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


August: Tour of Facilities

In front of the main gate of Tobunken

 From the Federated States of Micronesia, Mr. Marcelo K. Peterson, Governor of Pohnpei State, and Mr. Esmond B. Moses, a member of the Congress, visited the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage with Mr. Shoji Sato, the Executive Director of the Association for the Promotion of International Cooperation (APIC) (a former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Federated States of Micronesia) as a guide, and exchanged opinions on the protection of cultural heritage/traditional culture, and so forth. Mr. Osamu Kataoka (Researcher of the Intercultural Research Institute, Kansai Gaidai University) and Mr. Kanefusa Masuda (Senior Researcher of the Institute of Disaster Mitigation for Urban Cultural Heritage, Ritsumeikan University) joined us to have an in-depth discussion over diverse topics, including the conservation and utilization of Nan Madol, which is a ruined city on Pohnpei island and a World Heritage Site officially recognized by UNESCO in 2016.


“Cormorant Fishing Boat Project” : Completion and Launch Ceremony

The completed boat and the Project members
The launch ceremony also featured the rite of “funa-kabuse,” in which the boat is capsized three times to pray for its safety on the water.

 The “Cormorant Fishing Boat Project,” which has been underway at the Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture from May 22, has been successfully completed. The 13-meter-long cormorant boat was displayed at a launch ceremony on July 22.
 The aim of this Project was to record and inherit boat-building techniques while actually engaging in building a cormorant boat, with the participation of American boat builder Douglas Brooks, under the guidance of boat builder Seiichi Nasu (86) of Mino City, Gifu Prefecture (also refer to our May 2017 Activities Report). Also participating were American naval architect Marc Bauer and Gifu Academy furniture student Satoshi Koyama. The boat-building process was open to the public in the shelter structure built within the Academy premises. Tobunken served in the roles of research and documentation, taking video records of virtually the entire building process. Going forward, we will be editing and assembling the records in a way that will be useful for acquiring the necessary building techniques, and plan to co-author written and video reports with Mr. Brooks by the end of the next fiscal year.
 While the Project itself has come to a conclusion, the utilization, transmission, and dissemination of cormorant boats and their building techniques will continue across many fields. The cormorant boat built in the Project will be purchased by Yui no Fune, an organization that offers guided boat tours of Nagara River, and will be used to introduce river boat culture to the general public. Meanwhile, at Gifu Academy, work is underway to explore how smaller, more manageable boats can be made using the traditional techniques learned in the Project. Since techniques will not be handed down if there is no demand for them, there is a need for flexible thinking to devise boats that meet contemporary needs and interests.
 The transmission of living techniques requires not only the compilation of academic records but also efforts to utilize them in contemporary ways and to make them more widely known to the general public. Tobunken intends to continue working with organizations and experts in a wide range of disciplines to explore better ways of transmitting these techniques.


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.


“A Guidebook for Selected Conservation Techniques” published

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has conducted survey research on selected conservation techniques since fiscal 2014. In fiscal 2016 we published “A Guidebook for Selected Conservation Techniques” as the fruits of our activities.
 Selected conservation techniques are designated by the government as those needed to be preserved of traditional techniques and skills that are essential in order to conserve cultural assets. They include techniques and skills for “building reconstruction” to repair historical buildings and structures, “wooden sculpture restoration” to repair wooden sculptures, including Buddhist statues, and “karamushi plant (choma) production and fiber extraction” designed to produce raw materials for Ojiya-chijimi and Echigo-jofu, ramie fabric, an important intangible cultural property and UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
 These techniques can be safely referred to as intangible cultural heritage per se in the broad sense, but compared with “important intangible cultural properties,” “important intangible folk cultural properties” or “UNESCO intangible cultural heritage,” they are practically unknown among the general public and many of them face a number of issues, such as the succession of techniques. Also overseas, the notion of preserving these techniques to conserve cultural assets by means of a national system is not known widely as yet.
 Against this background, this guidebook gives a summary of selected conservation techniques designated as of fiscal 2016 and incorporates information about their owners and conservation bodies as well. On top of these, in order to publicize these selected conservation techniques both at home and abroad, it is written in both Japanese and English.
 We sincerely hope that this guidebook will be of help in preserving cultural asset conservation techniques at home and overseas. For your information, the PDF version of this publication will become available via the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


