Research projects

World Heritage

Divergent heritages: UNESCO and the cultural heritage of landscapes in the UK compared with Japan

Inscription of a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List is a long and arduous process. Why would anyone in a particular location wish to set out on this path? This project is examining approaches to promoting cultural landscapes in the UK and in Japan. World Heritage inscription remains a long-game that in many cases takes decades to complete. In the meantime situations move and change, government policy over a decade can shift significantly. In a location like the UK it could be argued there are adequate protections for landscapes, cultural and natural heritage already in place, so does the inscription becomes merely a mark of status? The motivation for inscription on the List in many cases seems to be obscure.

This project will explore the different approaches to cultural heritage as practiced in Japan and Britain. In both places inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List can be viewed as the pinnacle of designation. In Britain in recent decades the interest in World Heritage listing has arguably waned, whereas Japan remains enthusiastic about inscribing its most important sites and landscapes. In these countries there is an interest in the idea of cultural landscapes but for different reasons. The project will look for clues to the present differences in approach through examining the specific national histories that have led to their current heritage paradigms  and to the international backdrop to this as played out in the politics of the World Heritage Centre. This exploration will be done through looking at a number of case studies including, Okinoshima, Amanohashidate, the Lake District, and the Norfolk Broads; it also will examine urban situations such as Bath, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka.

The Sainsbury Institute is pleased to support the inscription of some of Japan’s outstanding cultural heritage as UNESCO World Heritage:

Jomon World Heritage: In 2012 we co-organised a workshop with the Maison de la Culture du Japon in Paris on ‘Jomon World Heritage’. 17 Jomon sites are currently on Japan’s Tentative List. Simon Kaner recently gave keynote lectures on viewing the Jomon from outside Japan in Sapporo in November 2015 and in Tokyo in January 2016, prior to taking part in one of the International Expert Panel meetings, and was involved in visits to some of the sites in August 2016.

The gold and silver mines of Sado: In 2014 Simon Kaner and Nicole Rousmaniere were invited to visit the remarkable gold and silver mines on the island of Sado in Niigata prefecture, along with Professor Kobayashi Tatsuo, and to provide advice on this developing bid.