The conference celebrated the great achievement of the rapid industrialisation that followed the ending of Japan’s 200-year policy of self-imposed isolation from 1639. This had been effectively ended when the American Pacific Fleet under Admiral Perry had entered Nagasaki harbour in 1853. There was an immediate recognition by some Japanese that they had to acquire western technical knowledge if they were to survive as an independent nation. Five young Japanese from leading families in local clans subsequently visited London, their tutor had been executed for leaving Japan without being given the ruling shogun’s permission.
The Briton, Thomas Glover of the Jardine Matheson Bank, eventually arrived in Nagasaki to participate in the business partnerships that were developing to modernise Japan. On the way he helped the local clans depose the retrograde shogun.
Glover’s house and most of the other sites that form a World Heritage bid, which shows the first large-scale transfer of modern technology from a western to an eastern country, are in the Nagasaki area. There was a large technical and business input from Britain into these processes.
A main adviser of the present World Heritage bid was the late Stuart Smith, a former Welsh Royal Commissioner who died in May, and who was my predecessor as Secretary of the International Committee on the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). TICCIH are advisors to the International Council for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and UNESCO, on industrial World Heritage sites.
The Welsh Royal Commission has become an expert and valued advisors on the preparation of World Heritage bids in Wales, having spent two, then six years, preparing the successful Blaenavon and Pontcysyllte World Heritage nominations respectively. It led the 2009 Pontcysyllte bid and is preparing the present slate industry bid, for which it is preparing further animations.
A previous interpretation film of the building of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct has been shown in China at a consultation on international canal studies, during the preparation for World Heritage status of the 1000 miles long Grand Canal of China, which was inscribed in June this year.
The government and authorities in both Japan and China have been funding advice co-ordinated by both TICCIH & ICOMOS from across the world; two members of staff from Historic Scotland were also present in Tokyo.
The value placed on this co-operation is shown by the fact that over 1500 people attended the conference reception in Tokyo at which the Japanese Prime Minister and several of his Cabinet were present.
The Blaenavon and Pontcysyllte Animations can be viewed on the Royal Commission’s site on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZUg94GMp3s and www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqeCu6jd9W0 respectively, and are also shown in the World Heritage Interpretation Centres at both sites.
Stephen Hughes, TICCIH Secretary.
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