“Research on Intangible Cultural Heritages in Korea and Japan II” published

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has promoted research-related exchange with the counterpart of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (NRICH) of the Republic of Korea since 2008. In 2013 NRICH’s intangible cultural heritage research department was reorganized as the National Intangible Heritage Center but research exchange between the parties has continued as is and the third research exchange was launched in 2016. This publication is a report that compiles the results of the second research exchange from 2011 through 2015 and contains the following seven research theses:

  • – “A memorandum on Buddhist protocols in Korea” (Izumi TAKAKUWA)
  • – “The actual situation of the succession, instruction and education of performing arts as part of intangible cultural heritage in Japan – Centered on Kyogen and Shinto music and dance numbers” (Myung Jin LEE)
  • – “Raw materials and tools for preserving dyeing techniques” (Riyo KIKUCHI)
  • – “The reality of the Japanese system for conserving intangible cultural heritage and its management – Centered on efforts to explore research subjects to produce the results of future policy research” (Ban So Young)
  • – “‘Folk techniques’ as intangible folk cultural properties and their conservation” (Migiwa IMAISHI)
  • – “Research on selected conservation techniques in Japanese intangible cultural heritage – Centered on a case of karamushi (ramie) production technique” (李釵源)
  • – “Several issues associated with the Lunar New Year or daeboreum – To raise a question about the designation of intangible folk cultural properties” (Hiromichi KUBOTA)

 All the theses are written in Japanese and Korean so that readers in the two countries can share the results of these research activities.
 While Japan and Korea share a lot in the content of intangible cultural heritage and systems for its conservation, there are also differences in their approaches for research and conservation as well. By comparing the respective nations’ issues mutually, we believe that we will be able to understand our own cultural assets better. We hope that this publication will be used by as many of those involved in intangible cultural heritage as possible in the two countries. For your information, the PDF version of this publication will become available via the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Workshop on Canoe Culture

Photo showing Workshop on Canoe Culture
Investigation of canoe materials at Oceanic Culture Museum

 The Workshop on Canoe Culture was held at the Institute on March 22nd, as a part of the activities on “Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation on the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project in Oceania Island Countries” supported by Agency for Cultural Affairs in FY2016. In this workshop, four experts (Dr. Peter Nuttall, Ms. Alison Newell, Mr. Samual London-Nuttall, Mr. Kaiafa Ledua), who were invited to Japan from the University of the South Pacific, a base institution of the partner country, presented their research reports. They are actively promoting research to explore the possibility of exploiting the traditional techniques for voyage canoes of Oceania in the development of “sustainable transportation” using renewable energy such as wind power. At the same time, they are involved in the restoration of ancient canoes in Fiji and experimental voyage. In this workshop, they reported the present status and future prospects of such research and efforts.
 In this workshop, three Japanese experts also made research reports. Prof. Akira GOTO, Director of Anthropological Institute, Nanzan University, gave a talk on Hawaii-style outrigger canoes in Ogasawara Islands. Ms. Kyoko MIYAZAWA, a visiting researcher at Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, presented the method of visual recording of canoes. Mr. Masahiro UCHIDA, an ocean journalist and a lecturer at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, discussed the rise of the canoe and kayak culture in Japan. At the end of the workshop, a comprehensive discussion among presenters and participants was organized. The workshop has been attended by more than 20 participants mainly consisting of experts and has provided the good opportunity for heated discussions and vivid information exchanges.
 After the workshop, four invited researchers made a trip to Okinawa and visited Oceanic Culture Museum in Okinawa Ocean Expo Park, a national government park in Motobu Town. The Oceanic Culture Museum has founded as the government pavilion at the time of the Okinawa Expo 1975. The collection of ethnographic materials of Oceania is one of the world’s largest and is especially famous for canoes. While receiving a lecture by Dr. Hidenobu ITAI, curator, they investigated the canoe materials that are now almost
nonexistent in the area. In addition, in Nago city, they visited the atelier of a group restoring Sabani which is a traditional wooden fishing boat in Okinawa and could exchange valuable information.
 The culture of driving canoes used to be quite common not only in Oceania but also in the wide region of the Pacific Rim including the Japanese archipelago. After the early modern times, these cultures have disappeared one after another in various places. In recent years, the movement called “canoe renaissance” to restore such culture has been developed in various places. It includes, for example, the canoe restoration in Fiji and the restoration of Sabani in Okinawa. The workshop and the subsequent trip to Okinawa have been quite successful and have demonstrated fruitful results of the collaboration between Oceania and Japan in the reconstruction of such canoe culture.


