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


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”.


A study tour for a preservation society for folk performing arts in a disaster-affected area

Members of the Kariyado Shishimai preservation society and Haramamuro lion dance and stick performance preservation society

 A folk performing art called shishimai has been handed down in the Kariyado area in Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture. It is a unique folk performing art that has both features of three-lion dances, which are common in the Kanto area, and deer dances or shishiodori, which are seen in the Tohoku area. However, this area has been classified as a restricted residence area due to the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant accident and the residents had to evacuate separately to various places. As a result, shishimai was performed only twice in five years after the disaster. At present, even a meeting is not easy because some members of the shishimai preservation society have been moved to the Kanto area.
 Still, hoping to find a way to somehow keep it alive, the head of the society proposed a study tour for the members, which the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage assisted. On June 18th, the society members visited Shishi Museum in Shiraoka City, Saitama Prefecture. They looked around lion masks, or shishigashira, in and out of Japan with a detailed explanation about the display and a lecture by Director Yuichi Takahashi. They then visited the head of the Haramamuro lion dance and stick performance preservation society in Kounosu City at his home to have an exchange between the two preservation societies. The lion dance in Haramamuro is performed by three lions, which is typical in the Kanto area, and has some points in common with the one in Kariyado. They watched a video of both performances and asked the head about measures to pass down the lion dance and the challenges they faced.
 Whether intangible cultural heritages will be maintained or not in the evacuation areas due to the nuclear disaster is a serious problem that can affect continuance of local communities. While much of their future is uncertain, we think that it is important to support them so as to contribute to the preservation even a little.


Publications related to post-earthquake reconstruction of intangible cultural heritage and disaster prevention

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage published the Report on the Study Project on the Preservation and Utilization of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties: Issues Regarding Reconstruction of Intangible Cultural Heritage from Disasters at the end of the last fiscal year. The publication is not only a report on the project but also a summary of what was discussed at the 3/11 Reconstruction Assistance: Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network Conference. The Conference has been held every March since 2013 to discuss the reconstruction of intangible cultural heritage affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake with participants from various fields. Many of the issues, which reflect conditions that vary from year to year, are ongoing and the content of the publication may contribute to preventing cultural properties from being affected by a future natural disaster.
 The department also published a booklet titled Cultural Heritage in the Region and Disaster Prevention, which summarizes the outline of the Project for Collecting, Organizing and Sharing Information about Regionally-designated Cultural Properties and of the Research and Study Project on a Dynamic Record for Preserving Cultural Properties. Especially for the project for collecting information on regionally-designated cultural properties, it is important as the first step to identify the location information of the properties by working with local governments. The publication spells out such significance and puts together how to move the project forward.
 Issues Regarding Reconstruction of Intangible Cultural Heritage from Disasters is available in PDF format on the department’s website.


A survey of a festival in the Takenoura area in the Town of Onagawa

A lion dance in the port. In the background, one can see the village being relocated to higher ground.

 The Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Section is conducting surveys to create an ethnography in order to document intangible cultural heritage in areas where residents were forced to move or relocate as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake. One of the sites currently being surveyed is the Town of Onagawa, Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture. A survey was conducted on April 29 in conjunction with the Tohoku History Museum. The survey team visited the Takenoura area. Soon after the Earthquake, residents of a village of about 60 homes evacuated to the City of Senboku, Akita Prefecture. Temporary housing was subsequently built, but evacuees were scattered among 30 or so locations. There are few opportunities to bring this disjointed community back together. One such opportunity is the lion dance (“lion shake”) at New Year’s. A mikoshi (a portable shrine) is carried from a shrine and brought down to the pier in the new port. There, the lion dance takes place. The village’s landscape is changing as the village relocates to higher ground. Documenting life in terms of intangible cultural heritage such as festivals and performing arts will hopefully help the community to reunite and recover.


A Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

A general discussion during the conference

 The 9th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on December 5. The topic of the conference was “Local Identity and Folk Performing Arts: Relocation/Resettlement and Intangible Cultural Heritage.” The Great East Japan Earthquake re-emphasized the fact that intangible cultural heritage such as folk performing arts is a way for a place to maintain its local identity. What role could folk performing arts play when communities are forced to relocate to higher ground or settle elsewhere because of an earthquake? To answer this question, this conference featured detailed presentations citing 4 examples of relocation or resettlement from around the country.
 The first example concerned the role and current status of folk performing arts that settlers brought with them when they settled Hokkaido. The second example concerned the state of “hometown associations” that natives of different islands and regions of Okinawa organized in Tokyo and the role that folk performing arts serve for these associations. The third example concerned the characteristics of believers in Pure Land Buddhism who migrated from Hokuriku to Fukushima Prefecture during the Edo period. The last example concerned folk performing arts that were discontinued as a result of depopulation in Yamanashi Prefecture; in fact, these arts are being practiced again by migrants to urban areas. The presentations were followed by a general discussion that delved deeper into the topic of folk performing arts based on the examples provided. Plans are to publish a report on the conference in March 2015.


Scholarly exchange with the University of the South Pacific

A commemorative photo of a goodwill visit with the Director General of the Institute
Visitors from the University of the South Pacific receive an explanation at the Folk Museum of Higashimurayama

 This year, a project on safeguarding the cultural heritage of the Oceania island countries was implemented as part of the Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project. Fiji is a key country collaborating with the project, and 3 researchers from the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development of the University of the South Pacific were invited to visit Japan. Joeli VEITAYAKI, Semi MASILOMANI, and John Kaitu’u from the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development visited Japan on December 15 and concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on scholarly exchanges and exchanges with the Institute. Until their departure on December 21, the researchers participated in various field studies and scholarly exchanges.
 On December 16, a Workshop on the Cultural Heritage of the South Pacific was held at the Institute, and opinions regarding cultural heritage were discussed in relation to sustainable development in the South Pacific and Japan. On December 17, a field study of the landscape and cultural heritage of satoyama woodlands was conducted near the City of Higashimurayama, Tokyo. On December 18, a survey on the use of cultural heritage was conducted in Chiba Prefecture’s Boso-no-Mura Museum. From December 19–21, the researchers visited Okinawa where they toured the Oceanic Culture Museum and learned about the cultural landscape in Bise (the Town of Motobu, Kunigami District). One of the visitors remarked that “Japan is a model of development in the Pacific region in the sense that it retained its culture as it developed.” Additional scholarly exchanges with the university are anticipated in the future.


A study of the revived lion dance in the Town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture

Myung Jin LEE (left) presenting results of a survey of Kagura in Tohoku

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and South Korea’s National Intangible Heritage Center have been conducting Research Exchanges between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage. As a result, Myung Jin LEE of the Research and Documentation Section visited Japan for 30 days starting on August 11. LEE conducted a joint study on the Sugisawa Hiyama Bangaku (the Town of Yuza, Yamagata Prefecture) and Hayachine–Take Kagura and Koda Kagura (the City of Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture). LEE reported the results of this study during a presentation, entitled Kagura Traditions in the Tohoku Region that took place in the Institute’s seminar hall on September 8. Basically, Kagura is sacred and ritual performing arts to invite gods. Kagura performed in the Tohoku Region often includes dramas or acrobatic feats. Bangaku is also one of the local names for Kagura.
 LEE’s presentation began with a basic description of the characteristics of mountain asceticism in the Tohoku region and the relationship between Kagura and mountain asceticism. LEE then compared the 3 Kagura traditions. LEE discussed topics related to preserving intangible cultural heritage, such as specific examples in which traditions were maintained and passed down as well as involvement of preservation societies and government bodies, in detail. LEE also described conditions in South Korea for comparison. In addition, LEE discussed characteristics of Kagura traditions in the Tohoku region as folk performing arts, and LEE suggested that the traditions may be comparable to “gut” (shamanistic rituals) and the “Mask Dance” in South Korea. The presentation was quite meaningful in that it described the current state of and issues with preservation of intangible cultural heritage from the perspectives of preserving cultural practices and folklore studies.


