Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage


Development of the record of ukaibune building

Mr. Douglas Brooks (left) and Mr. Seiichi NASU (right)
Ukaibune under construction

 Ukai, or a fishing method which uses trained cormorants to catch river fish, conducted in the Nagaragawa River in Gifu Prefecture is now famous as a representative tourist attraction of the prefecture. The ukai fishing conducted in the goryoba, or the Imperial Fishing Ground, is called goryo ukai, which has an important role of serving the caught ayu (sweetfish) to the members of the Imperial Family. Moreover, the technique has been designated as an important intangible folk cultural asset of Japan. Thus, ,ukai is historically and culturally significant. One of the essential elements to support the ukai fishing technique is the cormorant fishing boat called ukaibune that is helmed by the usho, the cormorant fishing master. There is a fear, however, that the technique of building ukaibune will not be handed down to the future generations, as at present, there are only two funadaiku, or boat builders, capable of building this type of boat.
 Under these circumstances, a project has started, in which Mr. Douglas Brook, a U.S. citizen, researcher of Japanese boats and funadaiku, who has experience in building tarai bune (tub boat) of Sado and sabani (small sail fishing boat) of Okinawa, has become an apprentice to 85-year old Mr. Seiichi NASU, one of the two remaining ukaibune builders, and is working with his master to build an ukaibune. The Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties participate in this project, the former providing a place for boat building and the latter producing a video record.
 The building of ukaibune began on May 22, 2017 and is scheduled to be completed in about two months. Agility and gracefulness are required in particular of ukaibune when compared to other wooden boats in general, and therefore, sophisticated techniques are required. It is a major target of this project to accurately and completely record the technique to help hand it down to the future generations.
 It is somewhat paradoxical that a non-Japanese is learning and mastering this traditional Japanese technique that is on the verge of extinction. We believe, however, that recording the intangible technique by positively taking advantage of this opportunity is one of the roles our institute should play since the conservation of cultural properties is our mission.


“Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention – Risk Management and Restoration Support” published

Intangible Cultural Assets and Disaster Prevention – Risk Management and Restoration Support

 A report by the 11th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties organized on December 9th, 2016 was published at the end of March. This year’s subject is “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention – Risk Management and Restoration Support.” We shared efforts and initiatives and discussed what preparations are effective to protect intangible cultural heritages from disasters that have occurred frequently in recent years, or what support can be provided after they are hit by these natural disasters.
 Even without disasters, intangible cultural heritages are constantly at risk of extinction. These disaster prevention efforts and initiatives can be expected to lead to preparations for day-to-day risks of extinction or decline due in part to the falling birthrate and the aging of population or the modernization of lifestyles.
 the PDF version can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Publication of Reports and DVD Titled “Making Kizumi’s Winnowing Baskets – Kizumi, Sosa City, Chiba Prefecture”

Reports and DVD

 The technique for making wisteria winnowing baskets transmitted in Kizumi, Sosa City, Chiba Prefecture, which we had researched from September 2015, was finally published as reports and visual recording at the end of March, 2017.
 This program was conducted as part of the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Mitigation Network Promotion Project in order to examine what kind of record would work well for the restoration of any technique lost due to disaster or for other reasons. In cooperation with holders of that technique, we recorded a series of processes from the collection and processing of raw materials to winnowing basket weaving as an almost-7-hour-long video, as well as written and illustrated reports.
 Now we are thinking of verifying the video and reports so as to explore the possibility of making better records for precious techniques. These PDF reports and DVD images are to be uploaded onto the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties around mid-June, 2017.


