The History, Status, and Future of Underwater Cultural Heritage Management in Japan

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The History, Status, and Future of Underwater Cultural Heritage Management in Japan


Underwater archaeology in Japan has a long history, as a report of artifacts from Lake Suwa in 1908, as well as discoveries at Tsuzura Ozaki site in Lake Biwa in 1924 detailed. The attempts to find the ill-fated fleet of Khubilai Khan at Takashima Island in Nagasaki prefecture began in the 1980s, but the Japanese archaeological community was slow in recognizing the importance of underwater archaeology. A number of underwater archaeological projects were conducted, but none had a lasting influence; the Japanese government has no law that specifically protects submerged sites, and there was neither government agency nor university that conducted a large scaled underwater excavation. However, several major developments suddenly took place in the past few years. In 2012, at first, following the discovery of a Chinese ship remain at Takashima Island, the Kozaki Underwater Site was registered as the first submerged national historic site. In 2013, secondly, the Asian Research Institute of Underwater Archaeology published 6 volumes of “The Database of Underwater Cultural Heritage and Promotion of Underwater Archaeology: Report on Comprehensive Survey of Maritime Cultural Heritage”. In 2013, moreover, the Agency for Cultural Affairs formed a committee to discuss how the government should act in response to the growing importance of protecting submerged sites. These events signify the Japanese archaeological community, as well as the government, finally began to recognize the importance of underwater cultural heritage. This paper illustrates the history, current status, as well as the possible future development plan of underwater archaeological research in Japan.


Randall J. Sasaki
Setsuo Imazu
Yuji Dainobu
Yoshihiko Akashi, in Van Tilburg, H., Tripati, S., Walker Vadillo, V., Fahy, B., and Kimura, J. (eds.)





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