Monday, 26 December 2011

Gov't eyes seabed with 13th century Mongol wreck as historic site

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Agency for Cultural Affairs plans to seek the designation as a national historical site the seabed off Nagasaki Prefecture in southwestern Japan where the wreck of a ship believed to have been used by 13th-century Mongol invaders has been found, agency sources said Wednesday.

If realized, the area off Takashima Island in Matsuura, Nagasaki, will be the first underwater ruins to be registered. Designation as a historic site would in principle prohibit the existing state in the area to be altered.

The agency saw the need to take immediate protection measures in the area given that relics there are expected to provide archeologists with crucial information on the 1274 and 1281 Mongol attacks that, until the recent discovery of the relatively intact shipwreck, has mostly been available only from historical documents and drawings.

The move came after the Matsuura education board submitted a report to the agency in July calling for the designation of some 384,000 square meters in the area, including where the sunken ship was found, as a national historical site. The board said academic research is still ongoing in the area and that no decision has been made on whether to raise the submerged wreck.

The failure of the two attacks launched by Mongol leader Kublai Khan (1215-1294) against Japan, with battles fought in northern Kyushu, is often attributed in Japan to "kamikaze" divine winds that destroyed much of the Mongol fleets.

The waters around Takashima Island are known for discoveries of the scattered wrecks. In October, a research team of the University of the Ryukyus said it has found a wreck with much of the hull still intact, including a 12-meter-long section of the keel.

In accordance with procedures for designating cultural properties, the agency will first consult with the Council for Cultural Affairs on the matter.

(Mainichi Japan) December 8, 2011

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