The 11th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

 On December 9, 2016 the 11th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties washeld on the topic titled “Intangible cultural heritages and disaster prevention—risk management andrecovery support.”The meeting featured four presenters and two commentators for a day of reports anddiscussion.
 The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and numerous smaller natural disasters in recent years have brought crisis to intangible cultural heritages, leaving many vulnerable to total demise. Significant physical and societal devastation occurs throughout Japan due to earthquakes, tsunamis, torrential rains, and other extremes of nature. While awareness is growing toward safeguarding cultural properties from disasters, little thought has been given to intangible cultural heritages. At this conference, many issues were raised regarding this situation and measures being taken were shared. Discussions arose regarding what kind of preparations are needed to safeguard intangible cultural heritages from natural disaster and what kind of support could be given after such an occurrence.
 The first report was from Iwate Prefecture, which presented findings on the current state of harm to intangible cultural heritages resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake and the ongoing recovery process. The second report was from Ehime Prefecture, which presented a survey of the region’s history of damage due to past Nankai Trough earthquakes and the building of a disaster prevention and mitigation system network. This was followed by a report on the replication of Buddhist statues as a means of preventing the theft of cultural properties.
 Finally, there was a report on how to keep the necessary records for the repair and restoration of festival implements. In the general discussion that followed, comments were shared on efforts that are being taken in the Kansai area based on the experience of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake; examples were also shared from outside Japan. Based on such comments there was a discussion on the need to form networks, also touching upon the political issues involved in risk management.
 The content of this conference was published in a March 2017 report that is scheduled for release on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Liaison Council for “Disaster Prevention of Intangible Cultural Heritage”

Liaison Council meeting

 A meeting of the Liaison Council for “Disaster Prevention of Intangible Culture Heritage” was held at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP), on August 22nd and 23rd, attended by persons in charge of cultural properties in eastern Japan.
 Since July 2014, the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage has been working on the “promotion program of the National Taskforce for the Japanese Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Mitigation Network” commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Under this program, with the objective of studying and promoting disaster prevention of intangible cultural heritage, for which sufficient measures have not yet been established, the TNRICP’s Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has carried out activities to collect and share information on the locations of cultural assets as the basic information in disaster prevention and to build a network among the parties concerned in cooperation with the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems. This Liaison Council meeting was held as a part of these activities by inviting persons in charge of cultural properties in each prefecture of eastern Japan. The collection of information was urged and information concerning the situations of each area and activities/challenges in disaster prevention was exchanged. On the 22nd, 11 members from East Japan Study Group of Museum Attendants Specialized in Folklore , the co-host of this meeting, also participated, bringing the total number of participants to nearly 40.
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to hold a Liaison Council meeting for people in western Japan in late autumn and a meeting of the Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties in December under the theme of disaster prevention. We will continue to make efforts to further study and promote “disaster prevention of intangible cultural heritage”.


The 10th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

Scene from the general discussion

 The 10th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on December 4th, where reports were presented and discussions were held on the topic titled “Outward-facing intangible cultural heritage―Transmission of attractiveness and external power” by four presenters and two commentators.
 There have been a number of cases reported where, in the process of restoration after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the attempt taken by the severely afflicted areas to bring in “external power” has resulted in contributing to inheritance of culture. Through the attempt, I-turn & U-turn migrants, tourists, and other new groups of people who had never been involved in cultural inheritance activities in a community came to take part in those activities (expansion of successors) and came to transmit patrimonies to new audience and supporters (expansion of receivers). In this regard, when having intangible folk cultural properties “face outward” in a variety of forms, what kind of structures and methods will be needed? And, what kind of challenges and visions will there be? Discussion was exchanged this time on “external power” and inheritance of culture not by limiting the target to disaster-stricken areas, but by covering various regions across Japan that are declining because of depopulation, aging, and urbanization.
 From the reports on four regions, namely Aomori, Yamagata, Hiroshima, and Okinawa and through the subsequent discussion, a wide variety of topics were posed including not only specific ones such as how to create methods and structures for transmitting attractiveness, but also how to address “tradition” and change, and what meaning it has for a region to make efforts to hand the culture on to the next generation. It was especially impressive to know that all these four regions had never relied on external power from the start in their efforts to hand down culture, but rather the successors and community people surrounding them had continued to choose their own path through numbers of discussions on the ideal way of cultural inheritance and through trials and errors. The Conference this time gathered more participants than in past years, including many who were actually engaged in cultural inheritance activities in an organization working on conservation of intangible cultural heritage. It not only indicated a rising interest in the issue of having intangible cultural heritage “face outward” but also renewed our recognition of how serious the patrimony issue is for the parties concerned.
 The report of the Conference was published in March 2016 and was posted on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Video Record Producing Project for Folk Technique – Kizumi’s Technique for Making Wisteria Winnowing Baskets as a Model Case

