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Technology Heritage Activities in Japan
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Although Japan is one of the leading repositories of industrial technology, the important artifacts that tell about the history of industrial technology are in danger of being lost. Industries are restructuring, and production sites are moving overseas. Furthermore, there is no museum of technology dedicated to industrial technology in Japan. To promote the preservation of important artifacts and technology, the National Museum of Nature and Science (NMNS), academic societies, and governmental organizations are establishing ways to recognize and commemorate important historical artifacts as part of our technological heritage. For the same reasons, IEEEMilestones activities are also popular in Japan.

Since April 1997, NMNS has conducted the "Research on the Evaluation, Preservation, and Publication of Materials on Industrial Technology" project in partnership with industries, academic societies, and the public sector. I have been involved in the project for the last three years to investigate the preservation status of historical computers in Japan and to systematize computer technology. In 2002, NMNS established the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology to confirm the existence of artifacts that represent stages in industrial technology development in Japan. NMNS gathers information about these artifacts and then selects and registers "Essential Historical Materials for Science and Technology" (nicknamed Future Technology Heritage). It has also published survey reports on the systematization of technologies for each technology area and has built a database of the history of Japanese industrial technology. NMNS holds a recognition ceremony of Essential Historical Materials for Science and Technology every year and issues a certificate of registration and a plaque to the artifact owners. At the first ceremony in 2008, 23 artifacts were registered including Osaka University's vacuum-tube computer and Fuji Photo Film's FUJIC vacuum-tube computer built in the 1950s. The fifth recognition ceremony was held on 11 September 2012, and 21 additional artifacts including Sony's first stereo cassette player Walkman were registered, for a total of 113 registered artifacts. The photo panels of newly registered artifacts were exhibited at NMNS until November 4 (see Figure 1).

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Figure 1. 

Photo panel exhibition of 2012 National Museum of Nature and Science (NMHS) Essential Historical Materials for Science and Technology.

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Figure 2. 

Akihabara Electric Town in downtown Tokyo was commemorated as a technical achievement by the Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan in 2008. (Courtesy of Akihabara Electrical Town Organization.)

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Figure 3. 

Shinko-Seisakusho electromechanical telecommunication devices certified as a Japan Society of Mechanical Engineering (JSME) Mechanical Engineering Heritage in 2008. (Courtesy of Shinko MechatroTech Co. Ltd.)

The "Commemoration: One Step on Electro-Technology (Look Back to the Future)" of the Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan (IEEJ) started in 2008 to commemorate technical achievements in electrotechnology as a part of activities celebrating the IEEJ's 120th anniversary. Achievements are categorized into four areas—products, places, events, and people—and must be at least 25 years old, the same as IEEE Milestones. A commemoration ceremony is held during the IEEJ's annual national convention. At the first ceremony in October 2008, 10 achievements were commemorated, including the electric town "Akihabara" in downtown Tokyo (see Figure 2), Japan National Railroad seat reservation system MARS-1 developed in 1960, and Toshiba's Japanese word processor JW-10 built in 1979. Five additional achievements were commemorated in the fifth ceremony this year, for a total of 30.

The Japan Society of Mechanical Engineering (JSME) collected machine tools developed and used before 1912 as monument of machinery in 1997 as a part of its 100th anniversary events. In 2007, JSME established the Mechanical Engineering Heritage certification program as a part of its 110th anniversary to preserve important artifacts as a cultural heritage for the next generation. The heritage artifacts fall into four categories: sites (mechanical heritage with historical landscape), landmarks (architecture or construct with machinery), collections (machinery), and documents. JSME published a book titled Japanese Mechanical Engineering in 2000. In 2007, 25 artifacts were certified including Tokaido-Shinkansen electric multiple units (bullet trains) and the Japanese-made passenger airplane Type YS11. The mechanical calculator Jido Soroban (Automatic Abacus) and electromechanical telecommunication devices made by Shinko Seisakusho were certified in 2008 (see Figure...

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