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History Miike Coal Mine - a World Heritage Site and POW camp


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
An eye-opening article on a lesser-known aspect of the Miike Coal Mine (三池炭鉱 Miike Tankō), designated a Japanese World Heritage Site in 2015 and one of the Meiji Industrial Revolution" sites. During WWII, the mine served as a POW camp called Fukuoka 17. The prisoners (Chinese, Koreans, Dutch, British, Australians, and Americans) were used as slave labourers to mine coal. Unfortunately, the local museum and the heritage site omit most of that history.

David Palmer's article was published in the Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus (1 July).

Abstract: Mitsui's Miike Coal Mine is World Heritage listed by UNESCO as one of Japan's "Sites of the Industrial Revolution." The Japanese government, however, has failed to tell the full story of this mine instead of promoting bland tourism. In World War II, Miike was Japan's largest coal mine, but also the location of the largest Allied POW camp in Japan. Korean and Chinese forced labourers also were used by Mitsui in the mine. The use of prisoners was nothing new, as Mitsui and other Japanese companies used Japanese convicts as workers in the early decades of the Meiji era. The role of Australian POWs, in particular, reveals that there was resistance inside Miike even at the height of abuse by Japanese wartime authorities. Japan has a responsibility under its UNESCO World Heritage agreement to tell the full history of this and other "Meiji Industrial Revolution" sites.

Absolutely recommended to anyone interested in Japan's wartime history.
Not sure if it was the same one. My friend took me to a former prison camp near Fukuoka. There was a 30 foot pile of rocks and debris that my Japanese friend said was moved around by the prisoners day after day to keep them busy. I had forgotten all about it till this post.
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