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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Study Meeting on Production of Recorded Videos for Intangible Cultural Properties

Having a discussion while watching the recorded video

 On February 22nd, 2016, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held a study meeting titled “Production of Recorded Videos for Intangible Cultural Properties,” where Takeshi ABE (Tohoku Institute of Filmed Cultural Properties) was invited as a guest speaker. He has been engaged in production of recorded videos for intangible cultural properties of Iwate Prefecture in Tohoku District. The meeting was held as one of the efforts of the “preparation of dynamic records for cultural properties protection” project that was governed by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo as a part of the promotion program of the National Taskforce for the Japanese Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Mitigation Network under the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage.
 In this meeting, the current state of folk performing art in the disaster-affected areas was reported based on the activities of Mr. Abe in Iwate Prefecture after the Great East Japan Earthquake and a discussion was held on how to utilize the recorded video for disaster prevention and mitigation.
 Today, due to the development of digital equipment, ordinary people who are not professional photographer can easily take moving pictures and a possibility to accept those pictures as a part of the records in a flexible manner was also discussed.
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held the Sub-conference on Video Recording of Intangible Fork Cultural Properties over the years from 2003 to 2007. Based on what was discussed there, the Conference on the Study of Intangible Fork Culture Properties was heled and relevant reports such as “Guidance on the production of recorded videos for intangible fork cultural properties” have been published. Based on the discussions held so far, it is considered necessary to address new challenges that have arisen and also to include intangible traditional techniques in local areas into our continuing discussion in the future meetings on production of recorded videos.

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.

The 10th Public Lecture Held by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Stage performance at Public Lecture

 On December 18th, the Department held the Public Lecture under the title of “Melody and Accent of Japanese Music―from the Medieval Period through the Early Modern Period―” (at Heiseikan Auditorium). With the focus on Noh (Noh chant; a medieval performing art) and Nagauta (long epic song; an early-modern performing art), the lecture was delivered jointly with Professor Kiyoe Sakamoto of Japan Women’s University, a Japanese language scholar, on the correspondence relation as to how Japanese language accent had its influence over the melody of songs. Then, the participants all enjoyed a stage performance of Noh chant “Matsukaze (wind blowing through the pine trees)” in which the melody of the Momoyama period was restored and a stage performance of Nagauta “Tsuru Kame (crane and turtle)”. It was clearly understood that influential relation varied by category, changed over different time periods, etc. A total of 285 participants were present. Many feedbacks were obtained, which especially mentioned that the content consisting of a lecture combined with stage performances by a Noh player and a Nagauta player was very interesting.

Seminar on the “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention―Importance of Recording for Conservation of Traditional Techniques

Demonstration of winnowing-basket making process

 A seminar was held on December 22nd,2015 under the title of “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention―Importance of Recording for Conservation of Traditional Techniques.” This seminar was organized under the “preparation of dynamic records for cultural properties protection” project that was governed by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo as a part of the promotion program of the National Taskforce for the Japanese Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Mitigation Network. As intangible cultural heritage specifically includes “immaterial” culture, use of recording is considered an important element for the purpose of disaster prevention/disaster reduction.
 This time, with a focus on the traditional techniques especially in the radiation-affected area in Fukushima Prefecture among the disaster-affected regions of Great East Japan Earthquake, two cases were introduced using the pre-disaster and post-disaster records to show what efforts have been underway towards disaster prevention and reconstruction.
 The cases introduced were “Obori-Soma Ware” of Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture, and “Odaka Winnowing-Basket Making” of Minami-Soma City. The case of “Obori-Soma Ware” showed the reconstruction efforts that were in progress after the workshops had moved out of Namie Town after the disaster. Further, in the case of “Odaka Winnowing-Basket Making,” the current efforts to restore the technique by referring to the videos that had been recorded before the disaster were introduced. Further to explain acquisition of skill obtained in the recorded video, a part of the actual making process was demonstrated while discussion was held about importance of recording in intangible cultural heritage.
 As we need to think of a wide variety of cases for disaster prevention of the intangible cultural heritage, there is no single best answer to it. Based on continuous discussion, we will keep making efforts to contribute to disaster prevention/disaster reduction of the cultural heritage.