Presentation Meeting of the Results of Japan-Korea Research Exchange on Intangible Cultural Heritage

Presentation meeting of the results of the research exchange

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP), has been conducting a joint study on intangible cultural heritage with the National Intangible Heritage Center of the Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea. As a part of this project, the “presentation meeting of the results of the Japan-Korea research exchange on intangible cultural heritage” was held at the National Intangible Heritage Center located in Jeonju-si, Korea, on August 30th, where the results of the joint study were presented. Six persons, including mainly staff members of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, attended the presentation meeting from the TNRICP.
 Representing the Institute, Researcher Riyo KIKUCHI gave a presentation titled “Japan-Korea Research Exchange (2012-2016) on Protection and Handing Down of Intangible Cultural Heritage,” which was followed by a proposition titled “Approach of the Future Study Exchange” presented by Hiromichi KUBOTA, Head of the Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Section. In response to the above, two presenters from the Korean side presented a report and a proposition. Subsequently, there was a comprehensive discussion by all the participants.
 Through the joint study, it has been clarified that there are some similarities and differences between Japan and Korea in terms of approaches to intangible cultural heritage. At the presentation meeting, it was decided as a policy that both parties would be able to exchange information concerning common problems and challenges and to promote discussion based on mutual understanding of these similarities and differences.
 For example, it was explained that Korea is now very interested in how to promote intangible cultural heritage and the major issue is how it can be supported by the public sector such as the National Intangible Heritage Center. On the other hand, today in Japan, although the involvement of the public sector in the field of intangible cultural heritage is not as notable as in Korea, we consider it one of the Institute’s missions to carry out studies that can contribute to cultural handing down and inheritance. In this regard, we believe that we will be able to devise a better approach for both the parties by addressing the common challenge of “how to hand down intangible cultural heritage” though the exchange of opinions and discussion on each possible approach. This should also be one of the merits of a joint study carried out between the two countries.
 It is our hope that, on the basis of the results of this presentation meeting, the research exchange between the two countries will be further accelerated, bringing about constructive discussion.


World Heritage Inscription of the Ruins of Nan Madol in the Federated States of Micronesia and Japan’s International Cooperation

A man-made island built with megalith in Nan Madol
Discussing plans to conserve and manage the ruins with a staff in charge from the National Government of the Federated States of Micronesia.

 The Ruins of Nan Madol in the Federated States of Micronesia were inscribed on the List of World Heritage (and simultaneously on the List of World Heritage in Danger) at the 40th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held from July 10th to 17th, 2016. The ruins are composed of 95 man-made islands of various sizes built with gigantic stones such as basalt and are among the largest ruins of megalithic culture in the Pacific region. Inscription on the List of World Heritage had been a long-cherished dream of the island nation.
 In 2010, the nation asked Japan to extend international cooperation in protecting these ruins through the UNESCO office for the Pacific region. In response, the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (Consortium) conducted a field survey of the partner nation in February 2011 and published the findings in the “Survey Report on the Present State of Nan Madol, Federated States of Micronesia.” Since then, the Consortium, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo (NRICPT) and the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties have taken the initiative using subsidies from the Japan Foundation and other organizations in implementing projects to develop human resources and transfer technology to protect the ruins. During the course of the implementation, we were able to secure the participation and cooperation of individuals, including Professor Osamu Kataoka of Kansai Gaidai University, who has studied the ruins over many years, and various organizations from governmental, industrial and academic sectors, such as the Institute of Industrial Science of The University of Tokyo, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, NPO Pacifika Renaissance, and Windy Network Corporation.
 One of the Consortium’s ideals is to build a common base for a broad range of domestic parties involved in the protection of cultural assets to join hands and work together, so that Japan may be able to work on international cooperation through concerted efforts. The project to provide the Ruins of Nan Madol with cooperation to protect them is the perfect showcase of this ideal. Moreover, the fruits of such effort most probably led to its inscription on the List of World Heritage.
 Having said so, however, the Ruins of Nan Madol were also simultaneously inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. This means that many parts of the ruins have continued to collapse. In addition, plans and systems to protect them are not yet adequate, so it indicates that Nan Madol will still need the assistance and cooperation of a large number of experts in the future.


