|2007||Tentative list||Submitted as tentative site by State Party|Paul Tanner (UK):
Nagasaki offers a lot to see and we “lost” over an hour going through immigration facilities for a mere 10 hour stay by being bussed from our vessel to another building and then being photographed and fingerprinted! But, in the shorter time left, as well as seeing the atomic bomb sites, the old Dutch island of Dejima, the Glover Gardens, numerous Buddhist and Shinto temples and, of course, the various “interests” to be found in a contemporary Japanese city, we knew that we also had to fit in some visits to the T list site “Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki!
However, as Els says in her review below, the UNESCO Web site is very thin on exactly which locations are to be included. So, like her, we traveled “blind” taking in such Christian sites as we could find and as seemed likely to have “inscription potential” - however small!! On our return I carried out a more thorough Web search than I had done before departure and found this detailed Japanese site about the nomination http://www.pref.nagasaki.jp/s_isan/index.html (definitely have a look at the 10 minute movie).
So, it turns out that there are 26 locations, only 7 of which are in Nagasaki City – and 3 of those are really in the same location at Oura. The other 19 are spread around Nagasaki Prefecture with 7 on the Goto Islands. Of the 7 in Nagasaki City we took in 5 during our day whilst fitting in all the other things to see!
a. Oura Cathedral, Seminary and Residence (photo of the first 2). Situated just up from the harbour on the way to the Glover Gardens. There is an entry fee of 3 Euro. In all honesty the cathedral is of no intrinsic architectural interest whatsoever. It was originally built in 1865 to serve foreign residents who were moving in since Nagasaki became a free port in 1859. The 2 story Seminary wasn’t constructed until 1875 after Japan lifted the ban on its nationals being Christians in 1873 and proselytization was allowed. It contains a small museum with showcases of Christian documents etc. The main story of interest about the church is how “Hidden Christians” from Urakami first showed themselves to the pastor in 1865
b. Urakami Cathedral. This it out close to the Atom Bomb memorial. The original cathedral built in 1925 (then the largest Catholic church in east Asia) was totally destroyed and rebuilt afresh in the same place in 1959 – following a particular wish by the Christians of Urakami. We made do with the exterior view of the new building from the nearby Peace Park. We also saw a small part of the remains of the original building which were rebuilt at the nearby “Epicentre” monument
c. Site of the Martydom of the 26 Saints of Japan. The area, close to Nagasaki train station, contains a memorial, a modern church and a museum. But it looks as if only the former is included. It is a reasonably striking relief depicting all the martyrs and was built in 1962 to commemorate 400 years since the event of 1597.
It is now clear of course that, by seeing only the city locations, we had missed a couple of significant aspects of the entire site. First a couple of castles connected to the Shimabara rebellion of 1638 which led to the final crushing of overt Christianity in Japan and, second, the construction of Christian places of worship after the emergence of clandestine catholics towards the end of the 19th Century from their period of “hiding” in remote places across the prefecture. Nevertheless, some of the sites seem problematical. Does a memorial built in 1962 to commemorate an event 400 years earlier of which nothing physical remains have “OUV”? Another of the “locations” consists of a memorial hall displaying documentary etc mementos of a missionary (Fr M de Rotz - who came to Japan in 1868 and stayed until his death). Is such “movable heritage” of any significance for WHS status? And finally, many of the structures are not even originals from that first period of “re-emergence” (let alone from the “clandestine” period during which homes and outdoor locations were used) but were rebuilt from the 1920s or later. No particular architectural merit seems to be claimed for any of them and their “value” is largely symbolic. There doesn’t even seem to be any representation of the variation in catholic rites which developed during the centuries of clandestine worship without control or input by Rome during which many of the Christians had to “dress up” their worship with a Buddhist exterior – these practices lived on among “Hanare Kirishitans” on Goto but the listed churches all seem to represent “mainstream Catholicism”.
I found another web site with information on the nomination here - http://openarchive.icomos.org/89/1/77-MSwX-102.pdf ). This ICOMOS-sponsored document is primarily concerned with the issues surrounding preservation (or otherwise) of the churches, particularly in the face of a decreasing Christian population in the remoter areas and the resultant reduction in requirement for some of the churches as religious buildings. It states “As of 2008, the Government is planning to nominate the sites as cultural landscape consisting of churches, villages and their surroundings. In 2007, Nagasaki Prefecture has launched various surveys needed for the nomination which the government is planning to submit in 2010”. Clearly this hasn’t happened, and the document describes how some Christian communities don’t even want their churches inscribed and/or are unable to partly fund the cost of preserving them. It goes on to recommend “The World Heritage nomination should not come as the first and highest priority agenda for a vulnerable community because the listing obviously brings the highest possible tourism development pressure to the communities. If communities are not ready to deal with it, they will be overwhelmed and only shells will remain with no spirit. The World Heritage nomination should be discussed only when the local community clearly defines their way to go for the future”. Not a resounding vote of confidence in the nomination potential!
Date posted: May 2012 Els Slots (The Netherlands):
Nagasaki seems to have missed out on getting in early on the List, and will have a tough time making it now. Hiroshima has beaten it on the 'Peace'-theme, and I'm afraid Macao has done so on the 'European influences'-theme. So they're now aiming for the 'Christian'-theme, which has already 100 sites on the List!
During my stay in the city in 2000 I visited Glover Garden, Dejima, the local Chinatown, the freaky Fukusai-ji Zen-temple, the temple route between Kofuku-ji and Sofuku-ji, the Urakami Atomic Bomb museum, and (yes!) Oura Church. This probably is one of the proposed 'Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki', although you can't be sure as the sites are not named in the nomination file. Oura Church is a 19th century catholic church with, according to my traveldiary, 'beautiful stained glass windows'.
Date posted: May 2008
Have you been to Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki? Share your experiences!