 Video recording is very effective for smoothly disseminating folk techniques to the coming generations. Particularly after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the importance of such records as tools for restoring and reproducing lost techniques has been recognized anew, attracting attention as a measure for ameliorating the effects of disasters as well.
 However, the existing videos produced for research and popularization took about one hour each to record, and only a few focused on the acquisition of skills or nurturing of new craftsmen. Therefore, clarifying what to record and how to record it will help learners acquire skills that have not been sufficiently verified in terms of the approach as well. This is an urgent issue because in the front line those with the knowledge and skills are aging, and proper recordkeeping is becoming an increasingly important task in ensuring that these techniques are passed on to future generations.
 Accordingly, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage started a project to produce records of images for folk techniques by focusing on Kizumi’s technique for making wisteria winnowing baskets in Sosa City, Chiba Prefecture (intangible folk cultural properties designated by the national government) as a model case in September 2015 as part of the disaster prevention program. We will proceed with the production through consultation with both predecessors and successors regarding at which angles we should shoot the film and which information we should pick up to support the successors in the series of technical processes from the collection and processing of raw materials to making wisteria winnowing baskets. The project is expected to last for two years, and we will also consider how the recorded videos will be released for utilization.


Investigation on inau brought by the Kitamaebune trade

Inau honogaku (votive tablet) brought to the Monzenmachi district of Wajima
Three inau existing in the town of Fukaura, Aomori Prefecture

 This fiscal year, we started an investigation on inau (equipment used for Ainu religious rituals) existing in Honshu and below. A large number of materials related to Ainu from the early-modern times to the Meiji era, which are believed to have been brought through the Northern Trade, were introduced to port towns on the Sea of Japan side, which once flourished as anchorage sites for kitamaebune trading boats. Among the materials, we found that inau dedicated to shrines or temples still exist in Ishikawa, Aomori and other prefectures, and we are currently investigating them together with Mr. Mikio Toma of the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of History and Mr. Jirota Kitahara of the Center for Ainu & Indigenous Studies at Hokkaido University.
 In the investigation conducted so far, we have found four inau honogaku (votive tablets) with inscriptions showing years from 1887 to 1890 in the Monzenmachi district of Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, while one inau honogaku with an inscription of the first year of the Meiji era (1868) was found in Hakusan, the same prefecture. These tablets carry ink-written letters meaning such things as “dedication” or “maritime safety,” suggesting that they were dedicated by the owners of kitamaebune boats to a prayer for, or in appreciation of, a safe navigation. Meanwhile, in the town of Fukaura, Aomori Prefecture, which provided an important port for kitamaebune boats to wait for a good wind to sail, there are 27 inau, the years of which are unknown, implying that they were dedicated in relation to the belief in the sea.
 While these inau are not well known so far, they can be regarded as very valuable historical materials that are the oldest next to one believed to have been collected by Juzo Kondo in 1798, and those possessed by the Tokyo National Museum (1875) and by the Botanic Garden, Hokkaido University (1878). In addition, these historical materials suggest that the owners of kitamaebune boats carefully brought inau used for Ainu religious rituals back to Honshu and have been protecting them up to the present day by dedicating them to temples or shrines in their respective communities. In addition, it can be said that they are very suggestive materials reflecting the realities of exchanges between wajin and Ainu people through the Northern Trade. As there are possibly undiscovered inau in areas along the coast of the Sea of Japan, we will continue the investigation in cooperation with relevant institutions.


