Hagi and World Industrial Heritage

Record of visiting around the WIH Japan (1) Hagi area

九州山口 世界産業遺産関連博物館を巡る①

Hagi World Heritage Visiting Center “Manabiya”and Several Remains in Hagi City

♣  Outline of World Industrial Heritage in Hagi Area

Hagi logo    Several historic industrial sites in Hagi area (Yamaguchi Pref.) were registered as the “World Heritage” by UNSCO under the name of “Meiji Japan’s Industrial Revolution Heritage” in 2015. The reverberatory furnace, old shipyard site, Shokason-Juku academy
Hagi- Illust 05 heritages.JPGand other two facilities were selected. Then the Hagi city has set up a special facility “ Hagi World Heritage Visitors Center ‘Manabiya’” and started to advertise the details about the selected heritage sites commemorating of the nomination. This summer, I had an opportunity to travel to Hagi and chanced to visit this “Manabiya” and several heritages sites there.

Hagi- Illust 02.JPGThe Hagi (former “Choshu clan’s castle town) is well known to bear the renowned figures, and to construct the important facilities which advanced the modernization and industrialization of Japan. The UNESCO has recognized this contribution, and designated the Hagi area as an place forming the roots of the Meiji industrial revolution. The visit i was a short, but I could feel the atmosphere of the industrial modernization of Japan in the 19c Edo period and dawn of Meiji.

The following is the impression of visit this time.

(Note: Please refer to my Home Page describing “World Industrial Heritage HP” (http://   ) and itself is already HP, please refer to)

♣  “Manabiya” World Heritage Visitor Center

Hagi- Manabiya01  The six selected historic sites were, the Hagi castle town, Hagi reverberatory furnace,
Ebisugahama shipyard, Tatara steel ruins, and Shokason-Juku academy.
The “Manabiya” tried to show u

p cultural background of the industrial revolution in Japan, and the footprints of major figures in Meiji who had promoted the Meiji Restoration and industrialization, as well as the heritage sites themselves. It is well known that the “Choshu” clan nurtured the mainstays of the Meiji Restoration. And, many of them had studied at the private academy named “Shokason-Juku”, in wHagi- Manabiya 02hich they were aware of the industrial power of Western world, and tried to narrow the existed gap through the modernization of society and industrialization.

Hagi- Hirofumi xx  For example, Hirobumi Ito, later became the Prime Minister, contributed to the construction of a steelHagi- Endo xx
blast furnace at the Yahata, Yozo Yamao established the engineering college “Kobu-Daigakko” (later became University Tokyo) for the first time in Japan. Kinsuke Hagi- Yamao xx.JPGEndo became the president of the first Mint Bureau for stabilizing Japanese money system, and Hagi-Inoue xx.JPGMasaru Kaneko initiated the railway business and technology, and referred as “Father of Railway” in Japan.

In the “Manabiya”, visitors are available necessary information how they had
contributed to the industrial development of the Meiji Era. It’s a good facility to get the knowledge about the Meiji Japan’s industrial revolution and the heritage sites in Hagi area.

♣  Significance of “Shokason-Juku” Academy

The personality of Shoin Yoshida, a school master of “Juku”, was characterized as a philosopher with pure but a bit abstract thought, and a military theorist with radical spirit. Hagi- Juku 01.JPG Hagi- Juku 02.JPG  However, from seeing the exhibition in this “Manabiya”, I have realized that he had have surprisingly broad vision and recognized the reality of the world well. So it was natural thing that

at the “Juku” academy the students could learn much about the world from Yoshida through his lecture, for example, using the “Koyo Zushiki” (World Geography Book) Hagi- Juku 03and the “Komou YowaHagi- Five xx.JPG(Confucian Story) as text books. On the other hand, the Mouri Daimyo clan of Hagi had liberally disseminated the education among the Samurai class and even ordinary people by the establishment of “Meirinkan” school. These series of education activities had given the strong
Hagi- Map x2determination to study abroad for the young elite class even they were under the strict travel ban at that time. And with the results of study at “Juku” and the experience of learning overseas, the young elites in Hagi have grown to act major driving force of the Meiji Restoration, such as “Choshu Five” personnel who absorbed a
lot of Western advanced knowledge in Europe and tried to apply them to the Industrialization in Japan.
It’s fair to say that the successful Meiji Industrial Revolution had never been realized without their dedications and their overseas learning experience. In this meaning, it is natural that the “Shokason-Juku” academy and the education systems of the castle town of Hagi have been nominated as one of the World Heritage sites.

