♠ Visit the “Shoko Shuseikan” and World Heritage in Kagoshima
Walking around the Kyushu/Yamaguchi “Industrial Heritage” (2)
♣ Charm of Kagoshima World Industrial Heritage
The Satsuma（薩摩）of Kagoshima had strongly felt the military threats and the fear of colonization from European Power in the 19 century Edo period, which was under the seclusion policy. Then, Nariakira Shimazu（島津斉彬）, Satsuma’s Daimyo (Feudal lord), began a great operation of modernization of the military and industry, called the “Shuseikan”（集成館）Project in the 1850s. This Project had been pursuing the modernization of industry adopting Western technology, including the field of iron casting for gun barrel, large western style shipbuilding, as well as cotton spinning engineering.
These vestiges of facilities still remains in the Kagoshima area, and they were registered as the “World Industrial Heritage” by UNESCO in 2015 as a primary model of Japan’s industrial revolution.
These historic sites are scattered around the “Sengan-En”（仙巌園）Park in the Iso district of Kagoshima City now, for
example, the historic ruins of reverberatory furnace, blast furnace, shipyard, spinning plants, and others. Particularly, the “Shoko Shuseikan” （尚古集成館）is a most valuable historical archives to illustrate the whole picture of the “Shuseikan Project”.
I have visited the “Shoko Shuseikan” archive and other industrial sites this summer. The following ascription is this visit record of that time.
♣ What’s the “Shuseikan” Industry Project
Under the constant military threat from the Western power, the eleventh lord “Nariakira Shimazu” launched the radical reform of the administration in1952, and proceed the modernization project of science and industry called “Shuseikan” Project.
Specifically, he had focused on to the building of iron mills, shipbuilding yard, gunpowder plant, in addition to the non-military spinning factory and traditional glass crafts (薩摩切り子:Satsuma Facet) workshops. He had tried to absorb advanced knowledge of industrial technology by managing these production sites. These plants building were deemed the first rare example of setting up the modern industrial complex in Japan. However, The “Shuseikan” Project (the first stage) was sadly destroyed to ashes by the “Bombardment of Kagoshima”（薩英戦争）in 1858.
Afterward, the project wasn’t restored for a while, but re-emerged from 1965 by the new lord Tadayoshi Shimazu as the second “Shuseikan” Project . And this time, the Project was conducted by the direct technical assistance and introduction of modern machinery from UK and Netherlands. It has been evaluated as the epoch of birth of full-fledged factories in Japan. Additionally, the Shimazu has promoted young “Samurais”（侍:
Warriors）to study abroad for acquiring the new knowledge of advanced industrial technology and social systems. These people contributed a lot for advancing industrial modernization in the Meiji era later.
These factories and vestiges were currently designated as “the World Industrial Heritage,” along with many historical ruins of “Shuseikan” Project. But, these factories, most of them, were destroyed again by the “Seinan Senso” （西南戦争）civil war in 1878. But the “Machine Shop” could barely be survived and be kept the building as it was. Nevertheless, this memorial building was later
transformed to the archives named “Shoko Shuseikan Archive” in 1919, and now it is hoped to commemorate the achievement of “Shuseikan” activities and tries to show the entire pictures of the project for the later generation. In this way, the ”Shuseikan” was praised as a good example of the initial efforts to build up modern industries in the Edo period.
♣ Factory ruins of the ”Shuseikan” Site
As mentioned earlier, the most factories that made by the ”Shuseikan” Project w
ere lost, but some historical ruins are found around the Iso area of Kagoshima. The main ones are the vestiges of “blast furnace”, “Satsuma facet” craft workshop located in the “Sengan-En” area. And the other sites, such as the “Gungen” water mill (use for
spinning), the “Sekiyoshi water canal (generated the power for the factory), and “Terayama” charcoal plant (supplied iron-making raw materials), can be found in the adjacent area of Kagoshima. However, the most important site would be the Satuma style’s “Reverberatory Furnace”. This was built in 1852 by Statsuma’s own design in reference to the Dutch technology book. The first furnace wasn’t success in building, but the second ones has been successfully producing the casting iron and the practical cannons n 1857. At the same time, the “Blast Furnace” has been built in 1954 using the Satsuma method of rockwork and water wheel bellows.