Survey on activities for the conservation of intangible folk cultural assets in the northern area of Hiroshima Prefecture – Research exchange with South Korea’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Center

Mibu no Hana Taue
Miyoshi no Ukai

 Since 2011, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been conducting the second Research Exchange between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage with South Korea’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Center (the former National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage). As part of the program, Mr. Ban So Young of the center visited Japan from June 1 to 22 and conducted a joint survey. Aiming to conduct concrete case studies on activities of conservation groups and others for the safeguarding and utilization of intangible cultural heritages, we inspected Mibu no Hana Taue, the ritual of transplanting rice in the Mibu area of Kitahiroshima town in Hiroshima Prefecture, (designated as a national important intangible folk cultural property and inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity) and Miyoshi no Ukai, a traditional fishing method using a cormorant conducted in Miyoshi, the same prefecture, (designated as a Hiroshima prefectural intangible folk cultural property), and interviewed the people concerned. For their transmission to later generations, both Hana Taue and Ukai are indivisibly connected to tourism. Especially because of that, not only successors but also a wide range of actors such as local governments, related organizations, people in relevant communities, researchers and audience are interrelated in various ways for the transmission of the intangible folk cultural assets, and these assets have been passed down to later generations in more flexible ways while having relations with local economies. In the latest survey, we could learn a part of the actual situations.
 In South Korea, a new law concerning intangible cultural heritages will be implemented in March 2016, which will greatly change the environment surrounding the conservation of intangible cultural heritages in the country. At the same time, this research exchange program will end in this fiscal year, and we will summarize the program in the next fiscal year. In the future, we will compile the results of the second research exchange, while both countries plan to discuss ways of bilateral exchange in the year after next and beyond with moves after the revision of the law in South Korea in mind.


Publication of “Local Identity and Folk Performing Arts: Relocation/ Resettlement and Intangible Cultural Heritage”

Report on the 9th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

 The 9th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on December 6, 2014, and a report on that Conference was published at the end of March. The theme of this year’s conference was “Local Identity and Folk Performing Arts: Relocation/Resettlement and Intangible Cultural Heritage.” How will folk culture be passed down and what role does folk culture play when people are relocated and resettled? The answers to these questions were posited and discussed through specific examples from the past. The Great East Japan Earthquake led to a reappraisal of the value that people attach to folk culture as a basis for their identity. This discussion is warranted both for communities that were stricken by the Earthquake and for areas with fewer young people and growing proportion of elderly.
 A PDF version of the report is available for download from the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


A survey of a technique to make winnowing fans from Japanese wisteria in the Kizumi area

Harvested Japanese wisteria is buried in the ground before the week of the vernal equinoctial ends
Working dwarf bamboo

 On January 24, efforts to preserve and pass on a technique to make winnowing fans from Japanese wisteria (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property) were surveyed. This technique has been passed down in the Kizumi area of the City of Sosa, Chiba Prefecture.
 Winnowing fans are an essential tool for everyday life since these fans are used to carry items and separate grain from chaff. These fans are also ceremonial implements that are used in festivals and annual events. These fans are thus an essential part of life. Three techniques to make these winnowing fans have currently received national designation as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property (folk technique). One of these techniques is practiced in the Kizumi area of the City of Sosa, where winnowing fans continue to be made using Japanese wisteria and dwarf bamboo. Winnowing fans from the Kizumi area are light, sturdy, and extremely flexible, and these fans were widely used throughout the Kanto region. The heyday for the making of winnowing fans was from the Taisho Period to the mid-1950s, when the Kizumi area and surrounding areas produced 80,000 winnowing fans annually. However, changes in the social climate and the spread of plastic baskets and baskets from China have resulted in a sharp decline in current demand for the winnowing fans.
 The Kizumi Society to Preserve the Making of Winnowing Fans was formed to pass on the technique to make winnowing fans in the Kizumi area. Starting in 2010, the Society has conducted a class to pass down the technique and the Society has worked to foster individuals who will continue to pass on the technique. The class is held monthly. Local individuals who wish to pass down the technique act as teachers, and they work tireless to collect materials for the winnowing fans, work those materials, make the fans, and put on demonstration sales at local festivals. Students attending the class vary in age; some wish to start making the winnowing fans after mandatory retirement, some are learning how to make winnowing fans while working bamboo professionally or semi-professionally, and some are local organic farmers. Regardless of who they are, the students are passionate about learning. Some of the students are residents of the Kizumi area while others attend monthly from places such as the Town of Yokoshibahikari and the City of Kamogawa. The class on January 24 had several dozen students who learned about harvesting Japanese wisteria and dwarf bamboo and then treating and working those materials.
 The demand for many folk goods has declined sharply due to changes in the social climate and the spread of materials and tools that can be used to mass produce items at a low cost. Circumstances continue to hamper the passing down of folk techniques. If those techniques are no longer needed by society, how will values change? Is there a point to passing down those techniques and if so how? Numerous communities are facing these issues.
 The survey found that residents of the Kizumi area have created a place and an atmosphere where people can learn how to make winnowing fans and they have taken in outsiders who are interesting in learning how to make those items. The residents do this as part of their own life’s work, as a hobby, or as practitioners of an art. The survey revealed evidence of a new relationship emerging in which people are no longer forced make winnowing fans as an occupation, as they were in the past. Instead, people have decided themselves that they want to make winnowing fans. As the evidence indicated, this approach may constitute a new model with which to pass down techniques. This approach is possible because values are more diverse today, so people have the option of reexamining traditional culture and seeking to return to a life more in tune with nature.


