UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation which is a specialist part of the United Nations. The purpose of UNESCO is to promote international collaboration, peace and security through education, science and culture. One of the things that UNESCO do is build a list of World Heritage Sites to be protected for future generations. These could be buildings, mountains, forests or bodies of water but all of them will have special cultural or physical significance. Each year new cultural assets are added to the list of sites, famously Mount Fuji was deemed to be of special cultural significance and is now a UNESCO site. More recently 23 new sites in Japan were added to the World Heritage list. This time they weren’t natural aspects of Japan, but icons of her industrialisation.
The Meiji restoration began in 1868 when Emperor Meiji took back imperial rule of Japan. Before this time, Japan was ruled in smaller areas by feudal lords which meant Japan was segregated between these Lords and rules. Until the restoration, Japan was an isolated country. Trade was only allowed between five designated ports and it was actually illegal for Japanese to leave Japan. This form of isolation and lack of emigration meant that Japan was quite behind the developments the world was experiencing in the West. This was but into stark contrast when Commodore Matthew Perry arrived on the 8th of July 1853. Matthew Perry bought four U.S Navy warships into the Bay of Edo; The Mississippi, The Plymouth, The Saratoga and The Susquehanna. These warships were equipped with Paixhans guns, a frightening spectacle for Japan. Commodore Perry demanded that Japan open to trade with America and this opened up Japan’s trade with other countries too, such as the UK. This act and the Meiji Restoration allowed Japan to begin Industrialisation.
Like most of Asia, Japan was run under a Chinese-based system, in order to become more Western and increase industry Japan switched onto the Western system. In the years following the Meiji Restoration Japan became a production power house. Japan started producing at a before unseen rate with a knock on effect. Silk production increased and so did the exportation of Japanese silk. To meet this production demand more coal needed to be produced, in just 10 years the amount of coal each year doubled! This coal was needed for the industrialisation of transport and the Japanese Navy and merchant fleets. This made Japan the first Asian country to become industrialised!
The UNESCO board has now recognised the icons of Japan’s industrialisation by denoting them as having importance to the history of the human race. Twenty-three separate parts make up this newest edition over 8 different sites; Hagi, Kagoshima, Saga, Kamaishi, Nagasaki, Shimonoseki, Uki and Kitakyushu. These sites contain the separate parts of the symbols of the Industrialisation of Japan.
Some notable parts are;
These sites showcase Japan’s move from a feudal farming country to an industrialised power of Asia in just a few short decades. It is brilliant that these sites will be protected for future generations.
13 UNESCO world heritage sites of Honshu