Historical sites of Miike Coal Mines (part 2)
– Visit the “Omuta Coal Industrial Museum”
While visiting the historic sites of the Miike Coal Mines, I’ve visited the Omuta Coal
Industrial Museum. This museum used as one of the guiding facility for the visitors to the historical heritages of Miike coal mines in the northern Kyushu, since they were registered as a world cultural heritage in July 2015,
The museum is comprehensively exhibiting the historic materials related to the advancement of coal industries, particularly associated with the Miike coal mines. It seemed the museum was established to utilize this facility as a core promotion spot for the tourism industries around the Omuta area, as well as to remind people about the social background and technology challenges of the coal industry around the area.
In the museum, we can see a lot of learning materials which are displayed in the hall regarding the coal mining measures, products, and the developed technology by historical chart, dioramas and pictures, remodeling scenes, real working tools and equipment.
The contents and visit report were as follows.
♣ Exhibition Corner of Energy and Coal
In this corner, the historical role of coal products was shown with the brief explanation about how coal has been utilized for human life, besides describing about
development process of Miike mines. We could observe the exact structure of the coal bed, the real mass of coal products which dug out from the mines, and applications products made of coal, and others. They had also panels, photographs, three-dimensional models and the like that animate the real scene of early coal mining stage.
Real equipment, such as steam locomotives, gas lamps and various coal stoves, were also observable in this corner which indicates how coal has been utilized as an energy source since ancient time. The variety ways of coal application in industries were introduced in the relevant commentary, for example, the refining process and chemical products which were made from the coal, and the cokes for an iron making.
I felt it is a really “science museum” showing the role of coal products as industrial materials and energy source from early time to the present years.
♣ The Corner of Technology History of Coal Mines
Here, the transformation of coal mining technology was illustrated from the ancient
time to the modern period in the exhibition panel. As a matter of fact, mining work had been really difficult and severe. The main works were done by simple tools under the poor working conditions at least by the 1900s in Japan, and sometimes, the massive prison labor forces were mobilized to work there. However, as the times passed, the coal mining technology was gradually modernized, and shifted to the working style of mechanization using steam and electricity equipment. This history process was being told using mock models and board commentary panels in this section.
When looking at the early time of the Miike coal mines, the water drainage in the coal pits was an crucial, so various measures and technology were used to solve the problem. At this corner we can see lots of evidences of the technological evolution regarding them.
There are also showing plenty of exhibits of equipment and safety gears for coal mine workers from the early period to the recent time. These goods and tools could invoke our imagination about the scene of the inside coal pits and working conditions there.
♣ The corner of Omuta City and its relation with Coal Mines
This corner was showing the relationship between the Omuta’s social and economic situation and the development of coal mines which had been moved in parallel with the development of the Miike coal mines as a “coal mine’s town”. A number of pictures and photos were exhibited concerning the evolution of Omuta town and surrounding mining sites, such as the changing landscapes of Omuta region since the launching Miike coal mines. It is also showing the major technology adopted in the Miike coal mines, the railroad network and the construction of Miike port by which Omuta became the axis of coal production and loading base. The development process of the coal chemical manufacturing complex in Omuta area was also displayed.
By looking over these matters, it seemed revealed how greatly the social and economic situation of Omuta region has been affected. Therefore, in the midst of business declining of the coal industry, it looked crucial but very difficult how the Omuta could revitalize local community without coal industries in the future.
♣ “Dynamic tunnel” with experience of living mining site
All exhibitions show the full of charm, but “Dynamic Tunnel”, which provides visitors an opportunity to directly look at the actual coal mining sites, seemed to be the most attractive ones than any other exhibits. This was a “mock” site of the practical coal mines which have been operated at the Miike coal mine until recent days.
When a visitor stands on the entrance corner, the door is open and led him to a pseudo descending elevator. Then as the door reopens again, he is already in the deep tunnel of 400 meters down in the mining pit.
While looking around in the tunnel, the wall bet of the coal layers loomed in the dark, and suddenly appears the coal gathering site where the dummy mineworkers are digging, sorting the coal stones, and carrying out them by small
railways in the tunnel. As stepping in further inside, several modern mining machines can be found, such as Continia, Minor, and Hobel for mechanically and automatically digging and sorting coal mines.In addition, there is a road header to
drill the tunnel, a modern self-running machine and a drum cutter in the mining tunnel. They are rotating in high speed with thunder like sound. It is a really magnificent scene. I haven’t seen such mining sites before, so it was a quite impressive scene for me.
♣ Impression of visiting Miike Coal MInes
What I have impressed in the visit the Miike Mines was, first of all, how intense of the rise and fall of the coal industry in Japan, particularly around the Miike coal mines and the fate of Omuta region. In fact, along with steel and shipbuilding industry, the coal
mining industries in the Kyushu region had played the central role in the early period of industrial modernization of Japan.
But it has been rapidly falling down the position in the Showa era. It was particular impressive phenomena because these things happened after the glorious development years of the Meiji and Taisho period. It has been a really drastic change in terms of economic and industrial process, and it’s given a fundamental impact to the local economies like Omuta and its adjacent areas. So the remains of Miike mines seem to be illustrating a long story of coal mining development and indicating how coal industry has evolved technologically and socially in this process. This could be convinced by seeing the former mining sites and visiting the Coal Science Museum in Omuta. .
The second impression of me was that many local volunteers were participating in the guiding activities to cherish the valuable historical heritage around the area, especially after the Miike coal mines have been registered as “World Heritage”. They were enthusiastically guiding visitors by building a hut at the site of the remains.
In my visit to Miyanohara pit, a former mine worker has kindly guided me to the mine site, and explained the role of Miike mining and talked its history while mixing his own personal experience as a mining worker. Currently Omuta City has been energetically advancing the promotion projects of sightseeing using mining historical sites, along with promoting chemical factories and inviting pubic institutions.
The construction of the “Coal Industry Science Museum” would be one of the social institutions following in this line. I wish these efforts will bring some fruits in the future. This has been my small hope after the visiting the historical sites of Miike mines.
- 「世界文化遺産―三池炭鉱」ワークプレス刊 2016
- 大牟田の近代化産業遺産ホームページ https://www.miikecoalmines.jp/outline.html
- 宮原坑跡 大牟田の近代化産業遺産ホームページ https://www.miikecoalmines.jp/miyanohara.html
- 宮原抗跡 http://omuta-arao.net/history/tanko/miyahara.html
- 旧三池炭鉱専用鉄道敷 https://www.miikecoalmines.jp/rale.html
- 三池港 https://www.miike-coalmines.jp/port.html
- 大牟田のさまざまな近代化遺産 https://www.miikecoalmines.jp/others.html
- 三池炭鉱 万田坑 | 九州の世界遺産 http://www.welcomekyushu.jp/world_heritage/spots/detail/9