NOT a lot of Scottish people know this, but there is a part of Japan that is forever Scotland, and it was all down to the yen, if you’ll pardon the pun, that Japanese entrepreneurs had for early 20th century Scottish engineering and know-how, exemplified by a giant 107-year-old crane.

The part played by Scots in helping Japan change from a rural backwater to an industrial powerhouse in the space of a few decades is almost lost in history, but an initiative by the Japanese Government has ensured that their people will know what Scotland did for Japan.

For a new set of commemorative stamps and coins features an image that is as iconic of Nagasaki and Japanese shipbuilding as it is of the Clyde and its heyday – the Giant Cantilever Crane that sits near Dry Dock No. 3 in Nagasaki’s shipbuilding area.

Built by Appleby of Glasgow and erected by the Motherwell Bridge Company in 1909, the Nagasaki crane survived the atomic bomb that devastated the city in 1945, and remains in service to this day. It is of the same type as the famous Titan crane in Glasgow.

No. 3 Dry Dock was the largest dock in Asia when it was built in 1905 and it, too, is still in operation more than a century later.

The crane is featured in the coins and stamps issued by Japan to celebrate the winning of World Heritage Status for the Meiji Industrial Revolution site in and around Nagasaki – a place dedicated to that crucial part of Japan’s history in the late 19th and early 20th century, and which includes the abandoned Hashima Island that featured in the James Bond film Skyfall.

Helping win that World Heritage Status was the Scottish Ten project, whose experts digitally documented Nagasaki’s Giant Cantilever Crane and No 3 Dry Dock back in 2014.

The data was used in the Japanese government’s bid to have the monuments recognised by Unesco, which it achieved last year.

The Scottish Ten is a collaboration between specialists at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), experts in 3D visualisation at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and digital heritage organisation CyArk.

Dr Lyn Wilson, HES digital documentation manager and project manager at the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation said: “The Japanese are rightly very proud of these important, extremely well-preserved monuments to their industrial heritage, and we in Scotland should be proud of them too, as many were designed and built by pioneering Scottish engineers.”

Alastair Rawlinson, head of data acquisition at GSA and lead for the Scottish Ten project, said: “The creation of these stamps and coins not only helps to celebrate that, but potentially raises awareness of these sites to people in Japan and further afield, helps to protect them in the long run and strengthens historic links between our two countries.”

Koko Kato, director of the National Congress of Industrial Heritage and special adviser to the Japanese government, said: “We are now excited to commemorate the global significance of these sites through the issue of these special stamps and coins.” 

Comment by Hamish MacPherson

SCOTLAND’S industrial links with Japan go back to the 19th century when Japan was coming out of its self-imposed exile and its ancient way of life was changing rapidly.

The country needed a navy and merchant ships and they went to the world’s leading shipbuilding country at the time – Scotland.

The Giant Crane and Dry Dock commemorated in the new stamps were just two examples of the extraordinary feats of engineering which Scots carried out in Japan.

Japan also sent its brightest and youngest engineers and scientists to Scotland.

The Giant Cantilever Crane in Nagasaki is thought to have been ordered on the advice of Fraserburgh-born Thomas Blake Glover, one of the key figures in the industrialisation of Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Originally a merchant, Glover settled in Nagasaki, then the only ‘open’ port, and helped found Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, particularly its shipbuilding arm. Emperor Meiji invested Glover with the Order of the Rising Sun in appreciation of his work three years before he died in 1911 – he was the first non-Japanese to be so honoured.