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Shifting borders of memory: Japan’s Industrial Heritage Information Centre

Edward Boyle (Kyushu University-Ito Campus, Fukuoka, Japan)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 30 July 2021

Issue publication date: 13 January 2022




This article examines the borders of memory inherent to a Japanese World Heritage site, and their significance for the 2020 opening of the Industrial Heritage Information Center in Tokyo. The Center was constructed to disseminate information regarding the widely dispersed “Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution”, which was recognized as a “serial site” by UNESCO in 2015. As with the original nomination, the opening of this Centre resulted in stringent protests from South Korea, who sought to have UNESCO consider revoking its original listing of these 23 Industrial Sites as collectively constituting the heritage of the world. This Center materializes a “border of memory” between Japan and South Korea that is the outcome of the displacement and re-siting of the heritage associated with Japan's Meiji Industrial Sites.


Research material is derived from nomination documents, site visits, and newspaper reports in order to contextualize and analyse the disputes associated with this particular World Heritage nomination.


The paper points to how the borders of memory present at heritage sites may shift through contestation. Efforts to fix the meaning of heritage find themselves subverted by connections across such borders of memory.


The paper traces the process by which the geographically-dispersed “Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution” have been collectivized through UNESCO's recognition into a single “border of memory” between Japan and Korea, one which the Information Center subsequently succeeded in materializing and reproducing within Japan's national capital.



Fieldwork in Tokyo and Kyushu was supported by “Resilient Material: The role of built structures in post-disaster recovery” QR Program (Qdai-jump Research Program) 02101, and by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number JP 20H01460. Thanks to Nagashima Setsui for his insight into and guidance around the Industrial Heritage Information Center. Comments by the editors of the special issue and by two anonymous reviewers have greatly strengthened the finished piece, while any remaining errors are the responsibility of its author.


Boyle, E. (2022), "Shifting borders of memory: Japan’s Industrial Heritage Information Centre", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 19-31.



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