The Canoe Summit was held at the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, Guam 2016

Introducing the crews at the Canoe Summit
Demonstration of canoe navigation

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo (NRICPT) held the first Canoe Summit at the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts in Guam on 26th of May, 2016. The summit was part of the “Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project; Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage in the Island Countries of Oceania” scheme, which has been commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan.
 The Festival of Pacific Arts is held once every four years, and was attended this year by 27 Pacific countries and regions. The festival gathers artists, specialists on Pacific cultures, and community leaders. During the two weeks of the festival, a wide range of issues relating to Pacific culture were discussed and traditional dances and crafts were performed.
 During the festival, NRICPT held the “Canoe Summit” in partnership with the Anthropological Institute of Nanzan University, the Traditional Arts Committee, Guam, and the Tatasi (Seafaring) subcommittee, Guam, with the support of UNESCO and the Organizing Committee of the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, Guam. About 100 people attended the summit, and specialists and crews who are involved in activities aiming to preserve the cultures of Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia introduced their traditional navigation systems and discussed their cultural revival activities.
 The canoe is a symbol of Pacific culture and has important value as an aspect of intangible cultural heritage. It has recently been reevaluated as an important form of sustainable transport. However, a more pressing issue is how regional traditional cultures can be protected from the threat of globalization and natural disasters caused by global warming. Some attendees of the Summit felt that sharing information about the revival of canoe culture throughout the entire Pacific region was a very important contribution to ensure that the richness of Pacific culture will be passed on to the next generation.


Investigation of Damage Situation of Cultural Heritage in Nepal

Meeting at the Department of Archeology
On-site Investigation by Using Endoscopy
Festival of Bara Barse Jatra

 On April 25, 2015, an earthquake occurred measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale centered in Middle Nepal, tremendously damaging a wide area, including the capital Kathmandu, together with many cultural heritages.
 Being commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo sent a specialized team to conduct the first on-site investigation from September 14 to 28, 2015 within the framework of “Project for International Contribution to Cultural Heritage Protection(Exchange of Experts).”
 In this investigation, we held discussions with major institutions involved in the protection of the historical heritage, including the Nepalese Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu. We also conducted a field survey by visiting the old royal palaces in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur listed as World Heritage Sites, as well as Sankhu, Kirtipur, Khokana and other suburban villages included in the Tentative List. Then, we examined the properties and areas subject to the full-scale investigation to come, as well as its approach. In addition, we had a good opportunity to observe Indra Jatra, the largest festival in Kathmandu, where Kumari as a Living Goddess paraded with a chariot, and Bara Barse Jatra, a festival held every 12 years, which had been suspended due to the earthquake disaster. We felt that these festivals worked as incentives to re-create ties among the people at this time of reconstruction.
 Under this project, in cooperation with other institutions and universities in Japan, we will study proper protection and conservation approaches for the damaged cultural assets through multifaceted research on “traditional building techniques,” “structural planning,” “urban design” and “intangible cultural heritage.” Based on this research, we will technically support the authorities in Nepal to preserve the value of the cultural heritage during the reconstruction process to be promoted rapidly from now.


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