The Nippon Foundation Launches Ocean and Lighthouse Project [2020/12/11]
Speaking at a press conference with Mr. Takahiro Okushima (right), Commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, at The Nippon Foundation in Tokyo on October 26, 2020, to announce the designation of “Ocean and Lighthouse Week.”
There are around 3,000 lighthouses all over Japan. They have been in operation since the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the start of the Meiji Restoration in the latter part of the 19th century and have made an enormous contribution to Japan’s shipping industry and thus the country’s modernization.
But with the advent of global positioning systems (GPS) that harness satellite technology and other navigational aids, a growing number of lighthouses in Japan have completed their missions and are being phased out.
I believe it is incumbent on us to pass on to future generations their cultural, social and historical value as well as their beauty.
With this in mind, The Nippon Foundation joined forces with the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) to designate the week between November 1, or Lighthouse Day, and November 8 this year as “Ocean and Lighthouse Week,” during which commemorative events were held at 36 lighthouses across the country.
We also launched the “Ocean and Lighthouse Project,” involving 51 lighthouses from Hokkaido to Okinawa prefectures, working with 49 cities, towns and villages where they are located. Over the coming three years, we intend to expand the project by increasing the number of lighthouses involved to 80, pass on knowledge of the role and importance of lighthouses to future generations and help promote the development of local communities.
As more lighthouse are decommissioned, the Council for Cultural Affairs recommended on October 16 that the government designate four lighthouses, including Inubozaki Lighthouse in Choshi City, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, as National Important Cultural Properties, making them the first lighthouses to be designated as such while still in operation. The recommendation is expected to be formalized by the end of the year.
The 49 cities, towns and villages are organized into a network called “towns in love with lighthouses” under The foundation’s National Lighthouse Cultural Value Creation Project, with the campaign to reassess the value of lighthouses spreading across the country.
Speaking at a press conference on October 26 to announce the designation of “Ocean and Lighthouse Week,” I expressed my hope that young people in Japan will understand the history of how lighthouses have safeguarded the nation’s shipping and contributed to Japan’s development.
Mr. Takahiro Okushima, Commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, also told reporters he is hopeful that by allowing local communities to make partial use of lighthouse facilities, more people will come to appreciate them.
Lighthouse Day was designated in 1949 to commemorate the start of construction of Japan’s first western-style lighthouse, Kannonzaki Lighthouse, in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, on November 1, 1868. Starting with “Ocean and Lighthouse Week,” we plan to encourage greater interest in lighthouses by, among other things, conducting a survey on the use of lighthouses and convening a “lighthouse summit.”
Lighthouses have featured in numerous films, books and popular songs both domestically and internationally, such as the movie “Years of Joy and Sorrow” (1957, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita) and the song "Midare Gami" (“messy hair”) sung by Hibari Misora.
According to a survey conducted by The Nippon Foundation this summer covering 1,050 men and women all over Japan, 62% of the respondents replied that they have visited lighthouses. It seems they tend to connect with them on an emotional level, as indicated by this reply: “They calm my mind.”
My intention through the projects we are undertaking is to focus people’s attention on their historical role and cultural value−to “shine a light,” so to speak, on lighthouses.