8th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties held

A general discussion underway

 The 8th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on November 15th. 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.
 Plans are to publish a report on the conference’s proceedings in March 2014.


Research on tub boat (taraibune) building in Ogi in the City of Sado

A tub boat for sightseeing with an outer covering of clear FRP
A current tub boat for isonegi with an FRP outer covering and an outboard motor attached

 From September 10–11, tub boat building techniques (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 2007) passed down around the Ogi Peninsula, south of the City of Sado, Niigata Prefecture were studied. Tub boats, known on Sado Island as hangiri, are able to make tight turns and are highly stable, so they have readily been used for isonegi (fishing or harvesting seaweed close to shore), which is done in inlets with numerous rocks.
 Coopering techniques are applied to build tub boats, which are made by sticking planks of Japanese cedar together and then holding them in place with hoops of timber bamboo. The City of Sado attempted to train successors to carry on these techniques by conducting a seminar to train tub boat builders in 2009. However, the situation remains dire as there are only a few such boat builders. One reason for this was the initial decline in demand for tub boats. As a result, tub boat builders had difficulty making a living and they had few opportunities to hone the skills. Tub boats are still used for isonegi on the northern coast of the Ogi Peninsula, but isonegi itself is not as prevalent as it once was. Moreover, fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) was used to coat tub boats starting in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, increasing their durability. Thus, there is little projected demand for new tub boats.
 When demand for a folk technique like tub boat building wanes as a result of changes in ways of life and people’s lives along with changes in lifestyles and as a result of the introduction of new technologies, the technique itself quickly fades. That said, the fact is that techniques can be carried on by altering the techniques and their uses in accordance with changes in the social climate. In Ogi, a private operator began offering rides in tub boats starting in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. Sado has now become synonymous with sightseeing. Fishing from tub boats and tub boat building had been passed down in places like the Noto Peninsula and Toyama at one time, but those traditions have steadfastly remained only in Sado. This is probably because Sado created a new demand by turning tub boats into a sightseeing resource and because of changes in people’s attitudes towards tub boats.
 Nonetheless, FRP is being used to successively coat the boats that were built and stored for tub boat sightseeing about 10 years ago. The passing down of tub boat-building techniques will be subjected to further changes.


