5. The Necessity of information on the local area as a step for World Heritage declaration
Necessity of local consensus
At first glance, World Heritage registration gives the impression of an international level approval only. But in fact, a mayor consideration is that within country local and national approval is elicited first. Local citizens thus give recognition to the cultural value of these Church buildings. Their pride of this heritage is a mayor dynamic in the process. Indeed, without the support of local citizens and the government our objectives cannot be met.
With World Heritage registration as a common goal, we begin to overcome problems such as politico-religious separation. Although the buildings reflect the traditions of a particular religion (Roman Catholic), our aim is to achieve continued historical and cultural coexistence. In this sense, this movement strengthens the commitment of the people of Nagasaki in support of the growth of the Peace Movement.
Importance of maintaining the buildings and “the living church” together
As the number of Christian believers decreases, to maintain the church buildings and preserve them in an area with a high humidity, regular typhoon season and so on, external support is highly needed. Unfortunately, some of the church buildings of this group have already disappeared due to lack of support, so we need to act quickly. But, at the same time, we have to be conscious of the fact that we try to preserve a “living” heritage, not a merely historical value. So we try to keep this life of the church going on as the real value for the World. The buildings are the external, material expression of a history, a culture, a faith developed in this area and in this time as something unique in the World. So, in our work, to keep only the buildings for the normal tourist or as a historical fact, would not have much meaning. In that sense, we know from the start that these church buildings are not outstanding architectonic pieces by themselves. But we know they represent an outstanding message for the culture and the faith in the World. That is what we try to communicate.
Promotion of cultural assets
In order to assure the future for these cultural assets, it is necessary to develop a protective system to secure increased public support. But, the opinion can be that “when a cultural asset is so designated, you cannot change even a nail”. This can lead local people to fear the implications of having their buildings recognized. To overcome these opinions, we have to seek a greater understanding of the process of registration.
In recent years, the appointment of cultural assets for the Nagasaki Church Group has advanced rapidly. At a national level, we have one site selected as a national treasure; four are designated as important cultural assets; one is registered as tangible cultural property. At a prefectural level, four of the church buildings are now recognized as tangible cultural property. But for the remaining buildings there is much to be done. For the process of World Heritage registration it is important to review the provisional list of the buildings to be included, since among the buildings, some of them do not meet all the requisites (such as authenticity), but could be reconstructed according to the original model.
The important traditional building group area that the Central Government selected (Higashiyamate, Nanzan area of Nagasaki city which includes the old Oura Church and other buildings) as an Important National Asset, can serve as a model for the application of the historical criterion in sites appointed as national treasures.
Necessity of maintaining the surrounding environment
For the process, it is important to include not only the “living church” factor, but also the natural environment of each of the buildings. This is important, because one of the factors which makes the buildings so unique, is the situation of their close match with the surroundings. This includes the Church building itself, the parish house etc., as they are part of a unity.
In considering the natural landscape such as the sea and the mountain, the people around the church, and their cultural background are important for the registration of the churches as World Heritage. They are part of the integrity of this “cultural phenomenon” for which we seek recognition.
Because of these factors, understanding of the local residents becomes a prerequisite. Inevitably, the gradual application of laws such as city park planning, forest and farmland conservation and local individual environmental will be drawn into the process.
The “Guzuku and related group of Ryukyu Kingdom” which was registered as World Heritage in the year 2000, is a good illustration of how a reasonable balance can be established between the local and national interests.
Harmony with Tourism
For the present-day person who lives a busy every day life in an urban district, the environment around the church and the church itself, regardless of his/her belief, is “a place where you take back the peace of heart” and a “place of healing experience” and as such, it has the potential also of becoming a sightseeing resource.
To register the Nagasaki Church Group as world heritage means inevitably engaging in increased communication with visitors. Church group preservation and tourism may seem contradictory sometimes. We believe, nonetheless, that a mature and realistic balance is possible. We hope to prepare plans for the preparation of hosts and visitors. In addition, it is necessary to consider the roads for visiting, parking zone service and so on, so when the time comes for World Heritage registration, we can insure that visitors will respect the environment.
Technical Details for the Churches Preservation
This Church buildings construction is made mainly of local wood, utilizing the traditional material and construction method of the Japanese ancient times, so for repairs and the like, it becomes important to reproduce as far as possible the construction method.
In the already declared regional or national valuable assets, like Shitsu Church, the old Nokubi Church and the old Oura Church, officially supported repairs have already taken place, so we can have them as a pattern to follow or correct for future preservation.