—– Explore the industrial heritage of Hashino Iron Mining in Kamaishi
♣ Significance of Hashino Iron Making site
In this June, I took a short trip to Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, to see their steelworks and observe the Hashino Iron Mining site which has designated as a World Industrial Heritage. The objective was to find the history of the Kamaishi Steelworks (currently the Nippon Steel Sumikin Kamaishi plant), and examine the Hashino Iron Mine which had been built as a first blast furnace in Japan at the end of the Edo period. And wanted to explore the root of development of iron and steel industries which believed to be one of important factors leading the industrial modernization of Japan in Meiji period.
It was a short trip, but I saw various relics of Japan’s first modern blast furnaces Japan at Hashino, and understand a bit how the iron making technology have been changed from the traditional “Tatara iron making” to the modern ones at that time.
Following parts are the summary of my observation on the current situation of the “Hashino” and a short comment on the historical move of iron industry in the Kamaishi region.
♣ Hashino iron mine as a world heritage
Hashino Iron Mine is located in the mountain area of Aonogi, Hashino town about 35 km northwest of Kamaishi city. We stayed at the hotel near the Kamaishi station the day before and headed for the site by taxi.
<Why Hashino iron mine was developed>
The remains of Hashino Iron Mine and its Blast Furnace are the historical heritage sites, and it is famous place where Oshima Takato, Samurai of Morioka clan, had built the Western style “blast furnace” for the first time in Japan by moderating the Dutch technical manual book on the iron making. The book title was ““Casting Method at Royal Royal Iron Cannon Foundry” which had been brought into Japan through Nagasaki and translated by Japanese Rangaku (Dutch Study) scholars.
Based on the description of the book, Oshima Takato was believed to build a unique furnace and iron production site in 1878 near the Aonogi mountain site. The first blast furnace and the iron production sites at Hashino are still reserved well as a relic in the area. There the stone structure of the Western-style blast furnaces is still standing as it is, even it’s an aged stone foundation only, And in the surroundings, people could spot many traces of workshops and others facilities for the iron making. It could be a good example to see where a bunch of the pig irons had been produced by the blast furnace and theprimitive iron works had been run in this place.
For this reason, the Hashino Iron Mine and its Blast Furnace site were designated as a historic heritage of the country in 1957, and even awarded the HL Award (Historical Landmark Award) from the American Metal Association (ASM) in 1984.
Meanwhile, prior to Hashino, actually, an experimental blast furnace of western style was constructed in 1857 at the Ohashi, Kasshi village as a matter of fact. But unfortunately the real site of it couldn’t be designated besides the stone inscription. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten the date December 1 of 1857, the old day of Ohashi is now named as an “iron memorial day”, as it is said the furnace there believed to succeed in tapping row iron for the first time in history.
<The reason of construction of Western blast furnace>
The main reason of construction of furnace was that the strong obsession of Edo government under the challenge of foreign fleets pushed the move to make up any iron canons to ward off the Western warships for the maritime defense, and then they required the huge volume of pig iron for the production at that period.
Meanwhile, the Mito Daimyo clan has tried to build a “Reverberatory Furnace” to make canons in Naka-Minato by the request of the Shogunate at that time, so they were required huge volume of pig irons as a raw material for its operation,
That time, Oshima, who had stayed in the Mito clan, was asked to cooperate this project and looked for the iron mine around Kamaishi of the Morioka, which was thought to hold huge potential resource of iron ore, along with abundant charcoal producing forests for the fuel for the furnace. So he selected this area in order to respond to Mito’s requirement, and decided to build the blast furnaces there as the iron production site. In this result, Hashino Iron Mining area was quickly cultivated and developed extensively in short time. And in the Hashino, three blast furnaces were subsequently built, and solid production system was built up as the large-scale iron workshops.
These iron sites are now regarded a valuable historical sites as one of the initial challenges to try to form Japan’s modernized steel making industry which had later been led to the government Yawata steelmaking technically and historically. So as it looked the good reason why it was designated as one of the “Industrial Revolution in Meiji Japan Heritage” in 2015 “World heritage“.
♣ Current State of and its Blast Furnaces
To visit the Hashino Iron Mine it’s good to access to “Kamaishi City’s Hashino Iron Mine Information Center” first. The staff will kindly provide the necessary information on the site with giving useful guide map. In my case, a local staff guided me to the necessary spots with deliberate explanation.
The Hashino Iron Mine site is located upstream of the Futamata river which is flowing down through the Aonoki area of Hatano Town, and surrounded by the rather high mountain. The iron making sites are consisted of three parts in row from top to the bottom, like the from the beginning of the ore digging site, then the ore carrying alley along the ridge, finally then getting to the blast furnace situated in the lower terrace.
There are three blast furnaces are situated in Hashino in all, from the south, No.1, No. 2, No. 3 on the hill, and these blast furnaces remained the stone structure as the foundation keeping original form at the time of construction. In the vicinity area, the ruins of waterwheels used for the Fuigo (Japanese bellow) were found, in addition, the trace of waterway, and several relics of iron workshops, the landmarks of management office used in the Edo era, named “Ohi Harai Ba” (Payroll Office for workers) , are spotted too.
On the mountain side, the ruins of stone cutting working sites, the monument of the Mountain Gods, called “Yamagami shrine”, and other mining relics.
