The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducts scholarly exchanges with South Korea’s National Intangible Heritage Center. This year, KIKUCHI Riyo studied the current state of the passing down of Korean textile techniques over a 2-week period starting on August 18.
Information on “Materials and Tools” is essential to the passing down of textile techniques. Even if finished pieces look the same, use of different materials and tools can change the way the pieces were made (how they were made) and thus affect the technique used to make them.
In Japan, there are currently no requirements for an individual to be designated as an important intangible cultural property (a living national treasure) under the Act for the Protection of Cultural Properties. This is presumably because the type of material selected and the choice of which tools to use to produce an item are essential aspects of being designated as an important intangible cultural property. In contrast, designation as a preservation society involves requirements that limit the materials and tools that can be used. This is the major difference between designation as an individual and designation as an organization. Restrictions on materials and tools that can be used affect the production of items in various ways. This is because changes in lifestyles have made some materials and tools hard to obtain. In light of the current circumstances in Japan, interviews regarding materials and tools were conducted in South Korea.
These interviews covered gilding, braiding, sewing, cotton fabric-making, and indigo dyeing techniques, which are designated as important intangible cultural properties in South Korea. These techniques are also found in Japan, but the materials and tools used differ. A look at gilding, for example, shows that in Japan glues made from seaweed, rice paste, or starch paste were used to affix gold leaf to a form or mold fashioned from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin. A different technique has been passed down in South Korea, where gold leaf is affixed to a wooden mold with glue made from the swim bladders of the Honnibe croaker. Conditions have changed, making this fish glue harm to obtain.
The type of material selected and the choice of which tools to use to produce an item are essential aspects of being designated as an important intangible cultural property in Japan, and the current interviews indicated that the same holds true in South Korea. In both countries, the supply of materials and tools changes on a daily basis. The techniques that make crafts possible must be passed down so that materials and tools that were used in the past are still available. The current interviews revealed that the passing down of these techniques is an issue that both South Korea and Japan must deal with.