Research on sedge hat-making in Ecchu-Fukuoka

KIMURA Shoji, a craftsman who makes the hat’s framework
Even an experienced sewer can barely sew 2-3 hat per day

 From August 21st–22nd, sedge hat-making techniques (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 2009) passed down in the former town of Fukuoka (now part of the City of Takaoka), Toyama Prefecture were studied.
 Sedge hats were originally a folk implement that was ordinarily used as protection from the sun or as rain gear. Today, however, these hats serve as props in folk performing arts or period dramas (especially those about feudal Japan) or as folk decorations. Sedge hats in Ecchu-Fukuoka were known as “Kaga Hats” since the days of Japan’s feudal domains, and these hats enjoyed wide use because of their high quality. Today, Ecchu-Fukuoka accounts for 90% of the output of sedge hats nationwide, making it the premier site of hat-making.
 Sedge hat-making is divided into several steps: growing sedge (the raw material for a hat), making the hat’s framework, and sewing the hat (sewing sedge onto the hat’s framework). In the past, men made the hat framework while women sewed the hat as a sideline activity during the off-season. The steps of sedge growing and making the hat framework in particular are seriously suffering from a lack of individuals to carry on the technique. As an example, the number of individuals who cultivate sedge fields completely by hand is decreasing yearly. According to a survey by the Association to Preserve Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Hat-making Techniques, the area of sedge growth in the city has shrunk to less than 100 ares (1 hectare). During the heyday of sedge hat-making, there were around 200 craftsmen who made the hat framework, but currently Mr. KIMURA Shoji, a craftsman in his late 80s, is the only craftsman still doing so. The current reality is that not enough people have been trained to carry on the technique, so supply is unable to keep up with existing orders.
 In light of these circumstances, the Association to Preserve Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Hat-making Techniques and the City of Takaoka’s Fukuoka General Administration Center have led the charge with comprehensive steps to pass on sedge hat-making techniques. A wide range of activities have been used thus far to pass on the culture of sedge hats, including efforts to ascertain the area of cultivated sedge fields, efforts to create records of the cultivation of sedge fields (a manual), discussions with hat makers, sales demonstrations, workshops to teach hat-making, and identification of companies to make needles to sew sedge hats. In August 2012, the Committee to Preserve Sedge Hat-making was established, and in August 2013 the Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Growers Association was established. These organizations are transcending boundaries as they liaise with the Regional Development Section and the Economic Development Section, the Fukuoka Educational Administration Center, the Cultural Properties Division, and the Agriculture and Fisheries Section (this section is heavily involved in sedge growing).
 Designation of folk techniques as an Important Folk Cultural Property began in 2005, but the preservation and utilization of these techniques has not been fully discussed. Information on the issues involved, steps to take, and the feasibility of those steps was not been adequately shared. The various efforts to preserve sedge hat-making techniques in Ecchu-Fukuoka warrant close attention as a case study involving the preservation and utilization of folk techniques.


A survey of traditional techniques in South Korea: The second research exchange with the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea

The Korea Bamboo Museum in Damyang County

 As part of the second Research Exchange between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage that took place last year, Migiwa IMAISHI of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage visited South Korea for a scheduled 2 weeks starting on June 12. In South Korea, the survey examined traditional Korean techniques and their preservation and conservation. The survey focused on techniques of bamboo work in the Damyang region of South Jeolla Province and techniques of sedge (“wangol”) handicrafts on Ganghwa Island, part of the City of Incheon. 
 Damyang is a major center for production of bamboo products, with almost all of its residents engaged in bamboo work. Five specialties, including the making of chaesang (bamboo boxes or baskets), the making of folding fans, and comb-making, have been designated as intangible cultural properties by the national or municipal government. The survey provided the opportunity to meet possessors (preservers) of cultural properties and ask about traditional techniques, changes in those techniques, and the current state of preservation of those techniques. The survey also helped to ascertain circumstances regarding cultural properties in the form of efforts by Damyang County to turn its “bamboo culture” into a tourist attraction and revitalize the local area (e.g. development of new bamboo products, the County’s own craftsmen support system, and management of bamboo-related facilities). The survey provided a glimpse into how cultural properties have been passed on in the past and how they may be passed on in the future. Preservation of traditional techniques differs in Japan and South Korea. In Japan, traditional techniques are preserved under two different systems: “intangible folk cultural properties” (folk techniques) and “intangible cultural properties” (craft techniques). In contrast, traditional techniques in South Korea are preserved under only one system: “intangible cultural properties” (craft techniques). Thus, techniques that fall under “intangible folk cultural properties,” i.e. techniques that are “indispensable to understanding changes in the Japanese people’s way of life” in Japan, are considered to be “intangible cultural properties” in South Korea, where they are valued as arts, skills, or techniques with “significant historical, artistic, or scholarly value.” These differences in the Japanese and Korean systems must have an impact on the perceptions of preservers of cultural properties and the general public and they might also impact techniques themselves. These varied impacts must be clearly discerned during future research exchanges.


