Passing down Techniques; Tradition and Their Use
The 8th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on November 15th, 2013. The Conference covered “Passing down Techniques: Traditions and Their Use,” and the central theme of the Conference was folk techniques, which the national government began designating in 2005. A system of national designation to preserve folk performing arts and manners and customs has been in operation since 1975. Although preservation of these practices has been amply discussed in the past, there has been limited awareness of the concept of folk techniques and a system to designate them. Moreover, performing arts and festivals essentially fall under practices or events that are out of the ordinary while folk techniques basically fall under routine practices, so a number of people make their living performing these techniques. Thus, these techniques are more susceptible to social and environmental changes. Given this reality, the Conference featured reports and a discussion of current issues encountered in efforts to preserve folk techniques and what types of preservation efforts are feasible. The Conference featured 2 individuals who are working to preserve nationally designated folk techniques and 3 individuals who have worked to preserve craft techniques in Tokyo prior to the system that nationally designated folk techniques. After these individuals delivered presentations, they were joined by 2 commentators to participate in a discussion. Reports and the discussion highlighted various issues such as the reduced demand for folk techniques (products), the breakdown of specialization, the shortage of raw materials, and the lack of individuals to carry on techniques. There is no magic bullet to resolve the difficulties in carrying on traditions, but the Conference emphasized the fact that concerned parties in different positions need to discuss issues and share information. The Conference also emphasized the need for coordination that bridges the divide between production sites and compartmentalized government administration. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage hopes to share and disseminate information by assembling examples of efforts in different areas.