Explore the root of Japan’s modern making and the history of Kamaishi
I came to visit the “Iron History Museum” in Kamaishi just after “Hashino Iron Mine”, the World Heritage. This museum is famous to exhibit abundant materials and goods regarding history of Kamaishi’s ironworks, along with useful information on the Hashino & Ohashi blast furnaces.
The collection includes many materials relating to the iron-making methods from the old traditional way, the modern iron-works by the blast furnace which was introduced in the end of Edo period, the trace of Oshima Takato who contributed much to the development of iron technology, beside the history of the Tanaka Iron Works which led the initial iron-making industries in Japan. And it would be significant that the museum introduces the historical situation of iron industry in the Tohoku area, particularly Kamaishi, as well as shows the states in Japan a whole. It was a short visit, but I felt I could learn much about the iron making industries in Japan and its Kamaishi’s role as its original function and initiatives.
I stopped by at the “Kamaishi Regional Museum” too on my way back, and I was acknowledged the turbulence history of Kamaishi’s iron-works which was occasionally wrecked by the War and natural disasters.
Below is the impression of this time of visit.
It would be great pleasure if you look it through with the previous record “Visit Hashino Iron Mine.” https://igsforum.com/Kamaishi-Hashino）
♣ Outline of the Iron Museum Kamaishi
The museum opened in July 1985, renewed in 2009 and became to the facility as a major information center on the iron industry in Kamaishi. The exhibition is divided into several designated blocks, such as “Iron and social life”, “Dawn of iron era”,” “History of modern steelmaking industry”, “Live theater on iron and steel”, and “Iron industry with Kamaishi”, and so on. Among them, the live theater of “Century of an Flaming Fire” was really fascinating. There the restoration model of the full-scale Hashino’s third blast furnace was exhibited the figures lively operating as the way of the original shape. And the museum was also giving effectively commentary about its history background and structure on the screen.
At the “History “ section, they introduced the life story of Oshima Takato, who is said to be the “Father of modern steelmaking”, and the foundation of iron industry which had spread in the Kamaishi area in the early time, such as Ohashi and Hashino blast furnace.
In the “Steel Industry with Kamaishi” corner, many records and photographs were displayed regarding the establishment of the Kamaishi Steel Works and its subsequent development.
The exhibition contents of the each corner in detail were as follows.
♣ The theater Exhibition of ” Century of Flaming Fire”
When entering the theater, there found the real model of Hashino third blast furnace. A blazing red flame is shown in the blast furnace which is indicating high heat molten iron in the operation. We can see there a hut at the top of the furnace and could imagine the way how the iron ore and charcoal were poured into the furnace to melt ores to liquid irons. Also, on the side area, a large Fugo was facilitated to send powerful wind blow into the furnace by the water wheel, and to create high-temperature for melting iron.
It was a surprising thing that such complicated mechanism at the high level of craftsmanship were built up by stones and woodworking, and worked out by local people only by the knowledge retrieved from the technology book of Dutch engineers. Also in this corner, we could find three dimensional topographic maps of the iron mines of Hashino and Ohashi, and is able to observe how these sites were managed at that dawn stage of iron production.
♣ Corner of the Modern Steel Industry Development
One of the main points of this corner was the introduction of the life and role of Oshima Takato to the development of iron industry. The detail of his life history was shown in detail with the many documents and photographs there. It is showing how he contributed to set the foundation of the modern iron and steel making industries in Japan. We could recognize the situation of the iron production sites in the early time how that spread in the Kamaishi area, such as Ohashi, Hashino, Kuribayashi and others, with the commentary panels and documented historical pictures.
By looking at this series of exhibits, we can learn how Japanese modern iron and steelmaking industry has grown and developed in this region. It was really the impressive exhibition. Especially it was true because the time of my visit was just on the way back from the Hashino Iron Mine and I could recognize the importance of the blast furnace to produce strong iron and steel.
