principal speaker and it was particularly interesting to see the community involvement in this project from all over Japan. This was the first time, for instance, that the coal mining dance from Tagawa was experienced by many present.

In 2005 a group of international experts led by Professor Henry Cleere was invited to Iwami‑Ginzan to give their opinion as to whether this could be a World Heritage Site, and a further tour took place later in the year with Koko Kato looking at other sites of interest.

On all these visits it was Koko who did the organisation, the driving, and largely the financing, and during the Iwami‑Ginzan site inspection first contact was made with the staff of the Cultural Agency which would prove so useful later on.

By 2007 it was becoming obvious that there were sufficient sites surviving of high quality in Kyushu and Yamaguchi for a viable World Heritage Site application to go forward. Numerous lectures had been given in every conceivable city, sometimes on several different occasions, all to widespread enthusiasm. Koko involved herself in setting up a Consortium under the guidance of Governor Ito of Kagoshima, an organisation which might steer a World Heritage Site application.

This all came together in a grand meeting in Kagoshima, chaired by Governor Ito, where six Prefectures and nine Cities were represented and an outline of the proposed World Heritage Site was presented by Stuart. The meeting concluded with the Kagoshima Agreement signed by Stuart and the Governor and all those Prefectures and Cities present.

Stuart involved himself with bringing various foreign experts to Japan in order to confirm his own views as to the viability of the project. These visitors included Professor Henry Cleere the World Heritage Coordinator for ICOMOS, Sir Neil Cossons the recently retired head of English Heritage and previously Director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, and Barry Gamble the author of the Cornwall and West Devon mining World Heritage Site application.

Shortly afterwards Stuart was invited to make a presentation to the Cultural Agency on behalf of the Consortium outlining the ideas for the proposed World Heritage Site, as a result of which Stuart Smith and Sir Neil Cossons were named as lead consultants and invited to put together a team who would be able to assess the vast number of sites being put forward by all the Prefectures and Cities in Kyushu and Yamaguchi, and even by others outside this geographical area.

The eventual members of this team included experts from the UK, Holland, Australia, China and India who made numerous expeditions between 2010 and 2013 in order to produce the best possible number of sites which might represent Japan’s application to become a World Heritage Site of the industrialisation of Japan.

There have been several fact finding missions to industrial world heritage sites in the UK by delegations of Governors, Mayors, elected officials and local government officers over the last few years. These have proved most useful in convincing our Japanese colleagues that activities in world heritage sites can still continue without becoming fossilised.

Until this application all World Heritage Sites were handled by the Cultural Agency who have a wonderful track record of conservation, preservation and interpretation of Japan’s historic and natural sites. This proposed application includes sites which are still operational – such as the Nagasaki Mitsubishi shipyard, the Yawata Ironworks and the Miike port – which cannot be covered by cultural law as they are still in operation. However the Japanese government has established a committee under the auspices of the Cabinet Office which will treat these sites individually and protect them by established laws controlled by other government departments. It thus appears possible that UNESCO will be satisfied by this level of protection, particularly as the Japanese government has also adopted the joint ICOMOS/TICCIH Principles on the Preservation of the Industrial Heritage, as ratified in France at the ICOMOS General Assembly in 2011. Thanks should also be expressed to the many tens of thousands of hours given by local government officers, volunteers and academics in providing the information that was needed by the experts, both international and Japanese, who had the formidable task of reducing the many hundreds of potential sites down to a worthwhile and significant number.

This led to heart searching over the decision to drop the Battery sites at Shimonoseki and Kagoshima, which many people felt were fundamental to the story and which survived in good order, and to the omission of lighthouse sites in case they incurred international comparisons which would not be valid. However, if the application is successful then it is sure that all these industrial sites and sites of conflict will be able to benefit indirectly from World Heritage Status.

Along the way we discovered the highly organised society of Hagi with its revolutionary educational department; the emotionally important site at Shimonoseki where the Choshu Clan realised that they could not beat Western armaments; and similar battery sites in Kagoshima where the future direction of Japan was decided. The failure of feudal Japan to dispel the foreigner was decisive and led to immediate action by the southern Clans to overthrow the Tokugawa government which led to what is now known as the Meiji Restoration. During the period from 1868 to 1912 Japan underwent a metamorphosis which is unparalleled anywhere in the rest of the world. In 1860 Japan was a totally enclosed society but by the end of the Meiji era in 1910 she was a proud exhibitor at the Japan‑Britain Exhibition in London which attracted six million visitors in a few months. By this time Japan had also acquired an Empire in Formosa (Taiwan), Korea and Manchuria, and was often described as the England of the East.

Of particular importance was the fact that this was self‑industrialisation, as although many foreign advisers were involved, control was always in the hands of the Japanese government. However, many of these individuals had been trained in Europe, whether it be England, Scotland, Germany of France, to bring back the best of these countries’ ideas, customs and technology to Japan.

The application now being considered by the Japanese government to go forward as a potential World Heritage Site stops at 1910 with the successful operation after some years of the Yawata Ironworks. The subsequent involvement of Japan with the First World War on behalf of the Allies does not play any part in this story, nor do the excesses of the Japanese army in Manchuria during the 1920s and 1930s have any significance. The Pacific War was the unfortunate outcome of the Imperial designs of the Japanese armed forces, resulting in the Allied use of atomic weapons. For this reason many people chose to avoid discussing the period from the Meiji restoration onwards but there is very little to be ashamed of in the incredible pace of technological and social development which took place during the 40 years between 1868 and 1908. This heroic period of Japanese development is something of which they should be proud, and it is something which is of world significance, not only because Japan became one of the world’s superpowers, but because at the same time Japanism swept the world creating the Arts and Crafts movement and also Art Nouveau, and a profound admiration for Japanese culture.

Now is the time to inform the Japanese nation and the rest of the world of the importance of Japanese industrialisation and to celebrate it by making sure that it becomes a World Heritage Site.

Dietrich Soyez