As for the producing process , it is said that the iron ores were dug out at the mountain site first with simple tools, then they were carried out down through the mountain route with bare hands or by loading cattle power the workshop area, and there they were crushed into small pieces and burned to remove impurities. After that, the processed ores were poured into the blast furnace mixed with charcoal, and heated with high temperature an blown by hydraulic power Fuigo and melted down in the blast furnace. Finally the heated iron was tapped in the melting pools. When walking around the iron making sites, we could easily find the traces of “Iron seed crushing place”, ruins of “Seed burning kiln”, traces of Fuigo installation, traces of “Water wheels”, ruins of “Smith working factory site.”
For the blast furnaces, there remained bare stone of the structural foundation only. However, they are valuable historic monuments because it could clearly figure out the iron making process at that time, such as the furnace structure, its scale, and functions as well as iron making process. At the guide post near the furnace of No.2, the structural pictures of furnace were described to indicate them.
According to that description, it had a 4.8 meter stone frame in the 4.8 meters square, with refractory bricks in the interior and chimney area over to the top covered by plaster. The furnace had a height about 8 meters structure attached by the Fuigo cabin.They were all designed by Oshima Takatoshi with reference to Huggenin‘s book, and it is believed that Japan’s own ingenuity was applied to the original structure of them. Especially it is said to have unique features, such as the structure of the blowing Fuigo to derive a high heating power and the water turbine which strengthened the movement by waterwheels.
In any case, after this Hashino’s operation, the production site of this iron mine had expanded and it’s said more that than 1,000 workers were working there during the peak period. Based on these foundations, the mining industry was thought to develop fast after the Meiji era, and before long it led to the establishment of the government owned “Kamaishi Ironworks” and the development of “Tanaka Ironworks” in the Kamaishi region.
♣ History development of steel industry in Kamaishi
As mentioned above, since the establishment of Western-style blast furnace in Hashino, iron industry was developed in the neighboring area of Kamaishi with quite extensive way. Even though the Hashino Iron mine itself became stop to supply iron to the Mito’s Nakaminiato refinery due to the collapse of the Edo shogunate, but the production had continued for the while as one of the “Jhu-Sen Ba” (“Casting coin production center” until 1889 until the currency casting ban ordered by the Meiji government.
Later, in 1880, the “government-owned Kamaishi Steel Works” was created near the Hashino area. For the designing of the Kamaishi Iron Works, the government adopted a plan of UK engineer’s plan, rejecting Oshima’s proposal, but the iron making was actually failed due to make expected results. Then it end up closing with big deficit in 1883. After that, a merchant Tanaka Cho-bei bought up this government mills, and started iron business as the “Kamaishi Mine Tanaka Ironworks.”
This Ironworks was quite good in business and its said that the company contributed much to the development of iron industry in Japan for the sake of responding strong demand of Japanese society that time. The Works were producing huge quantities of high quality pig iron by using cokes. This is believed to be owing much to the technology support by engineers like Noro Kageyoshi and Yokoyama Kyutaro. Along with this, Tanaka Ironworks had initiated the expansion of factory area, modernization of facilities, maintenance of transportation railroad (initially horse railway railroad), and installed the first integrated iron-steel works of Japan in 1903.
Around this period, the “government-owned Yahata Ironworks” was born in the Yahata village, Kyushu in 1901 which was regarded as the most significant landmark in Japanese steelmaking industry in Meiji period. For this launching, it is said that many engineers from Kamaishi Steel Works were dispatched there and contributed a lot for its establishment. In due time, the Tanaka Iron Work had changed the name to “Tanaka Mine”, and the company management shifted to “Mitsui Mining” in the process of twists and turns, and then the additional change came on the ownership before the war in 1942 and merged with the Fuji Steel and Nippon Steel. After the War of 1945, it has transformed the current Kamaishi Steel Works under the Nippon Steel Sumikin Co. When looking at these process, it is possible to say that the destiny of Kamaishi iron works was indeed to follow dynamic historical movement of the Japan’s steelmaking industry, from the beginning of Hashino and amaishi works to now., By the way, the former “Kamaishi Mining Office” was remained as a cultural monumental building as a Kamaishi City’s historical site, and the huge materials relating to the Tanaka Works were preserved and opened to the public.
♣ After visit; an impression
Although it was only a short time visit, I was lucky to be able to see the Hashino Iron Mine and the blast furnace ruins to the first time for me, and I felt I could get certain image of the ironworks in the dawn period of Edo and Meji period, particularly regarding Kamaishi which started with the vigorous modification of the Western blast furnace, and understood a bit about the old Japanese iron making systems and its characteristics.
In Japan, Saga, Kagoshima, Hagi (Yamaguchi) and other areas were trying to build the numerous “Reverberatory furnace” aiming to produce iron cannon based on the Dutch book, but it was believed that most of them had ended up failed. However, people these initiatives would encourage the engineers here and there. Among them only limited examples were found with some shapes of relics like the Hagi and the Nirayama’ as it is. We could observe the real appearance of the original Reflection Furnaces there, and others were completely disappeared in the dust of history.
I have already been to these two sites, Hagi and Nirayama, last year, but I felt the Hashino looked more significant in term of technology and business, because the Hashino’s endeavors had been expanded broadly to the development of Kamaishi iron works and Yahata Steel later. I’m quite satisfied to be able to see these facilities with my own eyes.
- 鉄の歴史館パンフレット(Iron and Steel History Museum)