♣ Exhibition on the Iron industry and Kamaishi
In this corner, the relationship between iron industry and Kamaishi was told in detail. Especially the advancement of the “government-owned Kamaishi Steel Works” led by the Meiji government, its technical challenges and the history of failures of the project were shown here. On the other side, the new initiatives of technological development which learned from that experience were also indicated there. It is interesting that the profiles of engineers and scientists involved in this project were introduced all together here.
In the meantime, it should be noticed the fact that the Japan’s technology challenge was actually cultivated through the experience of the government project and it was advanced afterward by the initiatives of the private firm of “Kamaishi Tanaka Ironworks” which learned from failure. This fact was clearly indicated in the exhibition. Additionally, the museum reminded us that the evidence of this early stage of the company development was remained in the old building Tanaka Mining Office” which was designated as a historic heritage in the Kamaishi area.
♠ <Track Records of destiny of Kamaishi Steel Works >
The Tanaka Steel Works had transferred to the Mitsui Zaibatsu, then later turned to the Nippon Steel Corporation in 1930s, and after the World War II, the Fuji Steel Corporation took over the management, and finally it has become the current Kamaishi ironworks under the of NSSMC (Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal) as the present stage.
However, it should be pointed that the iron work company and the local community of Kamaishi was fallen later in the turbulent destinies like the serious damage caused by the tsunami in 1933 caused by the Sanriku Earthquake, the destruction of the facilities by the shelling of the US in the War time, even though the community of Kamaishi enjoyed the increased population and the economy was bristled owing much to the development of Kamaishi’s steel works in the due time. However, additional big destruction came by the recent Great East Japan Great Earthquake in 2011. The museum shows clearly about these moving histories in the exhibition.
♣ Exhibition Corner of “Iron and social life” and “Dawn of iron era”
This corner exhibits the visualized appearances of the ancient methods of iron production in Japan and also the way of adoption of iron to the social life in history. There, the iron making method at the early period was indicated, and the exhibits explained how those iron technologies and products were going to be adopted in the modernization, as well as how it has made rich our the social life by presenting various iron and steel products with many samples.
Furthermore, there were technical commentaries on various steel and iron products and alloys along with the explanation of the cutting-age steel making technology of current period. These looked the valuable display which is showing the close relationship on the iron and daily life in our society. Even there a special zone is facilitated, such as “Play with iron”. In this corner all the visitors could enjoy playing with iron tools and interacting with iron products including small kids.
♣ Remarks after the visit
Although it was the visit of only around two hours, but I was quite pleased that I could touch on the new knowledge on the iron science and industries, such as the various stories of steelmaking activity in the Kamaishi, its origin, and the major actors contributed to the development of steelmaking technology in Japan. In particular, it was fresh for me to be able to learn how the “Tanaka Steel” had been playing an crucial role in history, and how the company activities were linked with the technical development of the Yawata Steel in the late Meiji period, which believed to be as a symbolic attainment of Japanese iron and steel industries. In addition, the restoration model of Hashino blast furnace in the museum was quite helpful to understand the features of the structure inside the furnace and technical ideas, since it was the time just after visiting Hashino Iron Mine in Kamaishi.
Furthermore, after visiting the Museum, it was fortunate to be able to visit the “Kamaishi City Regional Museum”. There, I’ve got the pictured image of Kamaishi community that has been grown up as a steel town, as well as the social life and culture of the Kamaishi region. And it was depressed experience to see the fact that Kamaishi has often received the destructive fortune in history from the serious natural disasters to the war battles.
In particular, various parts of Sanriku including Kamaishi were seriously wrecked by the Great East Japan Earthquake, especially the Tsunami, leaving a large scar in the various parts of Kamaishi. But, at the same time, I was very much encouraged to learn that the Kamaishi region is now starting to move forward to the reconstruction in the great step. Particularly the community’s intensive activities aiming to hold the Rugby World Cup scheduled in Kamaishi seemed to be playing their symbolic role of the reconstruction.
Kamaishi is a bit far from the Tokyo rea, but I’m thinking to visit again if possible and want to see how the reconstruction and development of local community as well as steel industries will be there.
- 鉄の歴史館パンフレット(Iron and Steel History Museum)