About Mr. Hideshi Inoue  

“Grandpa Matsumoto is still alive!!??”

Mr. Hideshi Inoue shouted with joy.
When Inoue-san was 14 years old, he saw the war end on Hashima Island. He was a member of the surveying corps at the underground coal mine.

Matsumoto-san is Mr. Sakae Matsumoto, whom I introduced in my last Editor’s Diary (2018/0118).


The late Mr. Hideshi Inoue (Photo Credit: Masami Murao) 


 Mr. Hideshi Inoue was born in 1929 as the fourth son of 8 sibilings (5 boys, 3 girls), on the 8th floor on the sea cliff side of building #17 on Hashima Island (see map of Hashima). His father worked as a shrine carpenter in Shimabara before he moved to Hashima in 1925 at the age of 29 (with 5 members of his family), to work as a construction worker at the coal mine. From 6th grade in elementary school to 2nd grade in higher elementary school, Mr. Inoue commuted to Nagasaki to attend school, but in April 1944, when the tide of the war began to turn against Japan, he took a job as a surveyor in the surveying department at the Mitsubishi Coal Mine on Hashima. He was 14 years oldFrom that point on, he worked as a surveyor for the coal mine for 13 years and 2 months. The end of the war came when Mr. Inoue was 16 years old (-age under the traditional Japanese age system; equivalent to 14 in the Western style age system). In 1957, he was transferred to become a security foreman at the underground mine; he worked for 7 years and 4 months at this role, engaging in excavating and digging at the mine. In total, he worked for 20 years and 6 months at the coal mine, and when he was 34 years old, he moved to Takashima, along with three other members of his family. 


ashima in 1928 

Source: Map created based on “Mitsubishi Takashima Coal Mine Hashima Mine Training Report”, 1930, Naoki Minoda, owned by Kyushu Insititue of Technology  

Departing Before Telling His Story 

My interview on October 29th, 2016was my third interview with Inoue-sanfollowing the first in July and second in September. He spoke for four and a half hours without taking a break, using his substantial body, while holding a blue folder in his hand. When my questions turned to the topic of working in the pit, his narrow eyes shined behind his black-framed glasses, and his speech began to pick up speed. I needed to ask him to repeat his answers many times, as I was not used to the Nagasaki dialect. I hung on to his every word. 


  Documents provided by Inoue-san 

In the interview, Inoue-san showed keen interest in the pamphlet created by the Korean civic organization. In it, there was a picture of a miner who lay horizontally in the pit, almost naked, digging. The image was being used to depict the “forced labor” of the workers from the Korean Peninsula in Hashima. Inoue-san reacted strongly to this picture. 


Pamphlets created by a Korean civic organization distribruted at the 39th UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting 


“First of all, this doesn’t happen lying down; it’s silly that one would crouch down to work”, “we could not work without wearing clothes in the pit, it’s too dangerous. If anything was to come falling, it would cut you, even if it’s just coal powder, it would cut, like this. There may have been miners wearing short sleeves. Because there were no proper work clothes. But you can’t work naked because you’d get cut. If they say you could work naked, then that’s a breach of duty.” 


I mentioned that in a mining scene in the movie “Midori naki shima”, created after the war, there is also a scene in which a miner is working without wearing a shirt. Inoue-san, whose hobby is photography, was present at the filming of the movie, as a member of the Hashima photography troop. The movie was filmed on a set, because the film crew could not enter the pit due to concerns over gas. 


After the third interview with Inoue-san ended, and as he began to head home, I was starting my interview with Ms. Harue Kobayashi and Kiyoko Adachi. Ms. Kobayashi was a classmate of Mr. Sakae Matsumoto; she and her sister, Ms. Adachi, both grew up on Hashima. They were telling me about their lives on Hashima during the war. Just then, Inoue-san came back, unexpectedly. It was about 30-40 minutes into the interview. 

When I said “please come in”, he slowly sat in a chair that was placed away from the sofa. The low chair made his body look smaller. 


Inoue-san listened to Ms. Kobayashi and Ms. Adachi’s stories for a while, but after being prompted by the sisters, he moved to the sofa and joined the conversation. Inoue-san is fast-talking and voluble, so his presence instantly lightened up the mood. Towards the end of the interview, Inoue-san began to talk about the things he left out earlier in his interview. He talked about World War II; about the torpedoes of the US Armed Forces; and about the bombing of the Takashima Futako power plant, just before the end of the war; his stories were all extremely valuable. At the end, he said “here”, and handed me the blue file that he had been holding tightly.   

“Really? I can have this?” I said, to which he responded, “I couldn’t tell you, but I prepared this for you.” When he was about to leave, he said, shyly, in the hallway, “I wanted to see your face one more time”, as he smiled. This was my last conversation with Inoue-san. 



The late Mr. Inoue with the author 

In January 2017, I learned of Inoue-san’s death from Mr. Michinori Sakamoto (Inoue-san’s nephew)’s Facebook pageMr. Sakamoto is the Chairman of the Kyushu Tradition Heritage Network, who was instrumental in registering sites to the World Heritage. The post on Facebook read: 


Mr. Michinori Sakamoto

“Hence, we may have radiant faces in the morning, but by evening we may turn into white ashes.”
I said goodbye to an elder of Hashima.

