Decision : 42 COM 8B.22
Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region (Japan)
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Documents WHC/18/42.COM/8B and WHC/18/42.COM/INF.8B1,
- Inscribes the Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region, Japan, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion (iii);
- Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
Located in the Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures in the northwestern part of Kyushu Island of the Japanese Archipelago, the ‘Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region’ is a serial property comprising 12 components, made up of ten villages, one castle remains, and one cathedral dating from between the 17th and 19th centuries. They reflect the era of prohibition of the Christian faith, as well as the revitalization of Christian communities after the official lifting of the prohibition in 1873. Hidden Christians survived as communities that formed small villages sited along the seacoast or on remote islands to which Hidden Christians migrated during the ban on Christianity. Hidden Christians gave rise to a distinctive religious tradition that was seemingly vernacular yet which maintained the essence of Christianity, and they survived continuing their faith over the ensuing two centuries.
Criterion (iii): The Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region bear unique testimony to a distinctive religious tradition nurtured by Hidden Christians who secretly transmitted their faith in Christianity during the time of prohibition spanning more than two centuries in Japan, from the 17th to the 19th century.
The 12 components not only include all of the elements necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property but are also of an adequate size and in a good state of conservation. Thorough and complete protection measures have been taken for each of the components in accordance with all relevant national laws and regulations – including the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Within the buffer zones of the property, appropriate protection is provided not only by the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties but also by the Landscape Act and other relevant laws and regulations. Therefore, the property does not suffer from any adverse effects of development or neglect, and it has been effectively conserved together with its surrounding landscape.
Each component of the property maintains a high degree of authenticity based on the attributes selected according to its nature. The villages possess a high degree of authenticity based on their attributes of ‘form and design’, ‘use and function’, ‘traditions, techniques and management systems’, ‘location and setting’, and ‘spirit and feeling’. The component, ‘Remains of Hara Castle’, has lost its authenticity related to ‘use and function’, as it is an archaeological site, but it retains a high degree of authenticity in regard to the other attributes. Oura Cathedral and the Egami Church in Egami Village on Naru Island possess a high degree of authenticity in terms of ‘materials and substance’ in addition to the other attributes as they are architectural works.
Protection and management requirements
The property and its buffer zones are properly conserved under various laws and regulations including the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Furthermore, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kumamoto Prefecture and relevant municipalities have formulated a robust Comprehensive Preservation and Management Plan from the perspective of safeguarding the Outstanding Universal Value of the property as a whole. The framework for implementing this plan comprises a World Heritage Preservation and Utilisation Council which works in cooperation with the owners of the components and other stakeholders. The Council is operated for the appropriate protection, enhancement and utilisation of the property. The Council receives guidance from, and consults with, experts comprising an academic committee (the Nagasaki World Heritage Academic Committee), as well as the Agency for Cultural Affairs, which is the principal agency in charge of protection of Japan’s cultural properties.
- Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
- Recording and archiving the fabric of abandoned villages, churches and cemeteries (such as those on Hisaka and Nozaki Islands) within the property using photogrammetry, Lidar and/or other similar techniques,
- Developing a communication strategy to inform local community groups and individual owners about the financial assistance which is available for conservation projects from local, prefectural and national government,
- Undertaking a study on the ‘carrying capacity’ and management of potential tourism having particular regard to the physical and social circumstances constraints of each component,
- Assessing new developments within the property in accordance with the ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties (2011).