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Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial

Table of Contents

Hagi (Yamaguchi Prefecture)

Kagoshima (Kagoshima Prefecture)
Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Kamaishi (Iwate Prefecture)
Mietsu Naval Dock Ruins (Saga Prefecture)
Nagasaki (Nagasaki Prefecture)
Miike (Fukuoka and Kumamoto Prefectures)
Misumi West Port (Kumamoto Prefecture)
Kitakyushu (Fukuoka Prefecture)

Spread across eight prefectures, the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution (
, Meiji Nihon no Sangy Kakumei Isan) highlight the country's rapid
development into an industrial power in the second half of the 19th century. They are
mainly related to iron and steel production, cannon forging, shipbuilding and coal
mining. In July 2015, the sites received world heritage status.
Towards the end of the Edo Period (1603-1867), Japan was desperate to modernize her
armed forces, manufacturing industry and other aspects of society in order to stave o
encroachment by the imperialist Western powers and establish herself as a strong,
independent nation. Through the import of Western technology, Japan was successful in
closing the gap with Europe and America to become the rst industrialized country in
Asia over the period of just half a century.
The world heritage sites number over twenty and are spread across various parts of
Japan. For better understanding, they can be grouped into nine clusters, six of which
are located on Kyushu and one each in Yamaguchi, Shizuoka and Iwate Prefectures.
They are listed below in an order that illustrates their relevance from a chronological

1 Hagi (Yamaguchi Prefecture)

The capital city of one of the two leading, rebelling clans behind the Meiji Restoration,
Hagi was the site of early, local eorts to improve industrial technology. Standing in
separate locations outside of the city center are a reverberatory furnace, some dock
remains and iron manufacturing ruins, which were constructed with the aim to build
Western-style naval ships using traditional Japanese iron-making techniques. Also
among the sites are the Shokason Juku School where several of the pioneers
instrumental to Japan's modernization were schooled, and the city's former castle

2 Kagoshima (Kagoshima Prefecture)

The capital city of the other leading clan behind the Meiji Restoration, Kagoshima
made early eorts to strengthen the country's defenses through cannon casting and
shipbuilding. The sites are all related to the Shuseikan industrial complex around
Senganen Garden, including the ruined foundations of a furnace, a machine factory
(now housing a museum) and a residence for foreign engineers. Additional sites on the
hills above include a ruined charcoal kiln and the remains of a sluice gate which
provided the factory with charcoal and hydropower.

3 Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace (Shizuoka

The Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace on the Izu Peninsula was completed by the
Tokugawa government in 1857, marking a turning point towards modern iron
production in Japan. The iron smelted on site was cast into cannons to be used in
coastal defenses. Constructed of local Izu stones, the Nirayama Furnace is the most
complete reverberatory furnace of its time left, with its furnace bodies and four
chimneys still standing.

4 Kamaishi (Iwate Prefecture)

Located farthest apart from the other sites, the Hashino Blast Furnace in Kamaishi in
the Tohoku Region was the rst Western-style blast furnace built in Japan. Only some
foundations and ruins are left of the three blast furnaces and of the water-powered
bellows. The site is located deep in the forested mountains between central Kamaishi
and Tono, in an area were magnetite was originally found. The Iron and Steel Museum
in central Kamaishi provides visitors with more information about Kamaishi's industrial

5 Mietsu Naval Dock Ruins (Saga Prefecture)

The Mietsu Naval Dock in Saga Prefecture was established in 1858 as the country's
rst dry dock for shipbuilding and repair. Japan's rst steamship was constructed here.
The site was excavated in the past but covered up with soil again afterwards. As a
result, there is very little for visitors to see if it wasn't for virtual reality goggles, which
are available for free from the adjacent Sano Tsunetami Memorial Museum. The
goggles allow visitors to see virtual recreations of the dock structures as they stood
here one and a half centuries ago.

6 Nagasaki (Nagasaki Prefecture)

The only port kept open to Western traders during Japan's era of seclusion, Nagasaki
was chosen as the site of the country's rst modern shipbuilding facilities and a naval
academy. The shipyards featured some of the most modern equipment of the time,
some parts of which are still in operation today. Across the bay on top of a hill stands
the spacious home of Thomas Glover, a Scottish merchant who was instrumental in
importing Western shipbuilding technology and establishing the nearby slip gate dock.
In addition, two islands o the coast, Takashima and Hashima (better known as
Gunkanjima) supported mines that produced the coal for use at the shipyards and the

steel works in Kitakyushu.

7 Miike (Fukuoka and Kumamoto Prefectures)

Numerous coal mines were established along the Ariake Sea in southern Fukuoka and
northern Kumamoto Prefecture, starting in the Meiji Period. The two best preserved of
them, Manda and Miyanohara, have been designated as world heritage sites. The
Manda mine, in particular, preserves not only the elevator structures but several other
surrounding brick buildings. Also designated were the nearby Miike Port and the
now-dysfunctional railway that connected the port with the various mines. The port
remains in use today and was groundbreaking for allowing large ships to dock
regardless of the sea's strong tides.

8 Misumi West Port (Kumamoto Prefecture)

The Misumi West Port was commissioned by the Meiji Government in 1884 and grew to
be a major shipping terminal for coal from Miike and commodities like rice, wheat and
our. However, it was only busy for about ten years before slowly falling into obscurity
due to a new railroad that connected only the nearby Misumi East Port. Today, the West
Port area preserves not only the beautiful stone quay, but also several restored
historical buildings that can be entered and house pleasant cafes.

9 Kitakyushu (Fukuoka Prefecture)

The state-owned Imperial Steel Works in Yawata, Kitakyushu, were built towards the
end of the Meiji Period and played a major role in the development of the modern steel
industry in Japan. The complex still operates under a private owner today, and its
historic buildings, including the former head oice, forge and repair shop sit preserved
within the factory grounds. Visitors are not allowed to approach, enter or photograph
the buildings but only view them from a distant platform. More satisfying can be a visit
to the nearby, preserved Higashida Daiichi blast furnaces (see photo), although they
are not on the list of world heritage sites.

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