He was my uncle-in-law. 
He was planning to make an important testimony about Hashima on January 6th. 
He died peacefully while looking at the documents for the testimony. 
It was a death becoming of him. 
He was 87 years old. 
We lost another important person. 
At his wake, there were relatives we had not seen for more than 10 years. 



“Thus the ephemeral nature of human existence is such that death comes to young and old alike without discrimination. So we should all quickly take to heart the matter of the greatest importance of the afterlife, entrust ourselves deeply to Amida Buddha, and recite the nembutsu.” 

We pray for the repose of his soul. 


  At the second interview with Inoue-san, I gave him a portrait, which made him happy. It was an enlargement of a photograph taken by the photographer Masami Murao at the Nagasaki City Hall.  
I said “it’s Murao-san photograph so please let me know when you will use it”, to which he responded, “I can use it for my funeral, right?” Unfortunately, that became reality. 


I was scheduled to see Inoue-san at a gathering planned by Mr. Sakae Matsumoto on January 4th. However, on December 31st, he died from choking on toshikoshi-soba, which are noodles that the Japanese eat to welcome the New Year. I heard he was looking forward to seeing Matsumoto-san and other former Hashima residents. When he died, there were Korean documents related to Gunkanjima in front of him. I imagine there were things he left unsaidInoue-san passed away leaving many thoughts behind. 


 In a picture book about Gunkanjima published in Korea, there is an illustration that depicts people from the Korean Peninsula being abused and discriminated against. At the 39th UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting, Korean civic groups distributed pamphlets called “A Stolen Country, Abducted People” that showed Hashima on its cover; a pamphlet called “Wake Up UNESCO, Wake Up World, Wake Up Mankind”; and flyers that read “Can UNESCO Tolerate the Torment of Guilty Conscience?” Inoue-san was preparing to speak up against these documents, until the end of his life. 


Interview with Inoue-san 


--Tell me about your work in Hashima. 

“I graduated at age 14, about 14 years and 2 months. I worked as a surveyor for the mining department, you see, there are surveyors now too. I was placed in that department. In my days, you’d go down into the pit. That’s why I know everything about the pit. <Omitted> Beginning on March 21 (1944), the surveying team, meaning the surverying team of the mining department, we surveyed inside and outside the pit.” 

(July 26 2016 The Hotel Nagasaki BW Premium Collection ) 


“So we go around, all around the pit. You know, back then, even at age 14, you go inside the pit. Women too, up until about two years before me, there were women in the pit too. But then that was banned, and then there was us- once the war was over, they called them the Protection Workers, and required workers to be 18 years old to enter the pit- but we got in before that, so we always did the rounds.” 

“I was in Hashima until I was 34, and then I left to go to Takashima. Or I should say, the company transferred me there. There was an accident in the pit, so there was a staff reduction of several hundreds, and we were taken to Takashima. I took early retirement, but continued to work until the retirement age - 60 at the time - at the Underground Security Superintendent’s Office, after becoming an engineer.” 

(July 26 2016 The Hotel Nagasaki BW Premium Collection ) 


――During the War in Hashimawere there boys who worked in the pit at the mine that came from the Korean Peninsula? If so, were they abused? 

“No, things like that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen at all. I never saw young people like that coming. (Omitted) Not young people like that. I have never seen them. And there was no hitting, or anything like that, at all. I think that’s nonsense, just nonsense. (Omitted) So then of course, conveniently, we go around the entire mineSo we would know those things. We knew about the conditions of the various positions. If the conditions were bad in a certain position, then the Japanese would say something too - well, of course, there were natural conditions, like water sprouting, but these things were bound to happen.” (October 29, 2016 Hotel New Nagasaki) 


――Was there actually an instance where workers were found trying to escape the island and were shot to death? 

“They say they got shot to death, but there weren’t even any guns. There were bayonet drills, you know how you practice stabbing forward, but other than that, when we graduated from school, we were put in Youth School to go through military training. After work, we’d gather in the school yard for military training. Even at the training, there weren’t real guns, not at all. I’ve never even seen one, and there were none. I don’t know who exaggerated these things. It just didn’t happen, at all. So I think someone made this up, it’s some kind of an act. (October 29th, 2016 Hotel New Nagasaki) 


――Tell me about the incident where the American submarine shot a torpedo at Hakujumaru, the coal transport ship that was anchored at Hashima. 

“It was on June 11th, 1945, the ship was loading coal, when an American submarine shot a torpedo at it. It sunk, but the water was only 7 meters deep. So then the ship stayed grounded there.” (September 18th, 2016, Nagasaki City Hall) 


―In Korean documents, a picture of a miner digging coal as he lies horizontally, nearly naked, is frequently used (Reference: Message video “Who is fabricating history?” <Add link> Were workers from the Korean Peninsula working without clothing at the Hashima Coal Mine? 