Study of the Koshikijima no Toshidon visiting-deity event in Kagoshima Prefecture

A presentation during the study meeting
A Toshidon revealing its face

 I conducted a study of the Toshidon event held on New Year’s Eve on Shimo-Koshikijima Island in the city of Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, in which deities are said to visit bringing good luck. Koshikijima no Toshidon was named an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan in 1977, and in 2009 it was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
 The Toshidon deities are said to visit on the evening of December 31, riding headless horses. Children of ages three through eight come out to meet them in the living rooms of their homes. The deities emerge from the darkness accompanied by low, groaning voices saying “Oruka, oruka” (“Is anybody there? Is anybody there?”) and the sound of a hand bell, appearing in the corners of the living room and questioning the children. They both scold and threaten the children for the bad things they have done over the year and praise them for the good things they have done, along with having children show off their own talents such as singing, dancing, or multiplication tables and praise them for how they do. Lastly, they admonish the children to be good and give them large rice cakes called toshimochi, before disappearing.
 This is a deeply frightening experience for small children, and some run away in tears, but after successfully completing the questions and answers they seem relieved, feeling as if they have accomplished something. I also was impressed by the way other family members too are moved to tears, perhaps as a result of thinking about the children’s growth. People in the local community consider the Toshidon an educational event for children, and it probably could be said that in one aspect this event has continued to the present day thanks to the way this meaning of the event, easy to understand in contemporary society, has been discussed and shared in the community.
 However, it is a fact that there are many issues regarding the continuation of this tradition. The biggest problem is the low birth rate, as only four of the six designated Toshidon conservation associations conducted the event this year. Even in the Teuchi Motomachi conservation association, which I accompanied on its rounds, only five homes were visited this year compared to a number of 10 homes up until a few years ago, and two of these five were grandparents’ homes where grandchildren were visiting for the holiday.
 Another major issue is how to balance the tradition with tourism. Since the Toshidon being named an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009, the Motomachi conservation association has actively accepted researchers and other visitors coming to view the event. This year, the group was accompanied by about 15 onlookers, including myself. As the Toshidon becomes well-known in Japan and around the world and attracts the interest of many people, this provides significant motivation to the local community to continue the tradition and also serves as a tourism resource. However, at the same time I sensed that an important issue in the future would be that of how to preserve and balance its significance and atmosphere as a religious observance and ritual.


Report on the 35th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties published

Report on the 35th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties

 A report on the 35th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties, “Traditions and Continuation of Textile Techniques: Current Status of Research and Conservation,” was published at the end of November. The symposium was held from September 3–5, 2011 and featured presentations by domestic and foreign experts from various disciplines such as textile makers, restorers, curators, and researchers. The report features all of the reports by those experts in order to share the topics discussed at the symposium with a larger audience and encourage further discussion. Plans are to make a PDF version of the report available on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