Publication of the Survey Report on the Oceania Island Countries and scholarly exchanges with the University of the South Pacific

Survey Report on the Oceanic Island Countries
With Pacific Centre staff of the University of the South Pacific

 The Survey Report on the Oceania Island Countries has been published. These surveys took place last year as part of a project on International Contribution to the Protection of Cultural Heritage (expert exchanges) commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan. The Republic of Kiribati and Tuvalu face the potential effects of rising sea levels due to climate change. The report primarily contains photographs of cultural heritage in these 2 countries and the state of that cultural heritage. 
 In addition, a project on protecting the cultural heritage of island countries in Oceania was implemented last year as a Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project. Personnel from the Institute visited the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, a key country collaborating with the project, on August 8. Personnel met with Elisabeth A. HOLLAND, Director of the University’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development and discussed signing a memorandum on scholarly exchanges between the Institute and the University of the South Pacific. In addition, results of surveys of intangible cultural heritage primarily in the Republic of Kiribati and Tuvalu were reported and representatives of the Pacific Centre expressed their views. 
 Through this project, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to teach and train personnel in order to document and protect the intangible cultural heritage of island countries in Oceania.


A study of the revived lion dance in the Town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture

The lions of Onagawa [lion dance performers] gathered at Revive! The Lion Dance Performance

 In the Town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, locals refer to the lion dance as the “Shishi-furi.” In the Town of Onagawa, the lion dance has been passed down in most of the settlements dotting the rias of the prefecture’s coast. However, most of these settlements were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and many of the dance props and costumes were washed away. Despite this, there is a mounting call for the dance to resume. Fortunately, the dance props and costumes are being recreated with support from several sources.
 The revived lion dance was performed at Revive! The Lion Dance Performance that took place last summer. The lion dance was originally performed at New Year’s, but prior to the earthquake the dance was performed on the water during the Onagawa Port Festival at the end of July. Performers from each settlement would ride on fishing boats in a maritime parade. Although this event is a relatively new tradition, it is deeply ingrained in the minds of the people of Onagawa. Reconstruction of the port is not yet finished, so this year the performance took place on the field at an elementary school. Nonetheless, throngs of residents of the Town of Onagawa gathered to boisterously cheer on several wildly dancing lions [lion dance performers]. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has continued to study the lion dance in Onagawa since the earthquake. This year, the Department has worked on creating an ethnography focusing on the lion dance.


Efforts to use descriptions of folk customs in areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake

The class at the Hometown Center

 The Description of Folk Customs in Goishi is a report that was produced by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage last year documenting religious festivals and life in the Goishi region of Massaki-cho in the City of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. The region was stricken by the massive tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake. An attempt to read this report together with local residents and put it to use has begun. The Kasumigaseki Knowledge Square has been active in the Massaki region. As part of the Square’s Digital Community Center, a class was conducted entitled “Learn in Massaki! A look back at our hometown…via the Description of Folk Customs in Goishi.” KUBOTA Hiromichi of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage attended the class. The class took place at the Hometown Center in the Massaki region and it had about 30 attendees. After a lecture, attendees exchanged various types of information. In the future, local residents will take the lead in creating descriptions of more familiar folk customs and in passing on those customs to local children. This approach was evident in the class. Preserving local identity is a concern since communities are scattered or they are relocating to higher ground. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue its efforts, and its efforts in the Goishi region may serve as a case study. The Description of Folk Customs in Goishi (in Japanese) is available in PDF format on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage .


Survey of festivals at Yamada Shrine in the City of Minamisoma

A festival at Yamada Shrine

 As part of a survey of intangible cultural heritage in areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake, an annual celebration at Yamada Shrine in the City of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture was attended on April 23, 2014. Located on the coast, the shrine was washed away by the tsunami following the earthquake, and the area served by the shrine suffered heavy losses. Chief priest MORI Yukihiko also works as a curator at Fukushima Museum. In addition, comments and expressions of sympathy were received by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network operated by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
 After the disaster, a temporary shrine was built through the efforts of volunteers from Kumamoto Prefecture. One the date in question, a number of attendees joined parishioners as a result of extensive media coverage of the plight of Yamada Shrine. However, parishioners’ organizations in many of the surrounding areas are on the brink of collapse. Major issues regarding maintenance and reconstruction of the shrine remain. Religious institutions like shrines and temples tend to be thought of as distinct from management of cultural properties in light of the separation of church and state. That said, the existence of those institutions is closely tied to the passing down of intangible cultural heritage. Thus, relevant information needs to be shared and issues need to be discussed in the future.


