The people of Nagasaki recently celebrated the inscription of the "Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining" on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The site includes 23 composite parts, one of which is the former Glover House. Interestingly, the official English and Japanese names of the Scotsman's former residence are different: it is just 旧グラバー住宅 (Former Glover House) in Japanese, but "Former Glover House and Office" in English.
When I mentioned the disparity to Kato Koko (the Japanese government official who played an instrumental role in the inscription on the World Heritage Site list), she said, without batting an eye, that the building would not have qualified simply as a house. In the next sentence, she agreed that there is little evidence to show that Thomas Glover used the house as an office.
|The Glover House by Ochiai Soko (Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture)|
And what about William Alt, the Glover contemporary who associated closely with Iwasaki Yataro and played an important role in the foundation of the Mitsubishi Company? Like Glover, Alt had both an office on the Oura waterfront and a house on the Minamiyamate hillside (the latter is preserved today in Glover Garden as an Important Cultural Property). No one has suggested that Alt used his house as an office.
One of the other component parts in the "Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining" is the former coal mine on Hashima Island, better known as "Battleship Island." In a public statement at the UNESCO conference in Geneva, the Japanese delegation acquiesced to Korean demands and agreed that, during World War II, Korean workers had been brought to the island "against their will." The concession ended the stalemate between the two countries and cleared the way for the World Heritage Site inscription. Only a day later, however, a Japanese government spokesman in Tokyo hurried to insist that there had been no "forced labor" during World War II.
Am I the only one getting the impression that Japan is playing tricks with history in order to win the prize of World Heritage status?