Seminar II on Passing Down Intangible Cultural Heritage (Traditional Techniques):“Passing Down Dyeing and Weaving Techniques and Regional Involvement”

At the Kumagaya Traditional Industry Passing Down Room (Kumapia)

 On November 11 and 12, 2015, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held Seminar II on Passing Down Intangible Cultural Heritage (Traditional Techniques) “Passing Down Dyeing and Weaving Techniques and Regional Involvement” jointly with Kumagaya City. In connection with the previous seminar “The People and Tools that Sustain Textile Techniques” (held on February 3, 2015), we invited experts concerned from Kumagaya City in Saitama Prefecture and Kyoto City of Kyoto Prefecture, both of which give proactive support to the conservation and utilization of “tools” essential to dyeing and weaving techniques, for this seminar. We exchanged opinions on how administration could be involved in the conservation and utilization of “tools” as elements indispensable for dyeing and weaving techniques.
 On the first day, after the report on “Protection and Utilization of Tools” from a perspective of cultural heritage by Mr. Shunsuke Nakayama, Head of the Modern Cultural Properties Section of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques of this Institute, Mr. Norihiro Oi of Kumagaya City Library gave a speech on “Protection of Kumagaya Dyeing Related Tools and Administrative Involvement,” and Ms. Naoko Kotani of the Traditional Industries Section, City of Kyoto talked about “Projects Supporting Dyeing and Weaving Techniques in Kyoto City.” At the comprehensive discussion following these presentations, opinions were exchanged vigorously over what administration could do, the importance of collaboration among people in different positions, and so forth. The audience also mentioned that it would be necessary to consider the collaboration with other “regions” with a focus on the “region” in which the technique to be passed down was rooted.
 On the second day, after the lecture of “Small History of Modernization of Dyeing and Weaving in Saitama Prefecture – With a focus on Kumagaya Dyeing –“ by Ms. Kayoko Mizukami of Toyama Memorial Museum, we toured the Kumagaya Traditional Industry Passing Down Room (inside the Kumagaya city sport cultural village “Kumapia”). The long board rotary, water washer, and steaming box have been relocated with aid from the Pola Foundation for the Promotion of Traditional Japanese Culture.
 This seminar, where discussions were developed based on concrete cases on dyeing and weaving techniques and the tools supporting them, provided a good opportunity for us to recognize the importance of conserving tools anew for smooth and secure passing down of traditional dyeing and weaving techniques.
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continually provide opportunities to discuss various issues surrounding traditional techniques.

Organization of Seminar on Techniques and Materials of Dyed and Woven Cultural Properties: “Workshop on Yuzen Dyeing – Materials, Tools and Techniques –“

Lecture on Dyeing

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage organized a workshop on Yuzen dyeing jointly with Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum on October 16 and 17, 2015. For this workshop, we invited Lecturer Takashi Seto from J. F. Oberlin University to focus on “Yuzen Dyeing” as a technique representing modern Japan. Comparison was made between the materials inherited from the early modern times (Japanese paper soaked in blue dayflower pigment, Yuzen glue, natural dyes, etc.) and synthetic materials in recent times (synthetic dayflower pigment, mucilage, and synthetic dyes), as well as their respective tools.
 On the first day, the current situation surrounding the production of materials and tools used for Yuzen-dyeing was explained together with images. Then, a series of processes were demonstrated: Drawing a design while making a comparison between natural dayflower pigment and synthetic dayflower pigment, masking with reddish glue made from starch glue, sappanwood and slaked lime, and undercoating with glue and ground soybean juice. On the second day, after learning the differences between natural and synthetic dyes, the remaining processes of coloring with synthetic dyes, steaming, and washing with water were performed. While steaming the fabrics to fix the dyes, the participants experienced masking with mucilage to learn the differences in the masking process from starch glue. At the end of the workshop, the participants discussed the “tradition” that they thought should be handed down.
 At this workshop, we could understand the relations among changing materials, tools and techniques through actual working processes, while sharing issues on techniques to be protected for handing them down to the coming generations through discussions with the participants.
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to plan a variety of seminars to focus on diverse techniques.

