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Date of Issue:15/February/2008

IIST Heritage of Industrial Modernization Program
November 2007- A Personal Appreciation

Keith Falconer
Head of Industrial Archaeology
English Heritage


Keith Falconer, English Heritage, gives a personal appreciation of the IIST Leadership Program Heritage of Industrial Modernization in Japan which comprised a tour to prominent industrial sites in Aichi and Gunma and a Workshop and Symposium in Yokohama. The tour attended by Asian diplomats, European experts and IIST and METI staff visited sites that both commemorated past industry and inspired present and future industry. At the Symposium METI Minister, Mr Akira AMARI, presented plaques to 33 Heritage Constellations of Industrial Modernization - a ground breaking Japanese initiative.

Appreciation of the cultural value of the industrial heritage internationally has grown immensely over the last half-century. Hundreds of historic industrial sites are now visited by millions of visitors each year and more than 25 industrial landscapes are inscribed as World Heritage Sites. Yet the potential of historic industrial sites to be both an inspiration for the future and drivers of regeneration still seems to surprise us and the case has still to be made again and again. Having been personally involved in the industrial heritage in the UK for over forty years, it was therefore with great pleasure that I participated in the IIST Heritage of Industrial Modernization program. The program involved a two-day tour to industrial sites in Aichi prefecture in the company of delegates from 12 Asian embassies based in Tokyo and a separate tour to silk heritage sites in Gunma. Over the three days, accompanied by three other European experts, the party was able to discuss and share our very different experiences of the relevance of the industrial heritage. We were also privileged to see for ourselves the impressive achievements already made in Japan in the use of the industrial heritage not only as a driver for the revitalization of the regions concerned but also as an inspiration for future industrial creativity.

The trip to Nagoya and the canal boat cruise down the Horikawa Canal from the Nayabashi bridge, close to the modern city centre, to the Port of Nagoya revealed how a canal, first dug in 1610, had become an artery of industrial modernization three centuries later. It was now entering a third phase in its life and from what I could ascertain it would appear that the industrial heritage on either bank of the canal was at a critical stage in its redevelopment. There was, however, a danger that the full potential of the historic waterside location was not being realised. Internationally there is increasingly recognition that the built environment - past, present and future - is the geography of life and the industrial heritage is very much part of that geography. If you sweep away the industrial buildings, sites and landscapes that people know and identify with, you are, in effect, subtracting from the soul of the community. The lower stretch of the canal, as it approaches the port, is bordered by timber and boat yards, warehouses and railway lines (complete with a drawbridge) - these are the very features that contribute so much to industrial ambience. Reassuringly, the visit to the beautifully landscaped Noritake Garden, with its museum and craft centre and consolidated remains of early industrial structures demonstrated the obvious local regard and affection for historic industrial sites. The mix of new and converted buildings, now home to modern ceramic firms, bodes well for the future well-being of that soul.

The following dayfs visit to the magnificent Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry & Technology was a revelation. In all my travels I have never viewed such a comprehensive museum of textile machinery encompassing two centuries of development and constant innovation and presented in such a way that the past was seamlessly part of the present. Much more than a museum it is a monument to creativity - the Toyoda familyfs innovative approach to technology is shown as equally relevant to automobiles as to textiles. The museum, located in part of the former Toyoda Spinning and Weaving mill, is an inspiration to both future generations and to present innovative industrial giants such as Denso whose Takatana plant we visited in the afternoon. The modern Denso factory contrasted vividly with the Mitsukan Museum of Vinegar in Handa City visited earlier in the day. Birthplace of vinegar made from sake lees, the museum is housed in centuries-old black timber kura (warehouses) in which vinegar is still fermented. Yet, here again, the past meets the future - historic manufacturing traditions are merged with the modern promotion of the health-giving properties of vinegar.

The journey to Tomioka through the leafy mountains of the Gunma region presented a very different Japan. Passing the remains of the Usui rack railway, now converted to a mountain walkway, we entered the realm of historic silk manufacture. The Usui Co-operative, now one of only two operating raw silk filatures in Japan, clings to traditional methods to produce 80% of Japanfs raw silk. A complex of rather ramshackle buildings, sustained precariously by a niche market for its prestige products, its survival is crucial for the heritage of silk manufacture. The Tomioka Silk Mill itself could not be more different - it is a monument in every sense of the word. Constructed in 1872 by French engineers as the first steam silk mill in Asia it is a cornerstone of the modernization of industry. Truly a flagship for Japanese industrial heritage, its restoration and aspirations to be a World Heritage Site demonstrates the pride that a whole community can develop from the international recognition of its industrial past.

The final day of the IIST Program commenced with an expert workshop on the Preservation and Utilisation of Heritage of Industrial Modernization in EU and Japan. Introduced by the Workshop Leader Mr Keiichi SHIMIZU of the National Museum of Nature and Science, three European experts outlined the utilization of the industrial heritage for regeneration in France, the UK and Germany respectively. This was followed by presentations from Japanese experts on dissemination of information on industrial heritage, on industrial tourism and on the Heritage of Industrial Modernization initiative which was to be the focus of the afternoonfs events. The ensuing discussion revealed many shared challenges and opportunities but also showed how different the responses could be and how we can all learn from each othersf experiences.

The welcoming address to the Symposium on Heritage of Industrial Modernization in the afternoon in the historic Red Brick Warehouses in Yokohama was given by Mr Akira AMARI , Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry who then, in a ceremony lasting over an hour, personally presented plaques to each of 33 Heritage Constellations of Industrial Modernization (HCIM). These HCIMs are groups of associated sites which convey the value of the Heritage of Industrial Modernization of specific industries, either nationally or in a region, more comprehensively than a single site could possibly achieve. Ranging over coal and metal mining, heavy industry, textiles, ceramics, transport and power supply this HCIM initiative with its themed estoriesf would appear to be ground breaking and unparalleled elsewhere. Though in Britain we have many thousand protected historic industrial sites these are all separate designations and with the exception of our industrially themed World Heritage Sites, do not present in any way a cohesive estoryf. However, in Europe we are now starting to link across several countries specific types of industrial sites into themed eroutes of industrial heritagef to complement the existing regional routes, the Japanese HCIMs provide an alternative model combining both approaches.

The other afternoon sessions of the Symposium considered the case study of historic industrial sites in North Rhine-Westphalia as an industrial tourist attraction, reported on the IIST Heritage of Industrial Modernization Tour and Workshop and concluded with a Panel discussion on the Preservation and Utilization of Industrial Heritage to Promote Regional Revitalization. The discussion was continued long into the evening at a reception appropriately held in Beer Next in the second Yokohama Red Brick warehouse. For me, this brought to an end one of the most interesting, stimulating and, indeed, inspiring weeks I have ever spent in my lifetime of working in the industrial heritage. I must thank the Institute for international Studies and Training, and especially Mr Ojimi IIST Vice President and Managing Director, for the providing such an experience.
 
 
 

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