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Autumn Leaves 2016

Could These Be Japan’s Latest UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

Photo: Chad Chatterton on Flick

Could These Be Japan’s Latest UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

John Asano

Japan has an abundance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (18 in total) including an amazing 17 sites in Kyoto which are classified as one under the title “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”.

Japan’s last site to make the famous list was the Tomioka Silk Mill in Gunma Prefecture, which is Japan’s oldest modern silk reeling factory. Addition to the list in 2014 has seen a large increase in tourism to the prefecture and many more places in Japan are keen to make the list as well to boost tourism numbers.


Photo : TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) on Flickr
Japan has just recommended that 23 properties in eight different prefectures be put on its World Heritage list for their importance to Japan’s industrial revolution and modernization during the Meiji Era.

The Meiji Era was an important period of Japanese history that witnessed the end of the isolationist Edo era and ushered in the industrial age. Japan’s technological innovation quickly developed the nation into one of the most advanced and industrialized in the world.

If granted World Heritage Status the sites will be Japan’s 19th World Heritage status recipient and be classified as “Sites of the Meiji Industrial Revolution”.

The following sites are some of the cool places that have been recommended:


Gunkanjima, also known as Battleship Island because if its shape is a former coal mine on the island of Hashima in Nagasaki Prefecture. This is probably the most well-known of all the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution and is already a popular tourist destination. At its peak, some 5,200 mine workers and their families lived and worked on the island making it one of the most densely populated areas in the entire world.
The mine closed in 1974 with all the inhabitants abandoning the island, leaving behind a dilapidated concrete jungle that makes the island look like a spooky battle damaged battleship.


Photo : Nemo's great uncle on Flickr

Yawata Steelworks

The Yawata Steelworks in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture is a steel mill that was built in 1896 to meet Japan’s increasing demand for shipbuilding, railway and construction. The site is still partly in operation and is in need of preservation due to its aging infrastructure.

Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works

The Nagasaki Shipyard and Machinery Works operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is also still in operation. The main plant in Nagasaki City was founded by the Tokugawa Shogunate back in 1857. Many famous Japanese ships have been built here including the recently discovered famed battleship “Musashi”, which was the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleship ever constructed at the time.

Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site

The Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting site in Iwate Prefecture is the birthplace of Japan’s modern iron industry. The site is the oldest extant Western-style blast furnace in the country and was designated as a national historic site in Japan back in 1957.

Nirayama Reverberatory Furnaces

The Nirayama Reverberatory Furnaces in Shizuoka Prefecture were built by the Tokugawa Shogunate in response to the arrival of Perry’s “Black Ships” in 1853. Japan felt it urgently needed to modernise to compete against western powers with the site used to produce Western-style iron cannons. The site was designated as a National Historical Site in March 1922.

Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace in Izunokuni City, Shizuoka, Japan

Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace in Izunokuni City, Shizuoka, Japan
Photo : Izu navi on Flickr
The all-important decision on whether the sites will be granted World Heritage status will be made in Germany in July.

My fingers are crossed that many more amazing sites will be added to the list in the near future to further add to Japan’s booming tourism industry.