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In the mid-nineteenth century, alarmed at the threat posed by the advance of the Western powers into Asia, the Tokugawa shogunate and several of the major domains in western Japan commenced autonomous efforts to introduce Western technology. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, this served as the foundation for the modern industrial development of the Kyûshû-Yamaguchi region through a combination of government and private capital. "The Modern Industrial Heritage Sites in Kyûshû and Yamaguchi" is a group of historic sites that attest to various aspects of that process. Japan's industrial modernization-not only the first by a non-Western nation, but achieved in a dramatically brief period of time-is a noteworthy event in world history, and as a clear expression of this process, the sites under consideration here possesses outstanding universal value.
The Kyûshû-Yamaguchi region is located at the western extremity of the Japanese archipelago, giving it the greatest proximity to continental Asia. From ancient times it served as Japan's window on the world and the front lines in Japan's acquisition of culture and technology from overseas. From the nineteenth century onward, as the Western powers began their advance into East Asia, the Kyûshû-Yamaguchi region responded more quickly than other parts of the country to both the threat of colonialism and the strong incentive it gave for modernization-and therefore played a leading role in the modernization of Japan.
This property consisting of a group of historical sites is characterized by four closely interrelated factors bearing directly upon the modernization process from its origins to its successful conclusion.
The first is indigenous modernization. By the end of the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), construction of reverberatory furnaces and Western-style blast furnaces was underway in the Kyûshû-Yamaguchi region in order to provide the capacity for casting large iron cannon for coastal defense. These efforts, the first step in Japan's industrial modernization, began with a single Dutch technical manual for reference, but proceeded by incorporating the advanced traditional technologies that existed in Kyûshû at the time: techniques of porcelain manufacture were used to make fire-resistant brick; traditional masonry was used in the foundations; and energy was provided by water-wheels. The strong aspiration toward modernization and the technical expertise accumulated in the course of these indigenous efforts greatly contributed to smooth the way for subsequent technological importation.
The second factor was proactive importation of technology. Following the opening of the country and clashes with Western naval forces in the bombardments of Shimonoseki and Kagoshima, Japan began the active importation of technology from Britain and the Netherlands, leading to the construction of the Nagasaki Iron Works and the Shûseikan industrial complex near Kagoshima, as well as Western-style shipyards and coal mines using steam engines. In this way, modern steam-powered machine industry was established in Japan.
Third was the response to both domestic and foreign demand for coal. Beginning in the late Tokugawa period and continuing after the Meiji Restoration, a system for mass production of coal was established based on the development of Western-style mining techniques. High-grade coal from mines in Takashima, Miike, and Chikuhô not only supplied domestic industry, but also had global significance, playing a key role in supporting the sea transport network in the East Asian region, which was based on coal-fired steamships.
The fourth factor was the transition to heavy industry. With rich sources of mass-produced coal and imported German technology, the government-managed Yawata Steel Works was constructed, and after a period of trial-and-error experimentation, was placed on a dependable production footing. This in turn served as a firm foundation for the shift in Japan's industrial structure from the light industries that had prevailed until that time to the heavy industry of the twentieth century.
In the mid-nineteenth century, alarmed at the threat posed by the advance of the Western powers into Asia, the Tokugawa shogunate and several of the major domains in western Japan commenced autonomous efforts to introduce Western technology. After the Meiji Restoration, this served as the foundation for the modern industrial development of the Kyûshû-Yamaguchi region through a combination of government and private capital. "The Modern Industrial Heritage Sites in Kyûshû and Yamaguchi" is a property consisting of a group of historic sites that attest to various aspects of that process. Japan's industrial modernization-not only the first by a non-Western nation, but achieved in a dramatically brief period of time-is a noteworthy event in world history, and as a clear expression of this process, the property under consideration here possesses outstanding universal value.
The core areas of these sites, from which their value as cultural assets is derived, has been preserved in good condition in the various attributes such as their form and design. In addition, ample documentation has survived since the beginning of their operations, making it possible to conduct comparative analysis of their original form and nature and any subsequent alterations. Therefore, their authenticity is unquestionable.
Moreover, the property covers the key constituent factors characteristic of the process of modern industrialization which began with indigenous developments and the import of Western technology by the Tokugawa shogunate and the major domains of western Japan, and was continued after the Meiji Restoration in the Kyûshû-Yamaguchi region by both government and private-sector organizations. Therefore, the integrity of the property consisting of a group of sites as a whole has been adequately maintained.
World Heritage sites related to the process of industrial modernization from the nineteenth century onward in the field of heavy industry include the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape (United Kingdom, inscribed 2000) and the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen (Germany, inscribed 2001) Nonetheless the Kyûshû-Yamaguchi sites has outstanding features in that it focuses on the modernization of heavy industry in the non-Western world, and displays the unique characteristics of a modernization whose methods of fusing Western and traditional Japanese technologies has no counterpart elsewhere in the world. These outstanding features, plus the fact that this is a group of sites representing the heritage not of a single industrial field but of a group of organically related industries, gives this property a truly extraordinary character not seen in other similar properties.