His Excellency Yoshihide Suga,
Prime Minister of Japan.
The Hague, 13 April 2021
Subject: Full history of World Heritage Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.
The World Heritage Committee (WHC) decided to include the Sites of Meiji Industrial Revolution on the World Heritage List in July 2015. These sites were recognized for representing the first successful transfer of industrialization from the West to a non-Western country. The sites include several sites where during World War Two Dutch Prisoners of War (POW’s) were forced as slaves to work under harsh conditions. The Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts objected to the listing but was not successful in preventing the decision by the WHC.
However, the WHC recommended that Japan prepare an interpretive strategy for presentation of the property which allows an understanding of the full history of each site. The Japanese representative promised that Japan would take specific measures to sincerely respond to the WHC’s recommendations. In the State of Conservation reports Japan consciously distort the letter and spirit of the 2015 promises. In 2018 the WHC requested Japan to fully implement its promises but Japan failed again. The Industrial Heritage Information Centre opened in 2020 presents an one-sided interpretation of the site’s history. Completely ignoring the historical facts. The Information Centre distort history by exclusively presenting selective “testimonies” from former Japanese residents of Hashima denying any discrimination or abuse at the site. The fact that among others more than 4.000 Dutch Prisoners of War worked as slave laborers have been totally ignored. They had no choice: they were forced in fact enslaved. Their lives had no value!
You should be ashamed that representatives of Japan agree to an interpretive strategy to allow an understanding of the full history of each site, but in practice ignore these commitments, distorting historic events. On behalf of the still living Dutch POW’s and the relatives of those who died during their enslavement or later because of their hardship, I firmly request Japan to comply with its own commitment to implement the WHC recommendations. It would be best suited that the industrial companies and coal mines at present established at the listed sites make clear that during World War Two Dutch POW’s were enslaved at their sites.
On behalf of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts.
J.F. van Wagtendonk