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UN Turns Down Japanese Silver Mine As Heritage Site

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The UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, that preserves world nations most historical sites, has turned down the Japanese government’s request to include the Hiraizumi historic district three hundred year old Iwami silver mine in the Shimane Prefecture.

The advisory committee could not agree that the connection between Buddhism and the silver mine was a legitimate historical value worthy of protection.

Hiraizumi was the headquarters of a powerful samurai warrior clan led by the Oshu Fujiwara family. The clan ruled Hiraizumi and its wide surrounding area almost throughout the 12th century until vanquished by another warlord, Minamoto no Yoritomo, who established his shogunate in Kamakura in 1192.

During the Oshu Fujiwara rule, Hiraizumi developed into one of Japan’s most advanced cultural centers outside the ancient city of Kyoto.

Its historic site is home to nine major monuments such as renowned Buddhist temples and traditional Japanese gardens, whose total area is 550 hectares. One of Hiraizumi’s highlights is the Chusonji temple, which was completed in the early 12th century. Its centerpiece is Konjikido (golden-colored hall), which houses a number of gold leaf- covered Buddhist statues.

The Japanese government applied for World Heritage status for Hiraizumi in December 2006 on the grounds that its architecture and gardens are artistic masterpieces that recreate the Buddhist concept of heaven. Tokyo also contends that the spirit behind the historic monuments survives in today’s performances of religious rituals.

Last August, ICOMOS sent a delegation to Hiraizumi and expressed skepticism about the site partly because it failed to see a clear connection between the Buddhist outlook on heaven and the nine major historic assets in Hiraizumi.

Do you think it would be more helpful for Hiraizumi officials to have a bigger case for the “Buddhist-heaven-historic assets in Hiraizumi” connection if they would have emphasized more “Buddhism” on their website and in their promotions. The only religion mentioned on the Iwami Silver Mine website is Christianity.

Francis Xavier, who brought Christianity to Japan, wrote in a letter, “The Castillians call this island (Japan) ‘Silver Island’ cThis Silver Island is the only one of its kind that has been discovered.” (Letter dated April 8, 1552, sent from Goa, India to Father Simon Rodriguez of Portugal) From this letter we know that Japan was one of the major silver producers of the time.

Exploration of Mabu – inside the Silver Mine.


Written by smalltalkwitht

May 22, 2008 at 4:46 pm

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