On the other hand, the Shogunate of Edo had banned so far the construction of large vessel in the Edo period, then the single mast (150 tons) “large junk” (千石船：Sengoku Bune) was the upper limit of scale. But, the Satsuma had dare to assemble the warship “Shoheimaru” 「昇平丸」by mounting a full-length 31 meters, 370 tons, with 16 cannon in 1953 beyond the government restriction. The Satsuma also challenged to make the steamboat “Unｋomaru” (雲行丸)」in 1955 by own shipbuilding technology. The performance of the steam engine itself wasn’t so excellent, but it became a great step to build the steamboat only by using only Dutch book for reference, which deemed to show their high level of technical capabilities of that time. It was reported the Dutch naval officer had amazed the potential technology power when he inspected the ship.
♣ Wonder of “Shoko Shuseikan” and Engineer House of spinning plant
The “Shoko Shuseikan” exhibits valuable historical materials to record the entire history of the project and its progress and achievements, as mentioned earlier. Inside the exhibition hall, visitors can find a lot of evidence of the results of the project, such as the chronology of contribution of Nariakira Shimazu, pictorial diagram illustrating the “Shuseikan” project, mock model of reverberatory furnace and shipbuilding yard, and other monuments.
The particular features of this archive were that is displaying the actually used machines and facilities, and its products as it was in the time of Edo. Many of them were imported directly from Europe, such as metal shaper, press-cutting machine, lathe, carding machine and others. The machine, which seemed particularly significant one among them, was a large gear machine purposed to transmit the power from steam engine to the metal flywheel in the factory.
In the meantime, the core of the second “Shuseikan” Project was a construction of a spinning factory. For this purpose, the project has installed the imported latest machinery, and invited engineers from UK to design the plant and to conduct technical guidance to the factory engineers. The symbol of technical guidance was the “Engineers House” which was built in 1967 along with the completion of the factory. After the factory completed, the British engineers have worked hard and fostered the more than 200 excellent spinning engineers during their one-year stay. It seemed it brought a great result of the virtual cycles of teaching and training by the foreign engineers and diligent trainees.
On the other hand, regarding spinning plant construction, the contribution of Samurai scholar was never forgettable. Kakutaro Ishikawa’s, who was a Dutch Studies（蘭学）expert, advised to the Satsuma to proceed the modern industry like power spinning. And young Samurais, who were studying abroad, cooperated with the administration of “Shuseikan” project too because of recognizing the importance modernization manufacturing like mechanical spinning for making the country strong by learning England history.
Later, the spinning industry has grown up fast as a major export industry of Japan, and laid the foundation of the modern textile industry in the Meiji period. It was said that the trained engineers in this Satsuma have actively engaged in the activity to promote the spinning and weaving industry, and trained the workers in the various places throughout Japan.
In this sense, the historic significance of this Satsuma’s “Engineers House” training activities are clear. When the author has visited the “House” , it was reshaped and became a kind of exhibition hall to show the various samples and things about the engineers life, monument of old spinning plant, and others. These made me imagine about the old days of the “Shuseikan” project.
♣ Meaning and impressions of Shuseikan Project
The Satsuma’s “Shuseikan Project”, both of the first stage and the second one, has shown the brave challenge to modernized the industrial power and revolutionize the society even under the institutional constraints of the feudal era. These efforts were rewarded as the shape of the Meiji Restoration and Industrial Revolution of Meiji in the 19 century. However, these attempts were actually a long tireless process of the trial and error. We can figure out this process in the “Shuseikan” activities. It showed a kind of unique fusion of traditional technology and new adopted-technology to transcend the boundary of existing engineering capability. Particularly, the “Shusenkan” Project was a big scale and organizational scheme, and seemed to play important roll industrialization of Japan in this meaning.
So it would be a natural move that the “Shuseikan” historic sites have been registered as the “Meiji Japan’s industrial revolution heritage” in 2015.
I have finished the visit while praying these historic sites will be kept well and be appreciated for long. For the people who live in the Tokyo area, the sites are a bit far, but it’s worth to visit. Particularly, it would be wonderful to inspect the Shuseikan sites while looking the beautiful view of Sakurajima mountain over the sea.
(Note: The article has referred and quoted from the following materials)
- 図録 薩摩のモノづくり「島津斉彬の集成館事業」（尚古集成館）