7th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties held

the 7th Conference

 On October 26th, the 7th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held with “Passing down Recollections and Records: Disasters and Intangible Folk Culture” as its theme. Following up on the 6th Conference on “Intangible Cultural Heritage in Post-earthquake Reconstruction” that was held in December of last year, this year’s Conference delved further into the topic of disasters and intangible folk cultural properties.
 Ways of passing down intangible folk cultural properties to future generations are normally an extremely important topic, but this topic is particularly pressing in regions that were disrupted and depopulated by the tsunami and nuclear plant accident resulting from the March 11, 2011 earthquake. Thus, the 7th Conference covered “Records,” which is one way of passing down intangible folk cultural properties. Invited to the Conference were 5 presenters who dealt with records in various capacities following the disaster and 2 commentators. These experts described and discussed previous efforts and issues and prospects for the future. Various recording techniques and uses of records were presented during the Conference. In addition, the importance of a network linking efforts was again confirmed from various perspectives.
 The 7th Conference was also attended by many relevant personnel from regions potentially slated to suffer a large-scale disaster in the future. Steps that can be taken and steps that should be taken to prepare intangible folk cultural properties for crises in the near future, such as massive disasters, the falling birthrate, aging of the population, and depopulation of rural areas, are important topics warranting future discussion.
 Plans are to publish a report on the Conference’s proceedings in March 2013.


Preliminary research on Kezurikake-like poles in Sarawak State, Borneo

Kezurikake-like poles of the Berawan people as a decoration to welcome “VIPs”
Kezurikake-like poles of the Kayan people fashioned during slash-and-burn agriculture

 This research examined customs and folk techniques related to poles found in Sarawak State, Borneo from June 27th to July 4th. These poles resemble the Kezurikake, or half-shaved sticks, found in Japan. In the Japanese Archipelago, Kezurikake are widely used as ritual implement or as decorations during Ko-syogatu, or the New Year according to the lunar calendar, or as Inau, a ritual implement of the greatest importance to the Ainu people. Although similar poles were known to be found in Borneo, there have been almost no field studies or comparative studies of these poles by experts. Thus, preliminary research was conducted in cooperation with experts from the Center for Ainu & Indigenous Studies, Hokkaido University in order to facilitate future comparative studies.
 The research site provided several opportunities to talk with local residents and observe their creation of these poles. A rough outline of customs related to these poles was also obtained. The names, uses, forms, and materials of these poles differ slightly depending on the tribe. The Iban people, for example, call these poles Bungai Jaraw (Bungai means“flower”). Nowadays, these poles are typically considered a decoration to welcome “VIPs.” However, there is some evidence that these poles had greater symbolic or religious meaning since they played an important role in headhunting and during traditional festivals. More in-depth research is needed.
 Plans are to study Kezurikake-like poles in countries like Borneo in order to better understanding the customs related to Kezurikake in Japan and techniques for their fabrication.


Research on Intangible Cultural Properties in Areas Stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Ugoku-Tanabata floats from Nagasuka ward in the City of Rikuzen-takata that were damaged by the tsunami. They have been assembled in a vacant lot in front of a wooden Buddhist monument marking houses that were washed away.
Hooks used in the Sanriku area to catch abalone. These hooks were made by local smithing. The blacksmith’s home workshop in the City of Rikuzen-takata was not damaged by the tsunami, but abalone fishing has not started since many fishermen were affected by the disaster last year. The blacksmith has also been unable to ship the hooks he has made.

 Damage to and restoration of intangible cultural properties in the coastal areas of the Tohoku region was studied. Over a year has passed since the disaster, but studies of intangible cultural properties and support for their restoration have lagged behind studies of and support for tangible cultural properties. Relevant organizations and groups have striven to collect and disseminate information on the damage and link providers of support with recipients, but support efforts have often failed to meet needs and too much support is provided where it is not needed instead of where it is needed. Such problems have arisen because of the lack of a network linking support efforts overall.
 In many instances, sites of folk techniques had not been determined prior to the disaster, and information on damage overall and needed support has yet to be obtained. Many folk techniques use natural materials such as wood and clay, so practitioners face both the physical damage from the tsunami as well as radioactive contamination of materials as a result of the nuclear plant accident and harmful rumors. Determining the state of those techniques under such circumstances is difficult.
 Although such problems exist, festivals and folk performing arts have been emphasized by local residents in light of prayers and memorials for the deceased. The strength of these cultural practices is more evident or is being reassessed in many instances since these festivals and folk arts have served as an important tie to bind disjointed communities with residents living in temporary housing.
 With a focus on conditions in stricken areas, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will strive to collect information. The Department will also work to create new networks to provide support to stricken areas and respond to future disasters.


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