♣  Challenge of Hagi Reverberatory Furnace

     The “Hagi Reverberatory Furnace” is a symbolic presence of this heritage nomination. The reverberatory furnace is said to be the primary metal melting device which had been developed in the West. This furnace, with reflecting the heat generated in the combustion chamber (heat rays and combustion gas) to the ceiling and wHagi- Furnace.JPGalls, concentrates heat to a hearth, and refines the iron metal in the floor. This is a large-scale casting apparatus which had never been available in the “Tatara steel” methods. But Japan’s craftsman had tried to make up them by using the Dutch design book only. It was really reckless adventure in a sense, but it was finally completed even though it limited to the experimental stage.Hagi- Furnace x1.JPG

The Hagi clan has built this furnace ahead of the other regions, and tried to make gun barrel in order to defend military threat from the West. Some other clans had also built the similar furnaces, but the existing furnaces are only two units, say, Hagi’s furnace and Nirayama’s one in Shizuoka, central Japan. These are all valuable heritage to record the pioneering effort of Western-style iron-making technology of Japan.

Hagi- Illust 04.JPGThis experience of furnace construction had benefited much to build the first full-blown modern blast furnace in the Yahata region, northern Kyushu, in the mid-Meiji period, and they had formed the base of the steel industry in Japan later.

Currently this important facility is put on the top of the small hill in the Hagi city suburbs, and it is now quietly telling the 100 years history.

♣  Hagi’s Historic Shipyard Heritage


The Shogunate had prohibited the building of large ships in the Edo era. Therefore, Hagi- shipyard 01.JPGthe shipbuilding technology with multiple masts and steam power were not existed in the Edo period. However, the Daimyos of western Japan was afraid of the thread of Western colonial warships, and decided to build the Western-style warships for their own defense.

Under these situations, the Hagi’s Daymyo had built
a Russian-type warship “Heishinn Maru” in 1856, and “Koshin Maru” in 1860 consequently by studying Dutch technology. These were Hagi- shipyard 03.JPGbuilt at the “Ebisugahana” shipyard ruins in Hagi city. The warship was, in fact, a wooden sailing ship, instead of a steam power big ship, because of the technical limits at that time. However, it had a great implication to the modernization of shipbuilding, because these had been completed by fully Japanese craftsman’s technologies with the repeated trial and error efforts, and it had also done by the design drawing maps only brought by Dutch. The traditional techniques of Japan had been applied too, such as the “Tatara Steel” iron was used for the component parts for the warship building.

That kind of fusionHagi-Tatara 02 had contributed s lot to the shipbuilding technology in Japan, and advanced the shipbuilding industry in the Meji era and the afterward. That challenge had been done here in Hagi shipyard ruins. I felt that the designation of the historical site for the World Heritage was reasonable.

Previously this shipyard ruins has been never attractive much among the people, but after the designation of the World Heritage, the visitors were increased and local volunteers became quite active as guide and other activities. I have assumed that these performance contribute a lot to the revitalization of local community.

♣  Position of “Hagi” in the World Industrial Heritage

Hagi- Illust 01 try and errorThe industrial heritage of Hagi seems very important to see the effort of trial and error process for advancing modernization of the industrial technology in the dawn period of Meiji, and give us a chance to examine how was it emulated the Western advanced science and technology toward Japan in the initial time. Above all, there we can find the footprints of figures who had played the major rolls in the Meiji Restoration and industrial revolution in Japan.

It was really a meaningful experience for me to look over the roots of Japan’s industrial technology evolution.




「明治日本の産業革命遺産と萩」2015 萩博物館刊行


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