Survey of the current state of the cultural heritage of Oceanic island nations

Survey of a traditional meeting house in Kiribati
Dancing at a traditional meeting house in Tuvalu

 As part of Japan’s International Contribution to the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (expert exchanges) commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, a Survey of the Current State of Cultural Heritage that is Likely to be Affected by Climate Change was commissioned by the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation. The survey was conducted from February 18th to March 5th. The areas surveyed were the 3 Oceanic nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Fiji. These nations are threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change.
 The capital and outlying islands of Kiribati and Tuvalu were visited, and the current state of cultural heritage, which includes traditional dances, folk techniques, traditional architecture, and sacred sites, was surveyed. Damage due to rising sea levels was noted. Surveyors talked with administration officials and chieftains on outlying islands. Both countries face real problems in terms of the deterioration and disappearance of cultural heritage as well as the erosion of the country itself due to rising sea level. Sustainable intangible cultural heritage helps to maintain a people’s identity even if they are forced to emigrate overseas; representatives from both countries were cognizant of this fact. One example of cultural heritage is the large meeting houses that are found in villages in both countries. Various observances, such as religious rites and dances, are performed at these meeting houses. The culture related to these meeting houses is intangible and their architecture and building techniques and materials are closely linked to various elements, such as nature. These buildings represent the survival of that culture. At the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, surveyors exchanged opinions with researchers in relevant fields. This survey was significant in terms of considering the future of the cultural heritage of Oceanic island nations.


Second Conference on the Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network

The 2nd conference

 Together with cooperating organizations, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage operates the 3/11 Reconstruction Assistance: Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network [note: the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011]. The 2nd conference on the Network was held March 5, (Wed.), 2014 in a conference room in the Institute’s basement. This conference follows the 1st conference that took place in March of last year when the Network was created. Attendees shared information and exchanged opinions on restoration of intangible cultural heritage damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
 Attendees (37 individuals) spanned a range of fields, from researchers and administration officials to individuals working in affected areas, support organizations, religious representatives, and members of the media. The latter half of the conference featured a report by guest speaker Kei TANAKA (the Tsumugu Project) and a report by Takeshi ABE (Tohoku Institute of Filmed Cultural Properties). Discussion primarily concerned documenting intangible cultural heritage in affected areas.
 “Documenting” intangible cultural heritage is a term that encompasses several aspects. Aims of the 2nd conference included: (1) documenting intangible cultural heritage to facilitate its continuation, (2) documenting intangible cultural heritage that can no longer be handed down, (3) documenting intangible cultural heritage to encourage its transmission to children and young people, and (4) documenting intangible cultural heritage to highlight its widespread existence. The creation of this new Network is anticipated to prove effective in achieving these aims by documenting intangible cultural heritage. Nevertheless, conditions differ in each of the areas affected by Great East Japan Earthquake. The 2nd conference affirmed the approach of fully ascertaining the needs of these areas and then restoring intangible cultural heritage.


Participation in the Exploratory Committee on Local Performing Arts Projects: Efforts of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network

A lion dance outside temporary housing (Konori region, Town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture)

 Together with cooperating organizations, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage operates the 3/11 Reconstruction Assistance: Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network [note: the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011]. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage gathers information on intangible cultural heritage in areas stricken by the earthquake and it is involved in providing assistance to restore that heritage. As part of these efforts, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage coordinates with the Arts and Culture Consortium for Reconstruction, which consists of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, arts organizations, and companies.
 On January 29, 2014, a meeting of the Exploratory Committee on Local Performing Arts Projects was organized by the Consortium in the City of Sendai. The meeting was attended by Hiromichi KUBOTA of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Since local performing arts (folk performing arts) are a major part of the role that culture and arts play in reconstruction, the Exploratory Committee met to explore future activities in relation to local performing arts. The meeting was attended by representatives from relevant organizations such as the Japan Folk Performing Arts Association, the Association for Corporate Support of the Arts, and the Board of Education of the Town of Otsuchi. Individual proposals were discussed.
 Three years have now passed since the earthquake, and circumstances related to the restoration of local performing arts are changing. The Exploratory Committee affirmed its intent to develop new approaches to the restoration of those performing arts in light of current circumstances.


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