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

Recording technique for making wisteria winnowing baskets

 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.

Publication of “Research Report on Passing Down Intangible Cultural Heritage (Traditional Techniques)”

“Research Report on Passing Down Intangible Cultural Heritage (Traditional Techniques)”

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage started a research project on passing down intangible cultural heritage (traditional techniques) in FY 2014. In this project, we conducted joint research of dyeing ateliers under an agreement concluded with the Kumagaya Municipal Government in Saitama Prefecture, which had been conducting a pioneering program on tools related to dyeing techniques. This report summarizes the outcomes of our joint research.
 This report also introduces challenges and suggestions in passing down dyeing and weaving techniques from the perspective of each craftsman who cooperated in our field study. As complementary data, this report includes interviews in the joint research, floor and elevation plans of the ateliers, and videos shot during the research. In addition to these, a round-table talk on the “Current Situations of People and Tools Supporting Dyeing and Weaving Techniques” during the workshop on passing down intangible cultural heritage (traditional techniques) held on February 3, 2015.
 The video material attached to this report as the first attempt of the Institute is also a repository of “skills and techniques” as intangible cultural assets. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continually promote comprehensive recordkeeping including image and other data, in addition to literal and photographic recordkeeping. The “Research Report on Passing Down Intangible Cultural Heritage (Traditional Techniques)” will be released later on our department’s page of the Institute’s website.

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 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.

Recording of Noh chanting by SEKINE Shouroku of the Kanze school

Recording SEKINE Shouroku

 Noh chants from Sotoba Komachi were performed by the preeminent SEKINE Shouroku, a lead actor in the Kanze school of Noh, and recorded on March 13. A Noh play intended primarily for the initiated, Sotoba Komachi features the part of an old woman that can only be performed by veteran actors with years of experience. Somewhat more complex techniques than are normally used are used to portray the old woman’s mindset. Plans are to continue with this recording work after April and record the old woman’s part.

A seminar on passing down intangible cultural heritage (traditional techniques): The People and Tools that Sustain Textile Techniques

The seminar venue

 A seminar on passing down intangible cultural heritage (traditional techniques) was jointly organized by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum on February 3, 2015. The title of the seminar was “The People and Tools that Sustain Textile Techniques Tools are essential to passing down textile techniques. The seminar featured a panel discussion of how those tools and techniques are related and the current state of those tools and techniques. FUJII Kenzo (of the Kyoto Textile Research Institute) was invited to comment. The panel included YOSHIMURA Kouka (a curator at the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum), textile makers who were filmed for the exhibition, NAKAYAMA Shunsuke (Head of the Modern Cultural Properties Section of the Institute’s Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques), and KIKUCHI Riyo (of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage).
 The textile makers described how they are continually confronted with a choice regarding which tools to use, i.e. whether to introduce machinery to increase operational efficiency or to continue using the tools they have inherited. The textile makers also described how the techniques to make those tools have disappeared over the past few years. As a result, tools that were once readily available are no longer available, so craftsmen cannot inherit them even if they want to.
 That said, there is the view that only those techniques with accompanying demand should be preserved. Kimono are currently worn on special occasions. Kimono production is almost non-existent in comparison to the days when kimono were everyday wear. Textile techniques are a form of intangible cultural heritage, but textile manufacture also falls within the framework of an industry. Textile makers produced textiles to make a living, but that cannot happen if there is no market for those textiles. In other words, what sort of kimono do consumers want? Existing techniques can change depending on the answer to that question.
 The people that sustain textile techniques are not merely the textile makers. Each person who buys or wears clothing made from those textiles and wishes to preserve those textiles sustain the techniques used to make them. This seminar was meaningful since it impressed that fact upon a number of attendees. The seminar had numerous issues, such as time constraints, a lack of further discussion, and the fact that too broad a range of topics was covered. In the future, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage would like to draw on the views expressed by attendees and provide a forum in which individuals with different perspectives can discuss the passing down of textile techniques.

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.

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