“They created this drama. They don’t know how a coal mine works, at all. Hashima was an unusual placeThey had workers working, but it was an unusual place. What I mean is, there is a slope, and you needed to go down in a cage. Because there is a slope, you wouldn’t work without wearing clothes. You can’t work naked, because you’d get cut. If something came falling, you’d get cut. So this didnt’ happen, not at all. (July 26 2016 The Hotel Nagasaki BW Premium Collection ) 


“First of all, you cannot work naked in the pit, it’s too dangerous. If anything was to come falling, it would cut you, even if it’s just coal powder, like this. There may have been miners wearing short sleeves. Because there were no proper work clothes. But you can’t work naked, because you’d get cut. If they said you could work naked, then that’s a breach of duty.” (October 29th, 2016 Hotel New Nagasaki) 


――Please tell me about digging for coal while lying down. 

“First of all, this doesn’t happen lying down, it’s silly that one would crouch down to work. If you think it’s OK because it’s a small hill, then you’re an amateur with no experience in the pit. You can’t dig while crouching down. There’s a 60-degree slope where you mine, and therefore no one can enter that slope, so we need to secure a mine roadway, protected by 210cm beam and pit prop, above and below, for the passage of coal car, as you call it now, to get in..” 

(October 29th, 2016 Hotel New Nagasaki) 


――Was there discrimination against workers from the Korean Peninsula in the workplace and at school? 

“When we were little, there were bath houses, and the bath houses were all mixed. The baths were all shared, and they were saltwater baths [Author’s note: sea water baths]. We all took baths together there. But we were discriminated from the company employees, because employees got separate fresh water baths. Then also the toilets, around the time I was in elementary school, toilets were all on the hillside, and they were just holes dug in the ground. That was the same for the Korean homes too. Later, they made new sinks and whatnot in the 9-story building. So it was very inconvenient. If you weren’t careful, you’d fall, since it was just a hole. We all lived like that, so there was no discrimination. So, at the end of the war, they were sent back in groups, those that came to help from Sakhalin, and from China, they all got on Danbeibune [Author’s note: transport ship for coal etc.], which were big ships. You may not know what a Danbeibune is, but back then, there weren’t big ships, but this was a big ship that was used to transport big cargo, so they were loaded onto this ship - it was a wide ship, a rowing ship. Two or three of those ships were pulled, and the Korean people and others were gathered at Hashima Elementary school, and on separate days, we gathered at 6AM to see them off, to say goodbye. So if you ask me, there were no such incidents, as you mentioned. These goodbyes, they we so extremely sad, to say goodbye to these ships. We couldn’t leave, even if we wanted to, until the ship entered Nakanoshima. We waved like this, and they waved back like this. We didn’t go home until we could no longer see the ships.” 

(July 26 2016 The Hotel Nagasaki BW Premium Collection ) 


“They came planning to immigrate, so they changed their names, it was hard to read the names, but for example like, there was a woman whose name was Chang Usun. For us kids, we used to play together after school, all the time. (Omitted) As I said before, there were women working in the same office, until I was in the 2nd grade of higher elementary school. There was no discrimination, In school, there was no bullying, actually, they were all bigger than us. They were heavier. And stronger. They didn’t do well in school, but they were stronger at sumo and fighting, and everything else.” 

(July 26 2016 The Hotel Nagasaki BW Premium Collection ) 


――There are testimonies that policemen were violent towards people from the Korean Peninsula. How many policemen were on Hashima? (Add link to counterargument to book) 

“There was only one (police station in Hashima) and there were two police officers and one police sergeant. No more than that.” 

(September 18th, 2016, Nagasaki City Hall) 


――Was there violence by policemen? 

“That’s fabricated, because policemen were not involved in the happenings inside the pits. Never. Security in the mines was managed by the Security Surveillance office. Policemen were in charge of incidents outside of the mines, so that’s a mistake in the first place.” (October 29th, 2016 Hotel New Nagasaki) 


Koko Kato

Managing Director, National Congress of Industrial Heritage,
 Special Advisor to the Cabinet since July 2015,
 “Coordinator of Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” World Heritage Council,Chair, Industry Project team, Chair, Interpretation Committee of Cabinet Secretariat,Project Leader, Sakubei Yamamoto Collection UNESCO Memory of the World Visiting Professor, University of Tsukuba (April 1 2015-March 31 2016);

Graduated from Keio University Faculty of Litterature, Tokyo headquarters of CBS News.Harvard Kennedy School with an MCRP in City and Regional Planning (1987-1989), with special focus on corporate towns and their economic development.Since graduating at Harvard Kennedy School, Koko Kato started her own company and became involved in private activities while conducting international research about corporate towns and their industrial heritage. She authored the book titled “Industrial Heritage” (Nihon Keizai Shimbunsha, 1999), essays in “Economist” (Japan’s weekly magazine), “Gakuto”,“Shincho 45” and “Chiri” etc. Koko Kato was Director, and one of the principal authors, of the Nomination Document for the inscription of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution on the World Heritage List, and its digest edition. She is also Director of several booklets and the principal Website related to Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.